Lewis Hamilton dedicated his Russian Grand Prix victory to Jules Bianchi as Mercedes’ celebrations at clinching their first Formula 1 constructors’ championship were tempered by thoughts of the man fighting for his life.
Hamilton took full advantage of Nico Rosberg’s latest mistake to become only the fourth driver in F1 history to win nine grands prix in a season and extend his title advantage over his team-mate to 17 points. Rosberg had to settle for being runner-up for the ninth time this campaign, but it was achieved in remarkable fashion given his error on the run-up to the first braking zone at F1’s newest track, the Sochi Autodrom, at turn two.
Having slipstreamed Hamilton off the line, Rosberg pulled out and momentarily held the lead, only to out-brake himself and flatspot his tyres, causing a vibration which necessitated an immediate change of rubber.
Dropping to 20th after the stop, Rosberg then astonishingly ran for the remaining 52 laps on the one set of tyres to keep Hamilton in his sights in the championship standings.
It was Mercedes’ ninth one-two this season – one short of McLaren’s 1988 record – guaranteeing them the constructors’ crown, albeit an unsurprising success given their dominance throughout the course of this campaign.
For Hamilton, there was obvious delight at a fourth successive win, but, once the champagne-quaffing had ended, his thoughts were rightly elsewhere.
With Bianchi in a critical condition at the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi with brain injuries after crashing into a recovery vehicle at Suzuka, Hamilton opened his heart.
“All week there’s been just one person on my mind, and that’s Jules,” Hamilton said.
“There has been excitement and happiness for the team, but, without a doubt, every time I’ve got in the car this week, coming here, being here, I’ve been thinking about him and his family and keeping him in my prayers every day.
“Whether it means anything, or whether it does anything, it would be great to dedicate this to Jules and his family.
“It will make a very small difference to them, for sure, but every bit of positive energy hopefully will help.
“I need all you guys (the media), and all us teams to send him our positive vibes because positive energy is actually real.”
For Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff, there was natural elation the team’s long wait for this day had finally arrived.
Following Brawn GP’s successes in 2009, Mercedes stepped in and bought the Brackley-based marque, but it has taken five long years and a sum of around £1.25bn to achieve the feat.
Nevertheless, Wolff, too, acknowledged the fact 25-year-old Bianchi was at the forefront of everybody’s thinking.
With glasses of champagne lined up behind him as he spoke, Wolff said: “It’s a good moment. It’s incredible.
“I have to pinch myself sometimes because we are now part of Mercedes-Benz history, and we’ve won the first constructors’ title ever, and I feel proud I’m part of the team.
“But we must not forget what happened last week.
“A colleague, a very talented young driver I have known since from his very first days in Formula Renault and Formula 3, is fighting for his life.
“I’m not a monster – we’re not monsters – and, although we have worked so hard for this day, it will never take away what happened last week.”