Lewis Hamilton feared another engine failure would cost him what may yet turn out to be a crucial victory in America on Sunday.
The world champion has reduced the deficit in the title race to Nico Rosberg by virtue of recording his 50th career victory in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.
But Hamilton did so haunted by the retirement which denied him of a certain victory in Malaysia – one that would have seen him take control of the championship – when his engine expired with only 15 laps remaining.
“For the whole race, I was concerned the car was not going to make it,” said Hamilton, whose title defence has been thwarted by a number of mechanical problems.
“Right up until the line, I was just in fear of the same thing, the same feeling I had, and the sound I heard in Malaysia. So, I was grateful the car made it across the line.
“Every single lap I was thinking something might happen. When I got on that back straight I am petrified.
“I was haunted by what happened in Malaysia and dreading that would happen again, so I am so grateful that it didn’t. It wasn’t until I got over the line that I was like ‘thank you’, I was so happy, rubbing the cockpit, ‘thank you for getting me there’.”
Hamilton, cheered on by seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams and British television chef Gordon Ramsay, is now 26 points behind Rosberg with 75 to play for, but the championship race remains out of the Briton’s hands.
Indeed Rosberg could clinch his maiden title in Mexico on Sunday if he wins and Hamilton fails to register a point.
All I can do is my best, and continue to drive like I have done this weekend,” said Hamilton, who has now won in America on five occasions. “Nico has been driving fantastically well all year and the battle will continue.
“I know we have all this support, so please keep your fingers crossed. I am going to be going for it.”
As well as his mechanical woes, Hamilton has also been slow off the start-line this year. Ahead of Sunday’s race, he had converted only three of his eight poles into wins.
But, perhaps inspired by the presence of astronaut Tim Peake here in Austin, the Briton got the perfect lift-off when the lights turned green.
Hamilton blasted up to turn one, comfortably keeping Rosberg at bay, and from there he never looked back. Of his seven wins this season, none will have been more straightforward.
Hamilton’s triumph also saw the 31-year-old Briton join only Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost in racking up a half-century of grand prix victories. He is now just one shy of Prost in the all-time winners’ list.
“I completely forgot that it was going to be the 50th win,” Hamilton, 31, added. “It has been a long-time coming. I have been here for 10 years and I have had lots of ups and downs.
“It is very surreal – I can’t believe there is only three of us – but hopefully now on to bigger and better things.”