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    IN WORDS: Lewis Reflects on his Biggest Mercedes Moments Four-time Formula One World...

Four-time Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton takes us on a remarkable trip down memory lane, to relive some of the biggest and best moments from his time at Mercedes so far.

It's hard to believe 2018 marks Lewis' 12th season racing in F1 and his sixth at Brackley. Time certainly flies when you're competing around the world at the very pinnacle of motorsport.

The Brit joined the Mercedes team in 2013, with the covers coming off the W04 early in February at a cold and chilly Jerez, Spain. It was a landmark moment for Lewis, with not only his first Mercedes car being uncovered but also the start of a new chapter of his career.

"I had been at McLaren for forever and it was a real big step for me," he admits, on his decision to move to Mercedes. "I had a lot of people come up to me and say 'stay at McLaren'. I really had to pull myself away from that and say 'I am not going to allow anyone to influence my decision'. I had to find out the pros and cons and make my own decision.

"At the time, Mercedes was the fifth best team. But I wasn't scared of failure because Mercedes doesn't know how to lose. They've had success for years and it's such a historic brand. I knew at some stage we were going to get there and I thought it would be cool to be a part of that. I could've stayed at McLaren. But to come from the back as the underdog and to build and grow with a family of people is a different dynamic and challenge."

While 2013 didn't bring immediate success, Lewis climbed to the top step of the podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix. It was a year of change and it took him time to settle into Mercedes' way of working. He explains: "Moving to a new car and a new team, everyone works differently. Communication is everything and building new relationships takes time.

"Adapting to new technology, that was the biggest struggle that year. The car felt great but it didn't really suit my driving style and I was having to adapt. I'm very blunt and very straight. I arrived and said 'look, I'm not going to say it's all beautiful. I'm going to tell you how it is, every time, and that's how we're going to win. And vice-versa. Don't every try and stand on eggshells around me - give it to me straight'. That's what we do. This was a really great transitional year and then we went into the hard-core winning season afterwards."

Of course, that hard-core winning season in 2014 also gave Lewis his second Drivers' Championship. "It was a long time coming," he says, reflecting on the moment he clinched the title in Abu Dhabi. "But, I had the confidence, as did the fans. It was great.

"I never expected it to come as quick as it did (with Mercedes). I thought, 'OK, this is a long-term project.' I'm a more long-term thinker. It was a big risk - but if you take the easy route, life's going to be boring. It was exciting, that's for sure."

'It is such a proud moment, to see the sea of people and the amount of positive energy I get from them.'

Lewis Hamilton

The success continued in 2015, with Mercedes remaining the dominant force. One of the stand-out moments of the season was Lewis securing his third victory on home soil and second in a row at Silverstone. A very special memory: "It's so crazy. It doesn't register, you're so caught up in the moment. It is such a proud moment, to see the sea of people and the amount of positive energy I get from them.

"I grew up hoping one day I could race the British Grand Prix and no matter how many times you win it, you just want to keep delivering. You know those guys are there to ride the wave with you, good or bad. Most of these people have been through the journey with me. The losses and the wins, ups and downs, they've shed tears with me and embraced the joy as well. It's very cool."

A third Drivers' Championship was followed by the runner-up spot in 2016, after a tough season-long fight with team-mate Nico Rosberg. But, while he didn't come away with the title, he did win the coveted Monaco Grand Prix - and he did so in style.

"Those kind of conditions are my favourite, when you go from wet to dry," he recalls. "There are loads of us who can drive a dry race all the way from pole to finish. But when you're faced with all these different tricky scenarios, where you are not only relying on your team but also choosing stops and making certain calls... I think this was just a really well-managed race. It obviously didn't work out well for Daniel (Ricciardo) but he put a lot of pressure on me. At the end, we were on different tyres and to keep him behind me, it was tough and that's when it really counts."

Mercedes remained at the sharp end of the field despite 2017's major regulation changes, but the team had to contend with a fierce challenge from Ferrari. At the Spanish Grand Prix, the two title protagonists went head-to-head and it was a battle Lewis had been relishing from the very start of the year.

"All racing drivers - and sportsmen and women - have to believe whole-heartedly that they're the best", Lewis says. "There should be no questions whatsoever, no doubts in your mind. That's how it is for all top athletes. For me, I'm like 'Put me in any car, with any other driver and I know that I have it within me - that if I put my head down and I work at it - I can win'.

"I couldn't wait to get out on track with Sebastian [Vettel]. It had been years since we had the chance to really race. He had a quick car and we had some great races. Hunting down a Ferrari was awesome. I think this year it will be close. I hope it's so close that it really comes down to those fine moments. That half a tenth here and half a tenth there, from apex speeds and focus and not making mistakes. That makes the difference."

Lewis emerging from the battle ahead of Sebastian by the end of the race prompted a table-thumpingly joyous reaction from team boss Toto Wolff, which was - thankfully - caught on camera. What is Lewis' relationship like with Toto?

'Toto and I have a really special relationship, actually. It's not always been perfect but he has really been such a visionary within the team.'

Lewis Hamilton

"He really is such a big influence for me and the team," he reveals. "Toto and I have a really special relationship, actually. It's not always been perfect but he has really been such a visionary within the team.

"We have had some ups and downs but you can see how much passion he has. Toto is usually so chilled but he has so much fire in him, and you need that in your bosses. He's also done some racing so he has a bit of an idea of the pressures we are under, but then on the business and political side of things he's top notch."

Later in the season, F1's trip to the Marina Bay Street Circuit produced one of the most exciting races in recent years, and it was Lewis who - to everyone's surprise - emerged from it at the top of the podium: "It was crazy because I had taken the lead of the Championship and we arrived there, knowing it would be our Achilles heel. We knew that we were going to struggle as we had done in previous years - but it was a new car, so maybe it would be less of an issue.

"It turns out, we weren't quick enough. So, I'm fifth, knowing it's hard to overtake on that track. Maybe through strategy, I could get ahead, but I remember walking into the office and saying 'guys, we need rain'. It never rains for the race in Singapore - but then, it did. I got a great start and was convinced I was going to 'do a Senna' and overtake everyone on the first lap. I knew exactly where I was going to put the car, what lines I was going to take everywhere and go that little bit further than the others. We had some great drivers ahead so maybe it wouldn't have gone that way but that was the crazy thought process I had."

Of course, 2017 concluded with both Lewis and Mercedes securing their fourth Championships. Soaking up the celebrations and emotions with the team in Mexico after the race is a moment Lewis will always remember: "All these guys, all year long, working crazy hours to feed us, to prepare the car, to make sure the garage is working well, to make sure hospitality is going well - it's a machine that's so well-oiled and each and every individual is so instrumental in that.

"I have had such a great journey with them. Looking at the faces, the happiness and smiles. It's an experience that, when I'm 80 years old, I'll be able to look back on and remember."

What's Lewis' aim for 2018, then? "I've got to get the fifth one. Only Fangio and Michael have accomplished that. When I had my one Championship and the difficult years that followed, you just have to be grateful for the one you have because most people don't even have one.

"Now, I have got four - but am I stopping? Hell no! I am going to keep going. These five years together have been beyond a dream. Do I believe we can get more? Yes. I have got to apply myself even more than I have done in the past because it's going to be closer. Everything has got to be better.

"I'm feeding off my team's energy and I think they feed off mine, so I truly believe we can go all the way."

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