Lewis Hamilton is King of the Track again – winning his fourth world title in a controversial Mexican Grand Prix to become the most decorated British champion in history.
The Mercedes man survived being hit by his only rival for the title, Sebastian Vettel, on the first lap – a dubious collision – to win motor racing’s biggest prize in the 18th race of the 20-round season.
Hamilton, who carried a Union Flag on his shoulders, eclipsed the mark of three championships he held jointly with Sir Jackie Stewart in the British pantheon.
Lewis Hamilton celebrates after recording his fourth world title in Mexico on Sunday
The Mercedes man crowd surfs after sealing a memorable win in Mexico City
The new champion, who finished ninth after the prang with Vettel, said: ‘It doesn’t feel real. That was not the kind of race I wanted. But I never gave up and that is what is important – what is in my heart. I kept going right to the end.
‘I am grateful for today and I just want to lift it up to my family, to God, and to Mercedes, who have been incredible for the last five years and I am so proud to be a part of the team.’
Vettel, who needed to hobble Hamilton to prolong the title fight into the closing two rounds, provided the most memorable moment of a dramatic afternoon when he crashed into the back of Hamilton, an accident that was still perplexing the new champion afterwards.
‘I had a good start and I don’t really know what happened in Turn Three,’ said Hamilton. ‘I gave him plenty of room.’
Hamilton sprays champagne from the podium after the conclusion of the race
Hamilton has now eclipsed fellow Brit Jackie Stewart’s total of three world titles
Both men had to fight their way from the back of the field, with Vettel finishing an impressive fourth in a race won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
But Hamilton’s lead went up to an unassailable 56 points with only 50 remaining.
Despite his exertions, Hamilton ran along the hoardings in the stadium section ahead of the podium rituals.
His mother, Brenda, who has accompanied him in the last two races, in America and here in Mexico City, shed a tear.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: ‘I hated the race but I am super happy now. Lewis has achieved it and the team has won.
Hamilton had clashed with championship rival Sebastian Vettel in the first lap
Vettel drove into Hamilton’s rear tyre, giving Hamilton a puncture early in the race
‘It was a bizarre accident (involving Vettel and Hamilton). It wasn’t looked at by the stewards, which is even more bizarre, but it is most important that he has done it.’
Mercedes’ non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, a three-time world champion, was happy to see Hamilton go one better than him.
‘Thank God,’ he said. ‘Lewis won it. He deserves it. He did it with the best driving he has ever done.’
Asked about the first-lap incident, Lauda added: ‘I don’t know why Sebastian drove so aggressively to destroy his race and Lewis’s. Lewis was in front and Sebastian hit him with his front wing. I just don’t understand it.
‘I’m more proud of this than the other three world championships we have won together because this year was very competitive.’