A triumphant Lewis Hamilton celebrated his sixth Formula One world championship with family and friends in New York – after admitting he clinched his latest title while “battling demons.”
In the hours following his remarkable success in Austin – one that moved Hamilton to within striking range of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record – the British driver, and his entourage, boarded a plane to take the party on a 1,700-mile three-hour flight from Texas to the Big Apple.
The celebrations, following Hamilton’s fifth championship success in six brilliant seasons, are understood to have gone on into the early hours.
His Mercedes team – most of whom headed to downtown Austin on Sunday night to toast their driver – will roll out the red carpet to honour Hamilton’s achievement at a special event on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old will be in attendance at Mercedes’ Brackley HQ as Formula One’s all-conquering team celebrate an unprecedented sixth consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ double.
Hamilton is now statistically the second greatest driver in history, moving above the great Argentine, Juan Manuel Fangio.
As well as being in a position to match Schumacher’s title tally next year, the Mercedes driver is just eight victories shy of equalling the German’s win record of 91, too.
It is an extraordinary feat, but one that Hamilton revealed has come at a cost.
“Every year you go through a different rollercoaster ride of emotions,” he said. “Each and every single one of us is struggling with something in life.
“I try to show people that, from the outside, things always look great but it’s not always the case.
“I am struggling with lots of different things and battling certain demons.
“When you look in the mirror each day, whether you feel good or you feel bad, there is always the darker side that’s trying to pull you down, and you’re constantly having to wake up.
“I look in the mirror each morning 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.’”
Hamilton said he had been rocked by the death of Mercedes’ non-executive chairman Niki Lauda in May, and the passing of Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert at this summer’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Triple world champion Lauda, who survived a fireball inferno while competing at the 1976 German Grand Prix, played a role in luring Hamilton from McLaren to the Silver Arrows in 2013. Hamilton has won 62 of his 83 career races and five of his six world titles with Mercedes.
“I would say that I didn’t think losing Niki was going to hit me as hard as it did,” Hamilton continued. “It was really upsetting and I miss him dearly. I didn’t realise how much I loved the guy.
“We also lost a young kid in Spa. When something like that happens, it can put a lot of doubt in your mind and you have to bat that off. You think, ‘Jeez, is it time to stop or shall I keep going?’
“There’s lots of life after F1 and I want to spend time with my family. I still want to have a family one day. But I love doing what I do so much that I don’t think there’s a lot that can particularly stop me.”
Ferrari driver and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel greeted Hamilton in the cool-down room before the podium celebrations in Austin.
“If somebody wins the title six times he deserves all of it,” said the German in tribute to his rival. “That’s what I told him.
“You need to respect what he achieved the last years, this year, and how strong he has been.”