Lewis Hamilton’s father always told him to ‘drive like you stole it’ but there was never any question about who owned Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver did not start on pole, that honour denied him by team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg in Saturday qualifying, but the Briton knew he had something special going on.
Hamilton feels at home in the United States, where he spends time with singer girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger and friends in Los Angeles, and won the inaugural race at the Circuit of the Americas in 2012.
As he took the chequered flag for his 10th win of the season, and fifth in succession, the championship leader entered the record books as the British driver with most Formula One wins — his 32 now one more than 1992 champion Nigel Mansell.
“Once I got past Nico it was really just about controlling it,” he told the crowd in a podium interview with 1978 champion Mario Andretti, the last U.S. driver to take the title.
Later, once he had tried Andretti’s black Stetson sheriff’s hat for size, he told reporters: “Before the race there’s a lot you can do to really understand what opportunities could come up and in different scenarios, how you approach it, and I felt very much on top of that as I have done for quite some time.
“I just went into the race with the belief that I could win it,” he added.
“I went into the race thinking I need another race just like 2012 and it was just like that. I was catching him through exactly the same points at which I was catching Sebastian (Vettel in 2012).
“There wasn’t a moment in the race when I didn’t think that I would get him. Once I was past, as I said, I was able to relax for a second and really try to manage the tyres.”
The move, when it came, was on the 24th lap — a fitting number since the win sent him 24 points clear of Rosberg with two races remaining and a maximum of 75 points available.
It could still be that he ends up with 11 wins and no title, a casualty of the new rules that allow double points for the final round in Abu Dhabi, but on Sunday he was not thinking of that.
Instead, Hamilton was fizzing with the excitement of another win on the continent where he took his first two victories in his debut 2007 season.
The manner in which he took the lead, an aggressive swashbuckling pass through the inside as Rosberg braked early and went slightly wide into turn 12, was the mark of a true champion.
“I had been planning that for many laps and just never really got close enough,” said Hamilton.
“The opportunity was there and I knew there was a big head wind into that corner. All weekend there’s been a head wind into turn 11 and today it turned around, so it was a head wind into 12. So braking there was really strong.
“I felt really confident going into there, I had the slipstream and I pulled out, out-braked him. But it was really important that I didn’t lock up and out-brake myself and go wide,” he added.