Why Hamilton sixth title earned him GOAT status

Tuesday November 05 2019

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton finished second at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) but still emphatically managed to seal his sixth drivers' world championship to secure his place as the second most decorated Formula One driver.

Hamilton is now just one title shy of matching Michael Schumacher's record, which for a number of years, had seemed beyond reach for the current crop of drivers.

His teammate, Valtteri Bottas, succeeded in denying him a sixth win at COTA but could do nothing to stop the Brit from getting his sixth title.

The pair had contrasting fortunes in qualifying, with Bottas claiming pole ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by a margin of just 0.012 of a second. Hamilton, caught out by time, could only manage fifth.

Behind Vettel was the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, and next to him, his age-mate, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

It meant that the start of the race would be particularly exciting given the lengthy incline to Turn One and the extensive width of the road.


Bottas launched well and so did Verstappen.

The same, however, cannot be said of Vettel who had Verstappen already side by side with him within seconds, with the Dutchman swooping past on the outside of Turn One.

Hamilton made up a place by the first turn, passing Leclerc and then making a delightful move on the outside of Turn Eight to overtake the German.

Leclerc also passed his teammate seconds later which left one wondering what was wrong with the four-time world champion's car.


A lock-up before the first lap was over saw McLaren's Carlos Sainz squeeze past Vettel too. Sainz had managed to emerge unscathed in a Turn One incident despite him and Leclerc sandwiching Red Bull's Alexander Albon to the extent that the Red Bull bounced off the ground and had to be 'treated' in the pits at the end of that lap. Stewards deemed it a racing incident.

By the sixth lap of the race, Bottas was already two seconds clear of Vettel.

Two laps later, the German had a spectacular failure of suspension that ended his race. On the 13th lap, Hamilton was within DRS range of Verstappen but then Red Bull opted to roll the dice and pit the Dutchman, believing that the move was necessary to stay ahead through a two-stop strategy.

Bottas was pitted in the next lap so Hamilton inherited the lead.

Such was the gulf in speed between the Finn and Leclerc that two laps after exiting the pits, Bottas overtook the Monegasque.

In another few laps and well before the halfway mark, the ten-second gap that Hamilton had over Bottas evaporated. The Finn was told he could attack his teammate and he did so, easily overtaking the race leader.


Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team (left) celebrates after being crowned World Champion during his second place finish, beside race winner Valtteri Bottas of Finland from the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team at the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on November 3, 2019. PHOTO | MARK RALSTON |

Hamilton, who had deliberately disregarded calls to pit in favour of a lengthy first stint, then pitted for his one and only stop changing from the mediums to the hards.

Meanwhile, Albon was recovering well from the back of the grid and passed the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen for tenth on the 26th lap.

Hamilton then found himself in a catch-22 as going too fast would render his tyres too worn out towards the end of the race.

He was soon on the radio, talking to Bono, his race engineer, asking him to give him a target lap time. Verstappen made his second stop on the 34th lap, 22 laps from the end. Bottas followed suit a lap later.

The gap between Bottas and Hamilton was initially ten seconds.

That quickly came down to just over five seconds in less than three laps. From then on, Bottas reduced the gap incrementally but not drastically.

With five laps to go, the Finn was within DRS range and tried to pass his teammate along the pit straight.


Hamilton defended aggressively going into Turn One and made Bottas opt for the run-off. He did not bide his time for long, however, as he passed his teammate in the next lap on the stretch leading up to Turn 12. Verstappen was also catching up with Hamilton.

Would he pass the Brit?

Nerve-wracking final laps ensued as Verstappen got the chance to use his DRS on the final lap.

Yellow flags in Sector Two because the Haas of Kevin Magnussen had beached on the gravel became a silver lining for Hamilton as they prevented the Dutchman from an absolute charge.

The end result was Hamilton getting to the chequered flag less than a second ahead of Verstappen but well behind his teammate. It was the first time for Bottas to win at COTA and also the first time for Hamilton to finish second.

In picking his sixth title and 150th podium, Hamilton has undoubtedly etched himself in history as one of the best Formula One drivers, if not the best.

Brazil and Abu Dhabi are next, but those will be formalities. Leclerc has opened a 19-point gap on Vettel with two races remaining while Verstappen is five ahead of the German. Albon, who finished fifth despite three pit stops, was chosen as the Driver of the Day.