Britain’s Lewis Hamilton won a fourth Formula One world title on Sunday despite finishing the Mexican Grand Prix in ninth place as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the race victory.
It was an anti-climatic way for 32-year-old Hamilton to win the 2017 crown after a first-lap collision with Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari left him with a puncture and needing to pit for a new tyre.
Vettel also had to pit for a new wing but the German’s slim hopes of keeping the title race alive were ended by his fourth-placed finish.
Hamilton joins Vettel and Alain Prost as a four-time world champion.
Only two drivers have achieved more — seven-time champion Michael Schumacher and five-time champion Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio — while Hamilton leaves behind a cluster of five celebrated masters of the track on three apiece.
To have won more than men like Australia’s Jack Brabham, fellow-Briton Jackie Stewart, Austrian Niki Lauda and Brazilians Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna is a spectacular statement of achievement.
“I don’t know what happened at turn three, I gave him plenty of room,” said Hamilton.
“It doesn’t feel real man. It’s not the race you want when you’re 40 seconds down, but I never gave up.”
Lewis Hamilton thinks the 220mph charge down to the opening corner of the Mexican Grand Prix holds the key to him winning his fourth world championship in glorious style.
Hamilton will start only third after he was beaten to pole position following a rousing display by rival Sebastian Vettel, who edged out the ever-impressive Max Verstappen.
Hamilton, who leads Vettel by 66 points with just three rounds remaining, needs to finish just fifth to become Britain’s first quadruple world champion.
But the 32-year-old Englishman wants to seal his place in history by taking to the top step of the podium in front of a 135,000-strong capacity crowd at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
The 800-metre dash to the first turn is the longest on the calendar, and Hamilton, who was nearly half-a-second adrift of Vettel in qualifying, has said it represents his best chance of victory.
“I tried to deny Sebastian but it was not to be,” Hamilton said. “It was a difficult session and it has been a difficult weekend.
“Out of all the good qualifying sessions I have had this year it was not at the top of those.
“Overtaking here is very difficult but there is a long way down to turn one so we should have some fun.
The race is going to be very tough, but I hope I remain close if I am not where I want to be after turn one.
“Winning the title is obviously the goal and to do it on Mexican soil would be pretty neat.”
Hamilton has been in blistering form since the summer break, winning five of the six grands prix staged, including a dominant victory in Austin last weekend.
But the British driver has failed to trouble the top of the time sheets this weekend and he has his work cut out to seal his fourth crown in the manner he so desires.
Vettel delivered a dizzying time at a track which is more than 2,300 metres above sea level, to edge out Verstappen by just eight hundredths of a second and claim the 50th pole of his career.
“There is not much point looking at what others are doing and at what Lewis is doing,” Vettel added.
“We need to maximise everything we can and then it depends on Lewis.”
Verstappen, controversially stripped of his podium finish in Austin after he was penalised for an illegal last-lap overtake on Kimi Raikkonen, was in danger of further punishment here for apparently impeding Valtteri Bottas during qualifying. However, no further action was taken by stewards.
Hamilton needs nine points to join Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Vettel as a winner of four or more titles, and to surpass Sir Jackie Stewart – here this weekend – as the only other British driver to have won three.
Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso on Thursday confirmed he will take part in the Daytona 24-Hours race in January.
The McLaren Honda driver, who took part in the iconic Indianapolis 500 this year, will race with the United Autosports LMP2 team, driving a Ligier JSP217 car.
Alonso, who last week agreed a new contract with McLaren, said: “The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic US endurance race and one of the world’s great races.
“It’s not part of the Triple Crown (of the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and Le Mans victories) but, as I have always said, my aim is to be a complete driver — and this experience will help me in the preparation for any other endurance race I might take part in.
“Before I went to Indy, I had never driven on an oval and now I know what an oval is and how to deal with it. I am excited to go back and race in America.
“After the great time I had during the month of May, for the Indy 500, I am looking forward to taking part in another legendary race that will bring back all those amazing sensations that US fans gave me.”