Abbott: American fans need a hero like Max Verstappen

Rick Abbott, the executive vice president of the Circuit of the Americas, applauds the idea of a second Grand Prix in the USA but says, more importantly, the country needs a driver in the top flight to ignite public imagination as Max Verstappen has done for the Dutch.

During the weekend in Austin, Abbott told Auto Hebdo that he believes the real next step for the development of Formula 1 in America would be a local driver, “Look at how Max Verstappen woke up the Netherlands. Our fans are no different to European fans – they need a hero to cheer on.”

Abbott is also supportive of F1’s efforts to spice up the show, “I appreciate Liberty Media’s efforts in social media, e-gaming. F1 faces the same problems as other sports – we’re all trying to create bridges to attract young people, which is more and more difficult.”

Meanwhile, despite strong opposition from local groups, Liberty Media is trying for a second time to launch a race in Miami, this time mainly on the grounds of the Hard Rock Stadium.

Abbot explained why he supports the project, “A second race would only make us stronger. F1 needs an increased presence in the US to develop its fan base and we would only benefit from it. We are very proud of our facilities.

“We built this facility so that F1 can fully express itself here. I’m not saying that racing in Miami would be a bad thing – quite the contrary. Miami in May or June on an urban circuit, and us in October on a road course, would be complementary.”

But when asked if the race in Austin is now well enough established to compete with a competitor on US soil, Abbott insisted, “Once again, we have more hope than fear about the organisation of a second grand prix.”


Hamilton spoke to Verstappen to ‘squash the beef’

Lewis Hamilton has said he went to speak to Max Verstappen to “squash” any beef between the pair after the last couple of race weekends.

The seeds were initially planted back at the Mexican Grand Prix where Hamilton described Verstappen as a torpedo during their first-lap battle at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

“I obviously got torpedoed,” Hamilton said. “I thought at some stage I’d get torpedoed by Max.

“Me and Max went through the grass together, came out and there were other cars coming by. I thought I was going to get hit by other cars. But I managed to get my bearings and keep my head down.”

At the FIA drivers’ press conference on the Thursday leading up to the United States Grand Prix, Verstappen was asked for his response to the ‘torpedo’ tag and did not take too kindly to it.

“Looking at Turn 1 and 2 in Mexico, I don’t think that happened,” Verstappen told reporters.

“I think from my side it is a bit of a silly comment to make because I think I always hard race but fair, and I think it is just not correct.

“Of course it easy to have a dig at someone but from my side, it’s fine. It’s always positive when someone talks about you because it means you are in their heads.

“I just focus on my driving and that’s enough said.”

Then, another incident on track occurred during qualifying when Hamilton and Verstappen were squabbling for track space ahead of their final Q3 runs at Turn 19.

“Lewis just drove by like nobody was there and didn’t care,” Verstappen said back in the Austin paddock.

“So I was like ‘well if you don’t care, I don’t care’ so I tried to get my position back.”

Perhaps sensing a situation could arise with Verstappen, Hamilton said he went to speak to him prior to the United States Grand Prix.

“I spoke to Max before the race,” Hamilton told Channel 4.

“I was like ‘dude, you are such a great racer man, let’s just squash whatever there is between us, whatever beef, let’s go out there and have a great race’.

“He is a champion of the future and I’m going to work as hard as I can to stop that happening for a while.

“But I’m enjoying race with him.”

While all may be well between Verstappen and Hamilton, perhaps not so between Verstappen and Ferrari after he outright accused Ferrari of cheating – hence the lack of the performance in Austin due to a Technical Directive issued by the FIA.

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Pit Chat: Max Verstappen has no filter

Max Verstappen clearly has no filter when it comes to interviews, whilst Sebastian Vettel gives a lesson on how to show the utmost respect.

A look back over all things USA with Pit Chat…

When in Hollywood…

Formula 1 put on quite the show in Hollywood in the build-up to race week. It’s almost like they are trying to drum up interest to bring more races to the US or something.

But as for views outside of the office go, this is pretty much as good as it gets.

Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, saw the fan festival as opportunity to tease his old team-mate a little bit. Max probably needed one guess to know who the culprit was.

All hail the Honey Badger

Ricciardo is always good value, but even more so whenever the F1 roadshow rolls into Austin, Texas. Got a feeling he likes the US.

Daniel Ricciardo

And there was no way on this planet that he wouldn’t bring out the southern accent during his interviews.

An Ace Ventura reference, and a pretty bloody good one at that, we didn’t see coming…

His best off-track contribution, though, was undoubtedly his initial answer to explain what Formula 1 is…

More McLaren memories

It will also come as no surprise to you that Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz continue to be legends.

And thank you so much Lando for the radio check that we will never get out of our heads.

Silky smooth from Seb

Someone else standing out for all the right reasons is one Sebastian Vettel. He really didn’t need to do this, but he did anyway because he is a class act.

Seb may have a lot of respect for the Mercedes man, but he is still try to convert people to Ferrari one fan at a time.

Oh Max

One person who could probably learn a thing or two from how Vettel conducts himself a vast majority off the track is Max Verstappen.

There was probably, no definitely, a better way to talk about Ferrari’s weekend troubles rather than this.

Verstappen may just fancy a Ferrari seat in the future and comments like this are only to go to burn bridges, not build them. Just ask Fernando Alonso.

Picture perfect

Anyway, we can sense we are getting a little bit bitchy so let’s get back to the good stuff. Poster/meme of the year any one?

With this one a very close second…

Last word

It can only be given to the now six-time World Champion really. Some honest reflections and some lovely words about the late, great Niki Lauda.

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Max on Ferrari start: ‘You get that when you stop cheating’

Max Verstappen feels a Technical Directive from the FIA has indeed impacted Ferrari’s performance at the United States Grand Prix.

Suspicions have been raised about the legality of Ferrari’s power unit given their straight-line speed dominance, to the point where the FIA issued a Technical Directive following questions being asked about whether Ferrari’s intercooler allowed a bit of oil to bleed into the combustion process and thereby giving them a welcome power boost.

Ferrari have been adamant that they have not broken any technical regulations, but suffered a woeful start to the United States Grand Prix with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel both struggling to warm up the tyres in the opening laps of the race.

While that came as a surprise to many, Verstappen, who finished P3 ahead of Charles Leclerc in a distant P4, feels that the Scuderia’s poor performance has come as a result of having to change their ways.

“You get that when you stop cheating,” Verstappen told his native Ziggo Sport when asked about Ferrari’s poor display.

“It’s now being carefully watched, but we have to keep an eye on it.

Verstappen also added to other reporters in the paddock.

Verstappen: “That’s not strange [Ferrari’s performance].”

Reporter: “Why?”

Verstappen: “Well why do you think? You can fill it in yourself.”

Verstappen has not been the only suspicious driver, with Lewis Hamilton suspecting after qualifying that Ferrari have been forced into action regarding their power unit.

Verstappen conceded that he did not have the pace to challenge Mercedes, but front wing and also floor damage prevented him from having a proper scrap with them.

He added to Ziggo Sport: “We didn’t have the speed to really attack Mercedes, which was clear in the first stint. We didn’t have enough grip. Also when I pitted, we noticed a large part of my floor was gone, which is why I had so much understeer.”

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Conclusions from Austin: All hail King Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is a six-time World Champion and there is no sign of anyone, not even Valtteri Bottas, stopping him in 2020.


There was little doubt that Lewis Hamilton would claim title number six in Austin. Quite simply, the weight of history and statistics was on his side. The only realistic way for Valterri Bottas to keep his hopes alive was for Hamilton to retire – an event that has not occurred since July 2018, or 31 grands prix ago.

The British star has also been a paragon of consistency and has largely cut out big mistakes. By way of example, the last time Hamilton retired with a non-technical problem was in May 2016, when he tangled with then team-mate Nico Rosberg at the Spanish Grand Prix. That was 76 races ago.

Hamilton has made a habit of winning races in the US, and although the sister Mercedes beat him to the chequered flag on Sunday, a second-place finish was more than sufficient to secure the crown in the US. And Texas was a fitting location for Hamilton’s coronation – he is a rare breed in F1 in that he has global appeal in a way that most drivers do not; he is as comfortable with Hollywood A-listers as he is behind the wheel of a racing car.

The US Grand Prix again highlighted what makes Hamilton such a great champion. He was off-form in qualifying, only managing fifth on the grid. But once the race was underway Hamilton’s tail was up and his one-stop strategy, coupled with excellent racecraft and tyre management, put him in contention for the win. “We’re gonna go longer,” Hamilton said when his team told him to pit, with Bottas bearing down on him.

This forced the Finn to overtake for position, something he had to do again in the closing stages of the race. That’s the brilliance of Hamilton. He’s always pushing; always thinking; always trying to win.

Tale of the tape

Hamilton’s statistical record, for example his ability to avoid DNFs, verges on the unbelievable. He is only the second man in history, after Michael Schumacher, to clock half a dozen titles. Or put another way, he has as many titles as Ayrton Senna, Fernando Alonso and Nigel Mansell combined.

With 83 races wins and 150 podiums, Hamilton wins one in three races he starts, and has been in the top three in more than half of his entries. He will take some beating in 2020.

Bottas’ surge

Bottas enjoyed a strong weekend and again underscored his credentials at challenging tracks. The Finnish driver seems to thrive when there is low grip (Sochi), bumps (Circuit of the Americas), or technicality (Suzuka).

Doubts remain over his decisiveness and consistency over a full campaign but Bottas is ending the season with a surge, which will be important if he has any ambition of launching a concerted title challenge next year.

Verstappen makes the most of it

It’s been a fallow couple of months or so for Max Verstappen who before Sunday had just one podium in six races. Red Bull did not quite have the pace to match the Silver Arrows through the first and middle phases of the grand prix, yet Verstappen came close to stealing second from Hamilton.

Realistically P3 was as good as it was going to get given the speed of the Mercedes W10 on the day.

No champagne for Ferrari team boss on his birthday

Mattia Binotto’s 50th birthday will not be one for the Ferrari scrapbook. Indeed, it’s probably better suited for the scrapheap. Charles Leclerc ran closer to the chasing pack than to the frontrunners for much of the grand prix, while the sister Ferrari in Sebastian Vettel’s hands went backwards at the start and retired with a quite bizarre suspension failure.

Binotto is a likeable figure in the paddock but his first year in charge has been riddled by a series of failures that have meant neither driver has been in the running for the title. And the US Grand Prix offers a neat window into what needs to be fixed at Maranello.

Other conclusions

* Kimi Raikkonen, last year’s race winner, gambled on a contra strategy and started the race on soft tyres when everyone else was on harder compounds. The gamble paid off at the start as he quickly climbed to P11 from 17th, and although he ran in the top 10 for periods of the race, the Alfa ultimately just missed out on scoring a point.

* Daniel Ricciardo admitted before the race that Renault’s main rivals are McLaren, rather than the likes of Red Bull, Merc and Ferrari. Ricciardo ran a strong race to sixth and was best of the rest behind the aforementioned trio. The Australian had the added bonus of getting one over McLaren’s Lando Norris with a sweet overtake on lap 9.

* Alex Albon extended his streak of top-six finishes to six with P5 in Austin. In some ways this may have been his best drive yet for Red Bull, as he had to make his way from the back of the field after early contact with the McLaren of Carlos Sainz. Albon is solid, albeit unspectacular, relative to team-mate Verstappen, and on days like today that is probably good enough.

Richard F Rose

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Post-race press conference: US GP

Valtteri Bottas clinched the race win in Austin but it was a sixth World title for Lewis Hamilton that made the headlines.

(Conducted by Martin Brundle)

Q: Valtteri Bottas, pole position to victory and you’ve just beaten on the greatest drivers of all time in Formula 1 history. You must be so satisfied with that victory?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, it’s a nice win. Feels good. It just felt very good since yesterday, the car, and yeah, we had a strong pace so we were able to get the win. It was the only I could really focus on and do this weekend in terms of the championship, but obviously it was not enough and Lewis got the title…

Q: You weren’t lucky with the traffic. Was there a point where you thought ‘I might not win this now’? You really had to come back at Lewis and his pace was amazing.
VB: Yeah, I wasn’t quite sure which strategy was going to be ending up the better one, but luckily my pace was good so I could make even that two-stop happen, which was not planned initially. Yeah, we both had some traffic here and there.

Q: Have you got a quick word about Lewis and for Lewis?
VB: Yeah, obviously big congrats to him. I personally failed on my target this year, but there’s always next season. But he deserves it. He had some season.

Q: OK, we’re going to talk to the six-time world champion. He had a great second place today as well. Lewis Hamilton, congratulations, six times a world champion. You’re one clear of the great Fangio and you’re one behind Michael Schumacher, bless him. How does that feel? What’s going through your head?
Lewis HAMILTON: It’s just overwhelming if I’m really honest. It was such a tough race today. Yesterday was really a difficult day for us. Valtteri did a fantastic job, so huge congratulations to him. Today I really just wanted to recover and deliver the one-two for the team. I didn’t think the one-stop was going to be possible but I worked as hard as I could. I’m just filled with so much emotion. I have my whole team here, everyone back at the factory. I’ve got my mum and my dad, my stepmum and my stepdad here, my uncle George and my aunt from Trinidad, and all the family back home obviously. It’s just an honour to be up here with those greats.

Q: Great start: you went around the Ferraris, so now you’ve put yourself into nice championship position. You could have put your feet up, but you just never give up do you?
LH: My dad told me when I was like six or seven years old to never give up and that’s kind of the family motto, so no. I was pushing as hard as I could. I was hopeful that I might be able to win today but it didn’t have it in the tyres unfortunately.

Q: How far can you go? How many championships? Just where can this end?
LH: I don’t know about championships but as an athlete I feel fresh as can be right now, so I’m ready for these next races, we won’t let up, we’ll keep pushing. I’ve got to say a big, big thank you to all team LH around the world, everyone that has come out here this weekend to really make this event what it is, and also to all the Brits and people with the UK flags supporting me this weekend. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.

Q: Congratulations once again. Max, you kept the great Mercedes team very honest today, you pushed like crazy, but in the end the strategy didn’t quite work out for you?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Well, it didn’t work out but I think we did the best we could. They were just a little bit faster today. I tried to stay close in case something happened. For us it was a very good race. It was fun, I could still see the cars ahead of me and I think we had quite decent pace today.

Q: Yeah you did. Your pace was relentless. We thought you were going to have a chance to catch and pass Lewis right at the end. Was that in your mind too?
MV: Yeah, but there was a yellow flag on the back straight, so I couldn’t use the DRS. Otherwise, I think we could have been second today, but nevertheless still good to be on the podium.

Q: And a quick word about Lewis?
MV: Yeah, of course very impressive. Yeah, what else to say? He’s just doing phenomenally. He has a great team behind him, and, yeah, I hope we can take the fight to them next year.


Q: Valtteri, many congratulations, you nailed it this weekend, winning from pole position. Did you have any concerns during that race?
VB: Thank you. Obviously, a really good weekend, some solid progress since last year on a track I struggled with a bit. So yeah, obviously, as an individual race weekend, really pleased. Crossing the line really made me happy, because it was not an easy race. Even though the start went as planned, it was strong, also the first stint. But for me, Plan A was to do one stop, but Max pitted quite early, moved to two stops, so I had to try to cover him and then I went for two stops as well. Lewis stayed long, he tried to do one stop and one stage I worried that it was going to be a better strategy for him. All I could was focus on my every single lap, corner, trying to perfect everything, you know, with the traffic, all that, trying to minimise the losses and maximise all the gains I could. Then it was all about seeing towards the end of the race where we are. And my pace was good today and at the end I could catch Lewis and have some good fighting with him on track, which I enjoyed, and it was a good feeling to get ahead and to win the race like that it feels good when it doesn’t come easy.

Q: Well done Valtteri, second win in three races, very strong end to the season for you. Max, coming to you: without that yellow flag at the end for Magnussen might you have had a go for second place?
MV: Yeah, absolutely. Because of that you have to lift off, otherwise I would have definitely gone by. But that’s how it is. Sometimes those things happen. Overall, we had a really good race. I was just struggling with some weird oversteer in the car. Initially, they said it was my front wing, which had a little bit of damage but after the race I looked at the car and I was missing a big piece of my floor in front of the rear tyre, so that definitely cost me a lot of lap time today. I don’t know when it happened but already quite quickly into the race I had this weird behaviour from the car, which I had not felt before. So that’s a bit unfortunate and otherwise I think we could have been stronger today. But still, to be on the podium here after a very positive weekend in general I think was a really good achievement for us.


Q: (Abhishek Aggarwal – My question is for Max. As you finished third today and in the championship points you are closing the gap now, do you think with two races remaining you can pretty finish ahead of the Ferrari driver and finish the gap and close in at three?
MV: I think the gap to third is quite big. It might be a little bit too big to close, but let’s see. Today was good for that. But of course my last few races we lost so many points, that was not ideal. I expect we will be competitive in the last two races so let’s see how it will all work out for us. It is of course always better to finish third than fourth or fifth, even though I think everybody wants to be first, but we will try everything we can.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Valtteri, I guess you knew coming into this that it would be unlikely that you would remain in title contention, so the fact that Lewis has wrapped it up here, does it take the sting out of that to win but also win in the manner that you did and beat Lewis on track in a straight fight?
VB: This weekend, winning it was the only thing I could do to try and maintain the title hopes and delay them. Obviously I did my part, which feels good, but Lewis was strong this weekend, as he always is, so he got some solid points and got the championship. I’ve got mixed feelings, really. As an individual weekend it was strong but then, on the other hand, I felt this year being best of the rest it doesn’t feel good. But it always need a little bit of positives as well, you know. It’s my best season in Formula One so far, so that’s good, and looking at other positives, I’ve made huge gains in many areas, in terms of race pace and everything. But yeah, winning the race this way, Lewis still… I’m sure he really wanted to win this race, to win the title by winning the race, I could stop that and that feels good, obviously. But I just look forward to next year – it’s a new opportunity.

Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) Valtteri, the first time you passed Lewis it was pretty straightforward, there was a huge pace differential. The second time you had two attempts: the first one you had to go wide and the second one you made it. Can you talk is through those last two attempts?
VB: Yeah, I was closing in, there was also some traffic also ahead. Lewis had a bit of a mistake in Turn 11, so I could suddenly get this first opportunity. He covered the inside, so I had to take the outside line, although I was ahead, but he braked very late, so eventually I had to run off the track to avoid the collision, but it’s fine because if I was at his position I would have done the same, to defend as well as you can, so I’m fine with that. The other opportunity: again I think he went a bit wide on Turn 8 or 9, so I could get very close before the back straight and then it was much more straightforward. Again, I had good momentum out of exit of 11, got the tow and got him. So, then, after that, it felt like job done and tried to get car home without mistakes.

Q: (Lawrence Edmonson – ESPN) A question for Valtteri. Congrats on the win but as you mention it’s slightly bittersweet. So when you look back at the year, where do you think it got away from and what do you think, ultimately, was the difference between you and Lewis this year?
VB: Overall I think there were a few mistakes, for sure, from my side I should have been able to avoid. There were a couple on race starts, at least some of them were mistakes, some were maybe unlucky moments but they made me learn. Then a couple of qualifyings I messed up in Q3, definitely, which cost me starting position for the race and compromised the race and I lost points because of that. And then, otherwise, I don’t know, luck, unluck (sic) whatever has been pretty even for me and Lewis overall, so he’s just been on a great level again this year, every single race, and I’ve not been able to be at my very, very best every single race, but much more often than ever before, so the direction is clear for me in terms of my development, overall. It’s a good momentum now and in terms of race pace, which has been my weakness in the years before, I’ve made huge gains by working really hard with the engineers, you know, every single detail of my driving and set-up. That’s getting better and that gives me really confidence for next year and, unlike at the end of last year, now I really look forward to the year ahead, and I’m already excited to start the next season and start from fresh. So that’s going to be good fun.

Q: (Stew Myrick – KTXX FM) Congratulations to you both on your respective finishes. There was talk on Friday about bumps on the track, on certain portions of the track. For both of you, how much of a concern was that today and how much did it change your strategy going into today’s race?
VB: Only really the biggest effect in terms of driving was trying to avoid mistakes into Turn One with the bumps in the braking zone. Apart from that, there was a line in Turn Nine where there was a big bump that you could kind-of have a little bit less of an impact with that line, you would lose a little bit of time. So, always when I could, I tried to manage the car by taking that line, taking the time loss but making sure we didn’t damage the car – because obviously, example Sebastian, he had damage in his suspension, probably because of the bumps, so we tried to play safe when we could – but other than that it was not too bad. I think it brings a bit of character to the track. Obviously sometimes visibility is poor because of that but hopefully they don’t get any worse because that would be difficult to cope with.
MV: I don’t mind bumps but they’re almost like ramps in some places. But anyway, I think they will adjust it for next year. I think we have talked enough about it.

Q: (Christian Menath – Question for both of you. Ferrari was pretty strong since the summer break. Today they were nowhere. Have you been surprised by their performance and do you have an explanation for that?
MV: Not surprised. At all. About it. After what came out. So that explains everything.
VB: What came out?
MV: The piece of paper.
VB: I haven’t seen it.

Max isn’t surprised. Are you surprised Valtteri?
MV: Clearly!
VB: Actually, I am. Because I haven’t seen that piece of paper. Look forward to seeing it. But yeah, it was crazy. Since the beginning of the race they were far away – but Red Bull was really strong today, as they’ve been now everywhere lately. So… yep.

Q: (Peter Windsor – Clarksport) Congratulations Valtteri on a superb pole and win. Just going back to your driving again, there was a moment when you didn’t know if you would be racing for Mercedes after this year, and the contract was taken up, and it was announced that you were staying – and I’m wondering in the build up to that, how much uncertainty there might have been in your mind, and whether that might have affected your ability to work as you just described, and how long that period went on for – or was it a given in your mind that it was always going to happen?
VB: There was definitely uncertainty for 2020 at some point. Lots of rumours. I had no idea what was going to happen. I just had to wait. So, for sure, as an athlete, as a driver, it’s not an ideal situation. You can’t be completely with peace of mind and focus on the job and, y’know, feel mentally free and in the right place. It’s tricky. When that continues, you know, year after year, every single year of your career, at some point it’s getting a pain in the ass – so it’s definitely nice to get the contract signed. But, it’s going to be the same story next year. But not too worried at this point because the pace is good, I enjoy the driving, I enjoy working with the team and hope they appreciate that as well.

[Valtteri and Max leave, Lewis arrives]

Q: (Abhishek Aggarwal – Lewis, congratulations first of all. In two out of two races we’ve seen you went on with the one-stop strategy. Was that always the plan or are you kind-of improvising, the tyres are responding good and you are making it work ‘til the end?
LH: Well, today, I think it originally looked like it was going to be a one-stopper but that changed once the temperatures came up today. You could see the guys ahead were starting to struggle on their tyres. Max then stopped quite early. So, I don’t think the team was expecting to do a two-stop, for sure, and on my side, I was thinking, ‘OK, I’m starting fifth, I’ve got to figure out how do I get to first.’ That’s all I’m thinking all day: how I could win this race. And so, I nursed those tyres like the best that I could possibly do. And I think that’s probably been a real strength of mine this year. I think I’ve always been able to do that kind of thing but to get the car in a position where you’re able to do that, and each year I’ve been getting better at it. And to eke as much as I could out of those tyres, I was so close to being just able to keep those guys behind – but I’m grateful to have been able to contribute to the team getting the 1-2.

Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) How would you rate this title compared to the five before? Is it the easiest or the toughest?
LH: No way has it been the easiest. It’s been the hardest year for us as a team. We lost Niki this year. A crucial member and a real pivotal member of our team and the emotional rollercoaster that we’ve been on with losing him, and a race where I didn’t have Bono here, outside of the car, just trying to remain focussed throughout the year. That is the toughest, and only really other athletes who are at the top of their game can really, probably related to it, probably because it’s just: arrive: week-in, week-out, can’t drop the ball – like I did yesterday, for example – and being about to bounce back from the tough… the lower days. And this car has not been easy, not been easy for us. It’s not been easy for us. We started the season honestly going off to Melbourne thinking that we were going to be behind. Mid-point of the season we were behind, and it’s been a real challenge, this second half of the season. It’s been the toughest second half of the season that I think we’ve had as a team, fighting against Ferrari and Red Bull, which is great, we welcome that. But, I don’t know, every journey is different. Every year you go through a different rollercoaster ride of emotions to get to where you’re going. I wrote something in my post this morning, that each and every single one of us is struggling with something in life. Whatever it may be: small, big. I tried to show people that, from the outside, things always look great but it’s not always the case. And I am also struggling with lots of different things and battling certain demons and trying to make sure that I’m constantly growing as a person. I think yesterday was something that was sent to test me, and I was able to do one of my favourite races today, I think. I was really happy with that one.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Congratulations Lewis. Because you’ve had this run of success now with Mercedes, I guess one of the things that sometimes critics question is how much of it as team and car – but if you look at Ferrari, they’ve had their strongest season to date and you and Mercedes have still pretty much wiped the floor with them. So how satisfying is it to have built this team around you. And a second question on Ferrari. Are you surprised at how much they faded from competitiveness this weekend specifically?
LH: On the performance side, no I’m not surprised. You saw that advantage they had through the season, and even last year. They had a huge amount of power, but more so this year, out of nowhere, had a tonne of power and I really just think, at will, whenever they wanted they seemed to have more. This weekend, I don’t know how their speed traces with ours but it’s definitely not like it used to be. It was seven-tenths we were losing on the straights before. Winning world titles. There’s not a single driver in the past that’s won a title without having a great team around him. There’s not a single world tennis player that’s won a title without having a great team around him. It’s part of the game and it’s how you navigate, and how you utilise those tools that are around you and those people around you to shape the future of the journey that you guys are on. And I’m just a chink the chain with this team but I feel very, very privileged and feel very… I feel really happy with my contribution, y’know? That I’ve been able to help steer the team in the right direction with the development, with the way the car needs to get quicker. And, more often than not have delivered performances for them when we’ve had a car that’s quicker than the others and also when the car has not been as quick as the others. Particularly that last year, they were just too quick for us to beat but we out-willed them, we had to out-think them and we did that collectively as a team.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Lewis, I know you’ve talked about qualifying this year and you not being happy with that, but overall you’ve kept up a very consistent level, probably the highest I think we’ve seen from you. Would you say this has actually been your best season overall, as a driver?
LH: I think so. I definitely think so. I think last year was a year of just continuous growth and I think this year has also been continuous growth but I tried to make sure that I’ve started the season as I finished last year. And I think that’s just stayed through the season. If you looked, I’ve been very consistent in qualifying. I’ve not had particularly spectacular pole positions that perhaps I did last year – but it’s been, y’know, first, second row the majority of the time, except for this weekend. And apart from Hockenheim – but I’ll give myself a pass for that weekend because I wasn’t really 100 per cent. Otherwise I think it’s been the best performing year and I think I’m really just trying to… I’m working on a masterpiece and I haven’t quite finished it yet, so I’m trying to understand… it takes a long time to master a craft and whilst I feel like I am mastering it, there’s still more to master. There’s still more to add to it. There’s still more pieces to the puzzle to add. There’s going to be more ups and downs along the way but I feel like I’ve got the best tools now, to this point at least, to be able to deal with those.

Q: (Peter Windsor – Clarksport) You’ve always said that you would take each race as it comes; you’re looking forward to the next race already and how motivated you are to win. But the championship is there now and I’m interested to know now whether – looking back at yesterday – maybe what happened yesterday wouldn’t have happened if the championship hadn’t been so close? That’s one question, and as a sort of corollary to that, when you woke up this morning, were you thinking ‘got to win today’; or were you thinking ‘got to get the championship done today’? Or both? Or neither?
LH: I woke up this morning and I wasn’t really thinking of the championship. I think really I generally try to put that always at the back of my mind and during the season I’m generally not thinking about it, I’m taking it one race at a time. That’s worked for me in the past and so what ain’t broke don’t fix it. Each weekend there’s a different build-up to it, there’s a different journey towards… in that week or two gap that you have and you come across so many different people, different territories that you’re in and it’s a real roller coaster and each time you’ve got to arrive with positive energy, with the right fitness, the right mental attitude. So anyways, yesterday… it sucked, you know? I love qualifying and I was looking for one of those special laps and it was below average. I practised it, practised it and practised it and to think that we’re towards the end of the year and I’m still having those experiences… it’s OK because if it was all good and perfect there would be nothing to be excited about. I came here today in fifth, knowing that it’s going to be a very, very tough race. I watched all the starts from all the previous seasons that we’ve had here, trying to figure out where I’m going to place the car at the beginning of the race and all I could see was first place. How do I get to the guy that’s right on first. I wasn’t even looking at… when I was in third, I wasn’t even looking at the blue car that was ahead of me, I was looking at Valtteri and that’s how I’m built, I’m always looking and wondering… I was like, don’t give me the times of the car ahead of me, I want to know the times of the car ahead because that’s the one I’m trying to beat. So that’s how I’m wired and I was hopeful that potentially this… there was a long way to go on those hard tyres. So I tried not to doubt that we could make it. But Valtteri did a great job today so hats off to him and I’m really genuinely pleased for him and he’s done a fantastic job this year. He’s taken a real step in performance and I tell you what’s really hard: when you’re in the team, you help each other sharpen your tools so when I work with an engineer… I’m pretty sure Bono’s always been a great engineer but I like to think that through our collaboration, I think he’s now probably the greatest he’s ever been as an engineer and the same for me as a driver. And when you work with those people closely and then your number two goes over to the person in the other car and then starts to utilise what you’ve experienced for all those years to give advantage to the other driver, that makes it really hard, so this is why it’s probably been even more of a challenge, particularly from within the team to work with the first year new guy in Marcus, who’s done a fantastic job but it wasn’t so easy at the beginning. And then all my cards have been shown on the other side so creating new strategies, creating new thought processes, trying to really be innovative when it comes to my driving style, having to try and keep an ace in the pocket. Where the hell do you find that used time, so you’re constantly recreating the way you go about driving and try not to show everything, you know, and I think this year, as I said, I think he’s done a fantastic job but I’ve just managed to keep that edge which gave us this championship.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Lewis, I was struck by something you just said to one of the previous answers, you were talking about dark or demons. You mentioned demons, battling demons. Would you care to elaborate any more on that at all? It just strikes me as a strange time to mention that, given the success that you’ve had this year.
LH: Well, not particularly; to each and every one of us is personal, what we all challenge when you look in the mirror each day, when you feel good or you feel bad for whatever reason. There’s always the darker side that’s always trying to pull you down and you’re constantly having to wake up… I don’t know how you guys wake up in the morning but I look in the mirror and I’m trying to lift myself up and say ‘yes, you can do it. Yes, you are great. Yes you can be fit if you go and put that time in. Yes, you can win this race if you do the right steps and you continue to believe in yourself, and no one else is going to do it for you.’ So it’s just encouraging yourself always and I’m just trying to show a side that I didn’t understand that we’re all similar in many ways. I would say this year that losing Niki, I didn’t think that was going to hit me as hard as it did. It really was upsetting and I miss him dearly today and I didn’t realise how much I loved the guy, from the moment that he was calling me, when I was back home, asking me to come to the team, to when we sat together in the hotel in Singapore, the weekend my gearbox broke at McLaren, to him always taking his hat off so our negotiations to all sorts. Great conversations about his planes, that was a tough pivot point for us in the end and also we lost a young kid in Spa. Again, I saw it on the TV, I saw it happen. That again, when something like that happens, can put lots of doubts in your mind and batting that off and thinking OK, jeez, is it time to stop or shall I keep going, because there’s lots of life afterwards. I still want to spend time with my family, I still want to have a family one day, all these different things, but I’m so charged to do… and I love doing what I do so much that I don’t think there’s a lot that can particularly stop me in that sense.

Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Lewis, six World titles, it doesn’t just put you among the greats of Formula One drivers, it arguably makes you one of the greatest British athletes ever. How do you get your head around that, is that something you are able to comprehend yet?
LH: I don’t see no – and I don’t know why, I really don’t know why. How am I supposed to feel, you know? I was just saying out there in the scrum that I remember watching this sport when I was younger, waking up, come downstairs, my stepmum, Linda, who’s here today, she would make me a bacon sandwich and me and my dad would sit there together and watch the Grands Prix. It’s odd to watch it and see someone in the TV set and now to be the person that’s in the TV set, you know, and be doing something like the great that I saw in Ayrton and the great that I saw in Michael. It’s beyond surreal to think that this journey, my life journey has brought me to this point in winning a sixth title. But I don’t really know how I’m supposed to feel right now. I just feel… I don’t believe in the whole cloud nine thing, I’m flying super high right now and I’ve got my family with me which is just… I don’t remember the last time my stepdad and my stepmum, my dad and my mum were in the same… at a Grand Prix. I don’t think I’ve had them at a World Championship Grand Prix before so again, to experience that and share that with them, people who have ultimately been at the core of who I am and sacrificed everything they had for me to have the life that I have today, to have this opportunity to do this today, so I was really proud to see them all smiling and share it with them.

Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action, Speedsport) Lewis, you’ve talked a lot about what this all means to you. You’ve also not had a moment to yourself. Is there a time – tonight, tomorrow, next week – when you sit down and really reflect on everything?
LH: Usually the reflection comes at the end of the year when work finishes and you can just take a load off and just sit back and have a beer. I will be with my dogs, with my feet up and just only then you can have a moment to grasp how great a year it has been. In my mind, I’m just too competitive, so I’m thinking OK, we’ve got two more races to go, how am I going to do a better job, how am I going to improve in qualifying. There’s two more qualifyings to try and get pole, how am I going to see if I can potentially pull out a lap like I did in Singapore last year. How am I going to work it that I can be at the front of both of those. I’m always just looking to improve and I really love being in this sport. I’m so grateful to this sport for giving me a life and giving my life purpose. Also, with social media, we have this platform where you can also have a work and have an impact on people so I’m grateful for the position I’m in and as I said, I really like the idea of trying to create a masterpiece. I think we all should be challenging ourselves to create our own masterpiece in some way, shape or form, and mine’s not finished.

Q: (Phil Duncan – Press Association) You’re obviously now within one of Michael’s record. How motivated are you now to end your career as statistically the greatest driver that’s ever been in a Formula One car?
LH: I think it’s really… it’s all about how you position your thought process. I’ve always said to you that reaching Michael’s was never a target for me. I’m not really one that really thinks of records and those kind of things. I definitely had thought that getting anywhere near Michael was just so far-fetched and I remember having my one for a long period of time, then getting a second one. It was so far away and now yet it seems so close yet it is so far away that I still can’t really even comprehend. The challenges that we’ll face in these next coming months, the next season. You look at these other teams that have really been putting some astonishing performances in in the second half of the season. It’s going to take another load of incredible performance and work from myself and all the people who are around me and I really don’t want to have to think about it right now. And also, I don’t want to build up the idea of trying to get to Michael’s… to get to seven because at the moment, I’ve got enjoy right now. Tomorrow’s not a given, I don’t know what’s going to happen over these next days or months but what I have to do and what we all really should try to make sure you enjoy each day because one day you’re here and one day you’re not. So not trying to think of what’s going to happen potentially at the end of next year or 2021. I believe that I have the ability to continue to grow and to do more with this team and within Formula One and so that would be the target but time will tell. Right now I just focus on trying to be as fit and healthy as I can be and smile as much as I can and enjoy this beautiful journey we call life.

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Hamilton dedicates sixth title to family and Lauda

Lewis Hamilton singled out his family and the late Niki Lauda when discussing his emotions after winning his sixth World Championship.

The Mercedes driver headed into the race knowing he needed just four points to secure the title and did so comfortably, finishing in P2 behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

“It’s just overwhelming if I’m really honest,” Hamilton told Martin Brundle after the race.

“It was such a tough race today. Yesterday was a really difficult day for us and Valtteri did a fantastic job so a huge congratulations to him.

“Today I really just wanted to recover and deliver the one-two for the team and I didn’t think the one-stop would be possible but I worked as hard as I could.

“I was pushing as hard as I could and I was hopeful I might be able to get the win today but I didn’t have it in the tyres, unfortunately.

Moving on from the race to talk about being a World Champion for the sixth time, the Briton paid tribute to his family and his Mercedes colleague, the late Niki Lauda.

“Naturally it’s just pure happiness. I feel more humble than ever. I saw my parents as I came in and just looking at my dad’s smile just says it all.

 “He’s supported me from day one, as did Linda [ his step mother], as did my mum and they worked so hard for me to be here today. So I really wanted them to come out together.

“I think this is the first race I can remember for a long, long time of us being here together and all being united as a family.

“Cloud nine doesn’t even get close to where I am. I’m somewhere far above that and I’m just really grateful to everyone back at the factory, everyone who has supported me this year within the team, who have worked so hard to enable us to do what we do.

“It’s such a privilege and an honour to work for this team and to have the platform to put performances in like that today. I miss Niki so much and I know today that he would be taking his cap off.

“Yesterday he would have been saying he’s paying me too much but today he would have taken his cap off. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without Niki. He’s here with us in spirit.”

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Hamilton frustrated to be off front row

Lewis Hamilton believes that he should have made the front row of the grid for the United States GP, instead he starts P5.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas will start the race fron P1 having set a 1:32.029, a new lap record, on his first Q3 run to beat off the competition.

Behind Bottas Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc were all within 0.108s of pole, yet Hamilton was 0.292s adrift of his partner.

But the Brit had no excuses, acknowledging that he should have done better and will look to make up for it with a strong showing in the race.

“It was nothing to do with the car, it was just me,” he told the media in Austin.

“I just didn’t pull the laps together today. Clearly the car had the capability to be on the front row and I just didn’t do it today.

“It was my fault but I will try and rectify it tomorrow.”

Bottas has put himself in prime position to win the United States GP on Sunday, and only that result would be enough to keep his title dreams live.

Though even if that was to happen, Hamilton would only need to finish P8 to secure a sixth World Championship – not that any of this is weighing on his mind heading into the race.

“Honestly I’m not trying to think about that now I’m just trying to digest what just happened and then I’ll move forwards into tomorrow,” he said.

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Binotto: Leclerc denied true shot at pole position

Ferrari boss, Mattia Binotto, feels Charles Leclerc was denied the chance of having a “greater qualifying” due to issues that arose in FP3.

The Scuderia had to change Leclerc’s race-fitted engine to an older spec after his PU went up in smoke before he could even get a timed lap on the board in final practice.

It left Leclerc on the back foot compared to his rivals heading into qualifying and Binotto feels it was a case of what could have been after witnessing Sebastian Vettel in the other Ferrari get pipped to pole position by 0.012 seconds thanks to Valtteri Bottas.

Leclerc himself was only 0.108s down in P4, but it could have been a different story had his engine not gone pop earlier in the day.

“Charles has been really unlucky,” Binotto told Sky Sports in Italy following qualifying in Austin, Texas.

“For our fault he missed all the final practice session. We changed the setups completely today compared to Friday, so it was all different compared to when he drove the car on Friday.

“I believe Leclerc had a great qualifying and I believe that if he could have tested the car in FP3 he would have had an even greater qualifying.”

Ferrari have developed a habit of not converting 1-2 starts on the grid, so Binotto is also hoping their fortunes change now they are starting further down on the grid.

He added: “We were coming from consecutive poles, we wanted to be first also today but I think Bottas did a terrific lap.

“We will try to change things, when we started in pole we didn’t win the race so we hope that not starting first we will win it this time. Again the key will be the tire degradation.”

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Turns out Norris was just teasing us

Lando Norris finished P3 in FP3 and topped Q1, but it turned out McLaren were just teasing us when it came to fighting with the big boys.

Here is how Saturday unfolded at the United States Grand Prix…

Max Verstappen set the pace in FP3 with his 1:33.305 giving him a two-tenth buffer over Sebastian Vettel. But perhaps the standout result was Norris up in P3 for McLaren.

But it was a session to forget for Vettel’s team-mate Charles Leclerc who lost power in the early stages. Luckily it was only an oil leak and no penalty came his way. The Ferrari man was good to go for qualifying.

After finishing P3 in the final practice session Norris topped Q1 a tenth ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

At the other end Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Raikkonen, George Russell, Sergio Perez and Robert Kubica were the drivers eliminated.

Leclerc put the horrors of FP3 behind him to finish Q2 fastest with a 1:32,760 ahead of Vettel. The top six, minus Alex Albon, committed to starting the race on the medium tyres.

Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll and Romain Grosjean missed out on the shootout for pole.

A new lap record would put Bottas on pole at a race which he must win to remain in the title picture.

The top five were separated by less than 0.3s.

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