Hamilton appears to be at peace with himself, and with his Mercedes
team. Such serenity this season has contributed to his winning his fourth drivers’ championship, with two grands prix to spare in the 20-race season after an intense battle with Sebastian Vettel
That serenity should provide a cornerstone to Hamilton’s further title runs and his challenging the records held by the retired driver Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton has no intention of easing off, not when he describes himself as “the most complete driver I’ve ever been.” Despite the self-praise, he insists, with a sense of foreboding, that there remains room for improvement.
With Formula One’s regulations being stable for the next three seasons, there is every possibility that Mercedes
will continue its dominance, with Hamilton getting closer to Schumacher’s records of seven titles and 91 career victories. Hamilton has 62.
“What drives me forward is that this year has definitely been inspiring, showing that I’ve still this ability, this drive to continue,” Hamilton said in an interview.
It is why he is adamant that he will be fired up for the first day of preseason testing in February. “As the season is winding down, I’m already starting to think about my winter preparation, analysing what I did this year, what I can do better for next season,” he added.
“Coming out of the last race and going to the factory, you are focused on understanding the tools you are going to be given for next year, and then you go away for your break and you get back in the groove of being in the best shape you can be.”
In a sport constantly changing, evolving, and therefore challenging, Hamilton knows he cannot rest if he is to remain at the vanguard of Formula One.
“There are always areas to improve,” he said. “It will be about the usage of time, the understanding of data.
“Qualifying has been strong, but there are areas for improvement in practice and the understanding of the car. My technical knowledge has continued to grow, as have my relationships with people in the team, but I have to continue to build on those.
“You don’t just build them and then let it be what they are. You’ve got to continue to grow them. So there are lots of areas and lots of work. It never stops until you decide to retire.”
There is little chance of his retiring like his previous teammate, Nico Rosberg, did after winning the drivers’ championship in 2016. “I never want to see anyone else driving my car,” Hamilton said. “I’ve worked so hard to help it be what it is, the beauty that it is.”
He also gets along with his new teammate, Valtteri Bottas, unlike the difficult relationship he had with Rosberg. The acrimony between them resulted in an unhealthy tension throughout the team and in the garage during a grand prix weekend.
When Rosberg left, Hamilton and Toto Wolff, the team principal, met in the kitchen of Wolff’s Oxford home to discuss their differences of opinion that had arisen during the season.
The meeting resulted in a much better relationship between Hamilton and Wolff this season.
“There were things through the year that had big question marks over them, so it was to clear the air, to say what was exactly on our minds.” Hamilton said, for example, that he told Wolff that he felt the team favoured Rosberg last year.
“We didn’t argue, or anything like that, but it was an opportunity to argue, to shout at each other, to shed a tear if needed, whatever, to squash any negativity, and that’s what we did,” Hamilton said.
“I left feeling relieved, a weight off my shoulder, and I think it was the same for Toto, and so I went into the winter with the belief and focus of having the team right behind me, and driven to utilise and build upon the foundation we had rebuilt in that meeting.”
Wolff agreed it was a pivotal exchange. “Our conversation was very important to our relationship, because being able to talk about all the frustrations that had built up over a while brought a release in the tensions,” he said.
“I very much believe the dynamic is very important within a team. We have spent considerable time working on the intrateam relationships. That discussion in the kitchen helped.”
Highlighting the difference it has made, Wolff added, “Lewis and I have not had one single difference of opinion this past year, and that is remarkable in a sport that is so intense.”
© 2017 The New York Times