Only Michael Schumacher has more Formula One wins than Lewis Hamilton after Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix but the triple world champion had reason to thank his lucky stars for his 51st success.
After equalling France’s five times champion Alain Prost in the all-time list of winners, but still 40 behind Schumacher, the Mercedes driver said he had feared not making it to his first pitstop let alone the chequered flag.
He explained that the team had told him before the start that one of his car’s front brakes had ‘glazed’ and was significantly cooler than the other one.
“I went into turn one and the right front eventually woke up and just locked. I was carrying such speed. I was lucky I didn’t go in the wall or something,” said the Briton, who cut the corner by tracking across the grass.
Leading from pole position, the dirt-tracking triggered a tyre vibration that stayed with him until the first pitstop on lap 17.
“I had just the biggest vibration. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it in the first stint,” he said.
“Honestly I thought I had to stop, the vibration was so big I could barely see.”
Hamilton’s season has been marked by mechanical problems and engine failure and he said last weekend in Texas, a race he also won, that he had spent the whole afternoon listening out for signs of trouble.
His cutting the corner was also a talking point after the race, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen handed a five second penalty for doing the same when defending from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The sanction cost the Dutchman third place but Hamilton said the cases were different.
“I was a car length ahead going into turn one,” he said. “I didn’t impede anyone.”
Hamilton’s second win in a row, and eighth of the season, trimmed team mate Nico Rosberg’s overall lead to 19 points with two races remaining.
That means the German can take the title if he triumphs in Brazil, a race Hamilton has yet to win but that Rosberg dominated last year, in two weeks’ time.