After all the hope of yesterday’s qualifying and today’s coasting to within 15 laps of a win and championship lead, Lewis Hamilton had something of a wake-up call. He was forced to retire on lap 41 after a sudden failure of his ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) which occurred with no prior warning.
So Formula One. Never think you’ve got everything in the bag. The lady has a nasty habit of biting when you least expect her to.
Lewis says it all: “Max (Verstappen) was in my pit window so I was just trying to push him out of it. I think I’d done that, almost. But then, on the straight, I just lost power all of a sudden. You could hear something blew and I obviously had to stop.
“Honestly, you’ve got to understand it from my point of view. On one side, we’ve had the most incredible success these past two years, for which I’m so grateful. These guys work so hard and we’re all feeling the pain right now. When you get out of the car – that feeling you have after leading the race and then your car fails – it’s pretty hard to say positive things at the time.
“As I said in the tv interviews, Mercedes has built 43 engines or however many it might be with the extra three I’ve had, and I have happen to have most of, if not all of, the failures. So, that is definitely tough to take. But I have 100% confidence in these guys. It’s my fourth year with them now and the guys in the garage and back at the factories – I have 100% faith in them. I love it here and without them I would not have won these two Championships.
“While the struggle is real right now and has been all year, I honestly feel that it’s a test of my will, my spirit and who I am as a person to get back in and keep fighting it head on. It’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up. That applies not just to me but to the guys as well. I saw tears in the eyes of my mechanics so I know that we all bear the pain.
“But, as I said, it’s how we re-group. We have to keep in mind what we’ve already built. While in the short term it doesn’t look good and for the long-term this year it might not be so good, there are still lots of positives. There’s still five races to go and if I can perform the way I performed this weekend there’s still everything to play for. We will learn. The guys will take the engine back and they’ll understand what happened. Every time we’ve had engine issues they’ve gone away and found out why. It puts us potentially in a better position to make sure it doesn’t happen next year.
“All I can do is what I’ve done this weekend. Come correct, be as focused as I can possibly be, put in this kind of performance and pray that the car holds together. I still have faith and hope. That’s a powerful thing. It feels a little bit like the man above, or a higher power, is intervening a little bit. But I feel like I’ve been blessed with the opportunity firstly to be here with so many great people around me, in this great team, to have won these last two Championships with lots and lots of victories and records that I’m breaking time and time again.
“Whilst it does not feel great right now, I have to be grateful for all of that. If at the end of the year the higher powers don’t want me to be Champion after everything I’ve given towards it, I will have to accept that. As long as I end the year knowing that I’ve given it everything, done everything I could possibly do and that we’ve done everything we could possibly do, that’s all you can ask for. Don’t forget that I’m World Champion. I’ll be okay.”
You can read a lot about Lewis’s state of mind in these words. Some may say this was the day Rosberg won the Championship. His was an amazing drive to get back into the race and finish third. Others will recognise the thoughts of a mature driver about to redouble his efforts for the remaining races.
Instead of venting frustration, Hamilton returned to the garage and shook the hand of every team member. They talked in a small group and were all really down. Then Lewis stood in front of the team and found the words to lift everybody and help them recover quickly for Japan. This is what the great drivers do, the true Champions.