Lewis Hamilton’s fourth place in Sunday’s US Grand Prix moved him back into third place in the world championship. But he insisted that doesn’t matter to him.
Fourth was the best finish in seven races for the man who appeared to have moved into title contention with a surprise – he called it a miracle – win in Hungary back in August. But as Sebastian Vettel won the last eight races Hamilton’s best was a third in Belgium, his last podium finish. Recently he has played second fiddle again to team-mate Nico Rosberg but a new chassis, after cracks and a hole were found in the one he raced in Abu Dhabi, rejuvenated him this weekend.
"Definitely I'm very, very happy," he said after the race, in which Vettel led home Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber ahead of him. “I’m just happy for the guys and happy to have gone forward. I'm always talking about staying where I am or going forwards and so really I’m happy with that. The team did a great job - the car was night and day difference to what it was in Abu Dhabi. I'm pretty sure the new chassis helped."
He was particularly buoyed that the stiffer chassis enabled him once again to manage the early tyre degradation that obliged him to let Webber overtake on the 13 lap, and that later on he was able to keep the gap to the pursuing Fernando Alonso stable, where in Abu Dhabi the Spaniard had easily been able to pick him off. "I was really just so happy that I could get some points for the guys. They have been working so hard all year and they've had some really difficult races in the past half of the season. So to finally have a half-decent qualifying and then move forward and really utilise the tyres and have some life left in them... I was really, really happy that at the end, I could see Fernando was catching, so I was just looking after the tyres to wait until he started to push. When he did I just reacted a bit and when he was going to try and bring out a tenth I was going to bring two. When he tried to bring out three I was going to bring four. So I was really happy I could do that today."
The absence of rival Kimi Raikkonen, who was be hors de combat after a back operation and will be out of action again for next week’s finale in Brazil, meant that Hamilton was able to reclaim third place from the Finn with 187 points to his 183, but Webber is moving up with 181, and a faster car. If the Australian scores seven more points than him there in his swansong, Hamilton will drop again from the top three. But he insisted that he doesn’t care about such things.
"It doesn't mean anything,” he said. “Plus the guy that was in third is not even racing, so it doesn't mean anything to me.”