Lewis Hamilton refuses to slot himself as an F1 title contender in 2013, despite taking a commanding first win for Mercedes at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Despite fears that he may again slip back through the field if his tyres failed to last the distance, the Briton bossed the race from the start, holding the advantage that came with pole position to pull away from his pursuers, eventually crossing the line nearly eleven seconds clear of Kimi Raikkonen even though he admitted to 'cruising' for the final 20 laps.
The 25 points – easily his best single-event haul for his new employer after previously topping out with third places in Malaysia, China and Monaco – allowed Hamilton to trim Sebastian Vettel's lead by ten and, although the German continues to hold a handy advantage in the standings with nine rounds remaining, the Mercedes man has moved closer in the chase to sit just 48 points adrift.
Despite that, however, he remains coy about his championship chances, wanting Mercedes to prove its race form on a continual basis before feeling that he can challenge for the crown.
“I think it's too early - still far too early,” he insisted, “Of course, when you have a win like this, you get excited and you think anything is possible. Obviously, today shows that anything is possible, but I think it's still too early for us to say whether or not we can challenge these guys.
“I know the guys are working hard so that we can close the gap, and I hope today is the first step in doing so, but we've got a lot of tough races coming up. I just hope that that's not the last time my tyres work for me....”
Tyre wear has been an ongoing theme of Mercedes' season, with qualifying pace frequently undone by the inability to make rubber last in the race. The team's decision to help Pirelli with development in Barcelona in May cost it a place in the recent Silverstone Young Driver test, where the latest specification of tyres were introduced as a reaction to the blow-outs seen in the British Grand Prix, but, ironically, Sunday suggested that the Silver Arrows may actually be among the beneficiaries of the switch.
“As I said, coming into the weekend, we are making improvements, but not big enough to make the difference it did today, so I'm assuming that a large part of that was the tyres,” Hamilton conceded.
“I really wasn't expecting it. Our long runs didn't look that great in FP2, but I got the balance spot on today with the front wing and, if we can be quick here - in a race with these track temperatures - then I'm very hopeful that we can be competitive everywhere else. This could be a really good turning point for us.”
Having seen a potential victory on home soil lost to tyre failure while leading – 'you can't really make up for Silverstone' – Hamilton admitted that it was 'a great feeling' to finally get his first win for Mercedes at the tenth attempt, particularly in the circumstances presented by the mid-European weather.
“I've been on pole position for the last three races, so it's good to finally not lose position and just stay and be able to hold it, maintain position throughout the race,” he commented, “It's a good feeling.
“I came here saying - and praying - that when we put these tyres on that they would come towards us more than away from us, and it seems like they've done that. It was 52, 55 degrees track temperatures today, one of the hottest races I think I can remember doing and, for a team that really struggles with tyre degradation, today was a walk in the park. I'm really baffled...
“I used all the techniques I could possibly use to look after the tyres - which I'm sure everyone is doing - but it worked today. I really, really hope that, when we go to the next race, that we're able to do the same....”