► Lewis Hamilton becomes 3x world champion
► But is he better than Sir Jackie Stewart?
► It's Lewis vs Jackie in our Top Trumps battle
He partied on Monday and slept on Tuesday, but what did winning a third world title at the US Grand Prix bring Lewis Hamilton, other than a hangover and a healthy bonus from Mercedes Grand Prix?
In a word: notoriety. There have been 64 F1 world champions, but only six three-time champions and Lewis is now one of them. He can be mentioned in the same breath as Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and, most significantly, Ayrton Senna; Lewis has always wanted to equal the achievements of the late, great Brazilian. ‘I pinch myself every day,’ says Lewis, ‘but it still hasn’t sunk in.’
Jackie Stewart was in Austin to witness Hamilton’s title success, 42 years after he clinched his third title for Tyrrell in 1973. ‘This is a great day for Lewis,’ said Stewart. ‘He’s driven brilliantly this year, but I still think he can get better. He’s 30 years old, which means he’s reaching maturity and now is the right time to improve on that. He has experience and from experience you gain knowledge, and with knowledge you can improve yourself. I think his best years are still ahead of him.’
Stewart retired from driving at the end of 1973, at the age of 34. It had been an emotional season, following the deaths of his friend Roger Williamson and his team-mate Francois Cevert, and it was an intense year of travelling, with new races in Brazil and Sweden.
To this extent, there are parallels between 1973 and 2015. We witnessed heart-wrenching scenes in Hungary, when F1 struggled to come to terms with the death of Jules Bianchi, and there have been changes to the calendar too, with the last-minute absence of the German GP and the addition of Mexico.
Even the lifestyles of Stewart in his pomp and Hamilton aren’t dissimilar. Lewis travels regularly to America, where he has a house in Colorado, and Jackie used to hop across the pond frequently. In 1971 he flew across the Atlantic 86 times, fulfilling driving commitments in CanAm and a burgeoning career as a commentator for ABC Sports.
Both men mix with A-list celebs, Lewis with the likes of Rihanna, Pharrell Williams and Nicole Scherzinger and Jackie, back in the day, with Princess Grace of Monaco, George Harrison and Princess Anne. They both push the limits of fashion, Lewis with his tattoos and urban chic, Jackie with his sideburns and corduroy caps. Their driving styles are very different. Jackie was all smoothness and guile, while Lewis is more of a hustler and has great bravado. There is no doubting Lewis’s domination this year; he’s won 10 races (with two rounds to go) to Stewart’s five in ’73 and he’s taken 11 poles to Stewart’s three.
How much more can Hamilton achieve? ‘I want to win more titles,’ he says, ‘but I have no goal in terms of a number. I don’t think I’ll beat Michael [Schumacher]’s seven; in fact, I hope no-one beats Michael because he’s a legend.’ Question is: at what point does Lewis himself achieve legend status?