Lewis Hamilton grabbed the British Union Jack for a “victory” lap, and then draped it over his shoulders. There was no way he was going to let it go.
Hamilton won his fourth career Formula One championship Sunday with a ninth-place finish at the Mexican Grand Prix, a rare finish away from the podium but one good enough to win a title that makes him the most decorated British driver in history.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Hamilton, who won his first championship in 2008. “This week I’ve been reminiscent of where I came from, dreaming of being in Formula One.”
None of it came easy Sunday in a race where he had to overcome a first-lap tire puncture and scramble to finish off title rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari. It was a bump from Vettel shortly after the start that made an expected title more stressful than anyone at Mercedes expected.
The ninth-place finish was Hamilton’s worst of the season, but it also closed out Vettel with two races left.
He passed Sir Jackie Stewart for the most championships won by a British driver. Formula One’s first and only black driver also joined Vettel and Alain Prost as four-time winners. Only Argentina’s Juan Miguel Fangio (five) and Germany’s Michael Schumacher (seven) have won more.
Hamilton also passed his idol, Brazil’s Aryton Senna, who won three titles before he was killed in a crash and is still considered one of the most skilled drivers in F1 history.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen got the win in Mexico for his third career victory and second this season.
Hamilton’s championship will spur debate about his place among the best drivers in F1 history. His Mercedes car and team have dominated the era of turbo-hybrid engines adopted in 2014. Of Hamilton’s 62 career victories, 40 have come over the last four years, a span of 77 races.
He chased down this championship over the second half of the season after Vettel won two of the first three races. Ferrari faltered as Hamilton racked up five wins over the past seven races. His car has been as steady as his driving, with Hamilton finishing every race.
“This was a championship I was hoping for, fighting another team,” Hamilton said. (The Associated Press)
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