Sebastian Vettel says Lewis Hamilton deserves to receive total praise after securing a sixth drivers’ championship at the United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton finished second to team-mate Valtteri Bottas in Austin on Sunday to score the points needed to guarantee his third straight drivers’ championship, and fifth with Mercedes. Now just one behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven titles, Hamilton is closing in on becoming the most successful driver in Formula 1 history and Vettel visited the Briton in the cool-down room before the podium to congratulate him.

“I think now is the time for you to write as many good things as you can,” Vettel said. “I think if somebody wins the title six times then he deserves all of it. That’s what I told him as well. 

“Obviously I’m happy for him. I’m not happy that we are not in contention this year and we were so far back, but I think you need to respect what he achieved in the last years and also this year, together with his team how strong they’ve been. As I said, I’m happy for him but less happy for us.”

Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc was 11 years old when Hamilton won his first championship and also paid tribute to the six-time champion.

“On my side I didn’t even win one world title,” Leclerc said. “Only one title is obviously already a huge achievement, to win six is just incredible. I think he deserves it, he has done an incredible season. I grew up watching him on the TV and huge congratulations to him.”

Hamilton’s title comes as Mercedes completes a drivers’ and constructors’ championship double for a record sixth year in a row, and Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says his team knows what it will take to end that run.

“They are a very, very strong team and they’ve proved it in the last years,” Binotto said. “I think that the level of competition is very, very high and I never saw that in the last 20 years. Well done to them. To beat them is difficult. It’s not only pure performance, it’s reliability, it’s mentality, it’s strategy, it’s pit stops, it’s all what you may have through an entire race weekend.

“We know exactly what our tasks are, we’ve got a benchmark. I think we are improving ourselves, we have improved all through the season but we are not yet where we should be. The objectives with the new car, as well as in terms of design and in terms of reliability, we set objectives which should be clear enough. It’s not obvious to achieve them but still there is the winter time to work as hard as we can as well as we can.”

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