SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton felt the love of his fans on Sunday and had a simple answer to why he is so strong at his home British Grand Prix circuit.
“Because I own it,” the triumphant Mercedes driver said with a smile.
If that were literally the case, rather than the historic track being owned by the British Racing Drivers’ Club, there would be no uncertainty about Silverstone’s future on the calendar after 2019.
The triple Formula One champion owns Silverstone like tennis maestro Roger Federer, triumphant a short while later for a record eighth time on the grass courts of south London, owns Wimbledon.
Sunday was the Briton’s fourth home win in a row, something achieved by no other driver at Silverstone, and fifth in total. He has also been on pole five times at the former World Two airfield.
Just as Italy’s Monza is a temple to all things Ferrari, Silverstone — so often wet, windswept and cold — is where Hamilton’s army of fervent flag-waving fans assembles every year for a mutual love-in.
Hamilton has his critics, and his name was booed in London during the week when he missed a promotional event attended by all other drivers.
But Silverstone disarmed those critics as Hamilton led from start to finish from pole position and also set the fastest lap on his way to a 57th career win — taking the chequered flag with a 14 second lead over team mate Valtteri Bottas.
He now lags Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the championship by a single point at the halfway stage in the season with every likelihood that he will be ahead for the first time this year before the August summer break.
“You guys, I’m coming over to crowd surf,” he shouted to the crowd from the podium. “Be ready for me.”
Afterwards, back from the crowd’s embrace, he spoke eloquently about just what the day had meant to him.
“I’ve got a lot of love for different tracks that we go to but this one has grown to be one of the favourites of the year,” he said.
“It’s got the greatest combination of corners. Copse, Maggotts and Becketts is the greatest combination in the whole grand prix calendar. I love street circuits but Monaco is not a great racing circuit. This is an all-out great racing circuit.
“They don’t build circuits like this one any more. This just has that character and history...I’m good at this track but then the energy I get from these fans, there is no other driver that gets that kind of energy anywhere.
“It just lifts you, there’s no avoiding it...every lap, 51 laps, everyone stands up. Every single lap. They’re egging me on. You don’t see that anywhere else in the world.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Rex Gowar