Champion-elect Lewis Hamilton celebrated the United States Grand Prix victory that leaves him on the brink of winning a fourth title by smoking a large cigar.
Hamilton, who will be crowned this year’s champion if he finishes fifth or higher in Mexico on Sunday, arrived at Mercedes’ hospitality suite in the hours after delivering yet another on-track master-class in a plume of Cuban cigar smoke.
“I guess it’s like that movie Independence Day and they had a cigar to celebrate victory,” Hamilton said. “I thought it was kind of neat, but they taste disgusting.”
Hamilton took the victory party on to Pete’s Duelling Piano Bar on the popular Sixth Street in downtown Austin on Sunday night with his mother Carmen, brother Nic and a Canadian personality, known as King Bach, among his entourage.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team booked out the bar to celebrate their fourth consecutive constructors’ championship.
It has become something of a traditional post-race Austin haunt for Mercedes, but one that Hamilton would not always frequent. Indeed when Nico Rosberg took to the stage to sing karaoke last year, Hamilton was nowhere to be seen.
But Rosberg’s sudden retirement in the days after he won the championship has liberated Hamilton, and according to the Briton, removed the gross toxicity that existed within the team.
So bad were Hamilton’s relations with Mercedes that boss Toto Wolff threatened to take disciplinary action against him after he deliberately defied team orders in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton subsequently met with the Austrian at his Oxfordshire home, and highlights the meeting as a pivotal turning point.
“Definitely going and seeing Toto at the end of last year was crucial in terms of solidifying longevity within the team, and to just put everything on the table and say what was needed to be said,” Hamilton, 32, added.
“Ultimately nobody knows exactly what happened within the team last year. No one, apart from people within the team, will be able to tell you how the dynamic was, and for sure it was uncomfortable. I can’t say it was great.
“When you’ve got two strong drivers within a team as we had, and when the battle is within the team, it’s like a hurricane. It is just strong energy and it’s not being directed anywhere, so it’s just stuck in a room.
“Right now, we are all together and we have this hurricane, this bundle of energy, which we’re firing into the car and propelling us forward. I think it’s just overall a much happier dynamic.”
Asked if Hamilton could have enjoyed that same dynamic if Rosberg was still at Mercedes, he replied bluntly: “No.”
Hamilton has been in scintillating form since the summer break. He trailed Sebastian Vettel by 14 points after July’s Hungarian Grand Prix, but heads into the final three rounds with an almost unassailable 66-point lead.
“I feel the best I’ve ever felt physically and mentally,” added Hamilton, who has won five of the last six grands prix. “I think all year I’ve felt very strong mentally, but I am now taking also a big step physically and that’s really the decision I made a change to a Vegan diet.”