Lewis Hamilton dedicated his sixth Formula 1 world title to ‘incredible friend and mentor’ Niki Lauda and vowed to make him proud.
The British driver clinched the championship with a second-place finish at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday, just behind Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas who took the chequered flag.
Hamilton, 34, added he was ‘flying super-high’ after the triumph which took him to within one world title of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.
But following his victory, he thanked friends and family for their support on Twitter - before dedicating the win to the ‘legendary’ Austrian driver, who died aged 70 in May.
He tweeted: “Six World Championships!! I can't begin to describe this feeling, but it's one I'll never forget. As a kid growing up in Stevenage, it was a wish to win an F1 race and a dream to win a Championship, so to be standing here today representing my country, is such an incredible honour and beyond what I could have ever imagined.
“If just one kid sees me standing here and decides to follow their dream, no matter what it may be, nothing would make me more proud.
“I wouldn't be here's without so many of you, my amazing family - especially my dad who taught me to never give up, my friends, my team at @mercedesamgfl and my fans.
“You've been with me on this journey from the start and it's because of you that I stay focused and determined. I'm forever grateful from the bottom of my heart for every single one of you for your constant support, encouragement and love.
“This season is for Niki Lauda, my incredible friend and mentor who we lost this year, who proved that courage and determination go hand in hand. This one's for you, Niki. I'll continue to make you proud.
“#TeamLH #StillWeRise #Grateful.”
Lauda was renowned for one of sport’s most incredible comebacks - returning to F1 racing just 40 days after almost burning to death at the wheel of his car following a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix.
In retirement, the three-time world champion became non-executive chairman at Mercedes in 2012, where he persuaded Hamilton to join him.
After joining Mercedes in 2013, the British racer has now become the second most-successful driver in F1 history.
And he has now come within touching distance of matching all-time great Schumacher.
“I’ve always said that reaching Michael’s [record] was never a target for me,” Hamilton said. “I’m not really one that really thinks of records and those kind of things.
“I definitely had thought that getting anywhere near Michael was just so far-fetched and I remember having my one for a long period of time, then getting a second one.
“It was so far away and now yet it seems so close yet it is so far away that I still can’t really even comprehend.”
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