SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton has his father’s words in mind as he stands on the brink of a third Formula One world championship.
“I don’t think about ‘nearly’,” the Mercedes driver told British reporters, after celebrating his ninth win of the season in Russia, when it was suggested that the job was nearly done.
“You either are or you’re not. I‘m not there yet. That’s what my Dad would always say. You either do or you don’t and I don’t yet.”
Hamilton is 66 points clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and 73 ahead of his own team mate Nico Rosberg with four races remaining.
The points gulf make it inconceivable, even if mathematically possible, that the 30-year-old will not join the elite group of triple champions -- possibly in Texas in two weeks’ time.
If Hamilton wins in Austin, and Vettel fails to take second place, he will have matched the three titles of the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna, his boyhood hero.
It should be in the bag by the time he gets to Brazil for the penultimate race of the season but Hamilton said the location was not important.
“My mind’s set on crossing the line at the last race and being ahead, that’s what matters to me. Whether it’s before then or not is kind of irrelevant to me,” said the Briton.
He would still be a championship behind Vettel, who won four with Red Bull, but the Sochi podium spoke of a changing dynamic that has even had Hamilton’s team bosses rubbing their hands in anticipation.
With his 42nd career win, Hamilton equaled Vettel’s career tally and the two of them are third in the all-time lists behind Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost.
Finishing one-two, with the German overtaking Rosberg in the standings, hinted at plenty of battles ahead next season as Ferrari close the gap.
“They are both in very performing cars and it could be one of the great rivalries in the sport –- in different teams,” said Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff, without underestimating Rosberg’s potential to battle his team mate.
“Lewis has his own rivalry within the team so that is good. It is great for the sport and it is going to push us, as it is the team you want to be battling with.”
Hamilton spoke warmly of Vettel afterwards, the two champions joking in the post-race news conference after inviting the podium hostesses in to join them, and described the German as an original.
“What you see is what you get. A great driver and just a good personality. I‘m looking forward to racing him for many more years,” he said.
“If I hung up my gloves and was just a fan I would want to see the two of us up against each other. I am super excited to do that.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman