By finishing ninth at a bizarre Mexican GP, Lewis Hamilton claimed his record-breaking fourth World Championship. By claiming four Championships, he surpasses the great Sir Jackie Stewart as the only British driver to win four or more. In the exclusive x4 club, he joins Alain Prost & Sebastian Vettel, with only Juan Manuel Fangio (5) and Michael Schumacher (7) ahead of him.
In a poignant moment after the chequered flag, Seb Vettel slowed down and applauded Hamilton on his achievement. The Mexican fans too did their best to commemorate the moment.
Suffice it to say, the Championship is over. With Hamilton finishing ninth and Vettel only fourth, a roller coaster of a season ends with a damp squib. After clashing early in the race, Vettel destroyed his front wing, and Hamilton got a puncture. As a result, both men dropped to the back, and both admirably fought their way back up the field, chasing the places needed to continue or wrap up the Championship.
While Vettel had little problems scything through the field, he was left with too much to do to catch the man sat in the second spot–the position Seb needed to continue the championship–Valtteri Bottas. With Sebastian up to fourth, he asked his team how far it was to third-placed man Kimi Raikkonen. He was told 26 seconds. His reply was: “Mamma mia. I think that’s a bit too much.”
As for Hamilton, his Mercedes–as it has all year–struggled to follow the other cars, continually having to move out of the slipstream for fear of overheating. Eventually, after a tyre stop where he reshod with super soft tyres, he showed more performance and finished in a Championship winning ninth place. The course of the race, however, allowed him to renew acquaintances with rival Fernando Alonso, who made it difficult–but fair–to pass him.
When we look back at where the title was won and lost, Singapore speeds immediately to mind. And, it was a similar story here. With Max Verstappen and Vettel both on the front row, sparks were going to fly, and by first hitting Verstappen then Hamilton, Sebastian repeated the trick of Singapore and ended his slim Championship hopes. Hamilton did wonder aloud if Sebastian had deliberately shunted him, but Seb had far more to lose, so it seems highly unlikely.
OH, THE RACE WAS WON BY VERSTAPPEN IN CASE YOU FORGOT
Away from the title rivals, Max Verstappen put in a copybook performance, winning the race comfortably from Valtteri Bottas. After confirming his lead, Max was repeatedly told to slow down to match Bottas’ pace and to conserve the engine. Red Bull was worried about the spate of Renault engine failures that had taken many out of the race, including Max’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo. In a show of confidence, petulance, and skill, Max attempted at various points to put in the fastest lap, each being followed by a terse radio exchange with his team. As it was, he came home comfortably to win his second race and to turn a season of general disappointment to one of success.
MOMENT OF THE RACE
Without a doubt, it was the moment that confirmed the title. Lewis Hamilton crosses the line to finish ninth but wins his fourth World Championship. Never has a ninth-place been celebrated so passionately.
DRIVER OF THE RACE
Even though he tangled at the start and even though he failed to finish in a position to keep the title race going, Sebastian Vettel picked himself up after that first pitstop and drove a brilliant race to underline that both he and Ferrari will be back next season to take the fight to Hamilton and Mercedes.
THE OTHERS IN THE x4 CLUB
THOSE JUST UP THE ROAD