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Lewis Hamilton promises he will not change his aggressive driving style with World Championship in sight

The Independent logo The Independent 09/10/2017 David Tremayne
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As he celebrated the 61st victory of his career in the Suzuka paddock on Sunday night, Lewis Hamilton vowed not to change his modus operandi despite the 59-point lead he has opened up over Sebastian Vettel with just four races remaining.

As the German’s Ferrari let him down for the second race in a row, and led to him retiring for the second time in the last three, Hamilton savoured his revenge over runner-up Max Verstappen, who beat him in Malaysia the previous weekend, and his eighth success in a season that rapidly looks like crowning him world champion for the fourth time.

Related: Vettel 'it hurts' (Sky Sports)

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He admitted that he had a tricky time staying ahead of the 20 year-old Dutchman once they had switched from the supersoft Pirelli tyres to the softs, especially when he ran into traffic in the final three laps while trying to get his tyres back up to working temperature after a virtual safety car period. And afterwards he lost no time pointing out where the thrust of his newfound advantage has had its roots since the summer break.

“Honestly, I could only have dreamed of having this kind of gap,” he admitted.

“Ferrari have put on such a great challenge all year long. All I can really say is that I have to put it down to my team. They’ve done a phenomenal job, reliability has really been on point. They are just so meticulous and that’s really why we have the reliability we have and the results we have been having. I owe it to everyone here and back at the factory, and again the support that we get, it really does help lift us, so a big thank you to everyone.

“I think it’s kind of unbelievable really, to think that we are where we are. I was excited actually to have a good race with Sebastian here, as I was in the last race – but he’s obviously been incredibly unfortunate. In the world today, in Formula One, it is a lot about reliability and the team’s whole performance, not just speed on the track, and I think Mercedes have shown, through and through for many years now, that we have a very, very solid platform.

“The guys do such a phenomenal job with how they build the car, in terms of reliability. Mercedes are the real leaders in that area, and I really owe it to everyone back at the factory for providing me with a car that I can utilise, and use my abilities in.”

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Hamilton was delighted to win in Japan (Getty)

But far from believing the hype that he has one hand on the title trophy, he added: “There’s still a long way to go. One hundred points is a lot. Anything can happen in life. I’ve just got to try and keep my head down and hopefully continue to perform like this – but I feel very, very fortunate and really blessed and I’m enjoying the experience.”

Meanwhile, Vettel will take a little much-needed comfort from the knowledge that he is the only person who has beaten Hamilton at the Circuit of the Americas, in Austin [in 2013 with Red Bull], which is the next stop on the rapidly diminishing calendar. The German made it clear after Sunday’s race that Ferrari will never give up until the title is mathematically impossible, and as the Scuderia’s recent run of terrible fortune has demonstrated, anything literally can happen in this game. Who’s to say what lies ahead for Hamilton and Mercedes?

But while it might make sense to some for them to ease back and settle for podium places in the remaining races, leaving Vettel to take all the risks rather than keeping up the pressure to win all the time, Hamilton said that the only way he knows how to drive F1 cars is at 100 percent.

“To be honest, there’s not really any need for me to change the approach. The points are still what you go out there to achieve but also you try and look after your car. I just don’t think there’s any need to make any changes. I’m not really particularly taking crazy risks in order to be in the position I’m in. So yeah, I think we’re just going to try and continue to do what we’re doing.”

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The result is a blow to Vettel's World Championship hopes (Getty)

After the race he appeared to suggest to his engineers that he was experiencing vibrations from the power unit rather than the tyres, but he explained; “I don’t honestly think there’s any wrong with the engine. I just felt a couple of things so you just point out things that you might forget to tell them afterwards. You make lots of different switch changes and the turbocharger makes make strange noises and different vibrations come in, so I’m hoping there’s nothing. I don’t think there is anything, I think it was just because I was shortshifting [changing gears early on the slowdown lap] which the engine doesn’t like so much. So I think that was it.

“Of course, we want to try and look after the car and the engine but I’m already doing that throughout the races so there’s not really much more I can do. And I think if sometimes you come off the gas a little bit you actually cause yourself more trouble than you need.”

Thus as far as the fight for the world championship is concerned, both contenders head for Texas carrying loaded six-shooters and determined to conduct business as usual. Their mano a mano contest isn’t done yet.

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