Lewis Hamilton was unable to hold back his emotions after bursting into tears upon winning the Turkish Grand Prix and claiming an historic seventh world championship.
Hamilton produced the drive of drives in a compelling rain-hit Istanbul race to draw level with Michael Schumacher’s all-time championship haul, 16 years after the great German set a record many thought would stand the test of time.
But Hamilton, a black man from a Stevenage council estate, has re-written the Formula One record books and, in the process, staked his claim to be considered among the greatest British sportsmen who have ever lived.
Alongside his record-equalling seventh title, Hamilton has more wins (94), more poles (97) and more podiums (163) than any driver who has gone before him.
Reflecting on the enormity of his achievement with three rounds of this Covid-disturbed season remaining, Hamilton sat in his black Mercedes machine with his head buried in his hands.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was the first to go over to congratulate him. “You are the best of our generation”, the German told his one-time rival.
After several minutes strapped in his car, Hamilton managed to compose himself, before removing his helmet and standing on top of the Mercedes that powered him to his sixth title in seven spectacular years.
“Very rarely do I lose control of my emotions but I remember those last few laps and I was just telling myself to keep it together,” said the Briton, who crossed the line a staggering 31.6 seconds clear of Sergio Perez. Vettel completed the podium positions.
“But I could feel it getting closer and knowing that if I finish where I finish now I will win this championship. All these emotions were running through me and I was trying to stop it.
“I was thinking about my whole career, when I was five and I drove my first kart to winning my first British championship, and driving home singing We Are The Champions, and then dreaming of being here, and there it is, right there, just minutes away, and that was a lot to take in.
“When I came across the line it really hit me and I just burst into tears. I couldn’t get out of the car because I couldn’t believe what had happened.
“I didn’t want the visor to come up and people to see the tears because I always would say you will never see me cry. I have seen other drivers cry in the past, and I was like, I am never going to do that, but it was too much.”
Hamilton paid tribute to his father, Anthony, who worked multiple jobs to fund his son’s path to stardom.
“I couldn’t have done it without the great man behind me, my dad,” the 35-year-old added.
“On the days I didn’t think I was good enough, or wasn’t going to do well enough, he stood me up and kept me going.
“I was thinking of him, my mum, my step-mum Linda, my brother. They have all stood by me through thick and thin.”
Hamilton has become a leading voice in the fight for equality and greater diversity. He added: “It is no secret that I have walked this sport alone as the only person of colour here.
“When I was younger I didn’t have anybody in the sport that looked like me so it was easy to think it is not possible.
“But hopefully this sends a message to the kids that are watching that it doesn’t matter where you come from or your background, but what is important is to dream big.
“You can create your own path and that is what I have been able to do, and it has been so tough. Tough doesn’t even describe how hard it has been.”
This was not Hamilton’s race to win. But while those around him lost their cool, Hamilton motored from fifth to first in a matter of pivotal laps to take control of the race.
Valtteri Bottas, the only man who could stop Hamilton from winning the title, spun six times before finishing a lap down in 14th. Max Verstappen, the obvious heir to Hamilton’s throne, also slipped off the track on multiple occasions.
But Hamilton was serene, delivering a mesmerising performance that drew parallels with one of his finest afternoons behind the wheel of a Formula One machine, at Silverstone in 2008, when he romped to victory in similarly testing conditions.
Hamilton won his maiden title that year in Brazil. Little did he know then, that six further titles would follow. So, how will he celebrate?
“I am going to go home tonight and probably just watch the race,” he said. “I usually have a minestrone soup and I will definitely have a bottle of wine.”