SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton chose to soak in the winning feeling at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday rather than allow himself to get carried away by thoughts of securing what looks like an inevitable fifth title.
The Briton, who had started from a record-extending 80th pole position, led from lights out to chequered flag, not even conceding the lead during the pitstops.
That capped a dominant weekend for the 33-year-old Mercedes driver, who was an unstoppable force as he swept around the Suzuka circuit and ended every track session on top.
“It’s really weird,” Hamilton said after crossing the line for his 71st win, which is 20 short of Michael Schumacher’s record haul of 91.
“Obviously I have been racing a long, long time, but the happiness I have inside is as high as always.
Sunday’s win was Hamilton’s sixth in seven races and fourth in a row.
It also carried him to the brink of becoming only the third driver, after Schumacher and Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio, to win five or more Formula One championship titles.
Now 67 points ahead of closest rival Sebastian Vettel, who finished sixth on Sunday after a collision with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, the Briton could wrap up the title at the next race in Austin, Texas.
A win, with Vettel finishing lower than second, is all he needs.
The Brackley-based Mercedes outfit, unbeaten in the turbo-hybrid era that began in 2014, had the second best car for much of the season with Ferrari holding an edge.
But in the three races since last month’s Italian Grand Prix, where Hamilton also triumphed, they have looked unbeatable.
“I said to everyone, ‘I hope you guys all feel you’re performing at your best, because we really are and you should take note of that and sit back for a second’,” said Hamilton.
“It’s difficult to take a second to really acknowledge all the great work that individually we’re doing but also collectively.”
But Hamilton is not one to dwell on the past for too long and his thoughts quickly turned to the Oct. 21 U.S. Grand prix - where he has triumphed in five of the past six years.
“Austin is usually a good track for us,” he said, pointing to his Mercedes.
“So I can’t wait to unleash this beast there.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar