Lewis Hamilton won his fifth drivers’ world championship on Sunday to draw level with Argentine legend Juan Manuel Fangio in the Formula One record books when he finished fourth behind a victorious Max Verstappen in the Mexican Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s only remaining championship rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, who needed a victory, with Hamilton outside the top seven, to keep his hopes alive, finished second in the gripping race.
Hamilton’s success – the third time he has taken the title without finishing on the race podium – elevated him to a supreme club alongside Fangio with only seven-time champion Michael Schumacher ahead of him.
The 33-year-old Briton celebrated by executing ‘doughnut’ wheel spins for the cheering crowd before leaping out of his car and into the arms of his team.
After being congratulated by four-time champion Vettel, Hamilton said: “It’s a very strange feeling, a very humbling experience. To complete this when Fangio did it as well, it’s a very surreal feeling.”
“That’s how you do it – that’s how you drive, Lewis,” said Hollywood star Will Smith on Mercedes team radio after Hamilton took the chequered flag.
Hamilton, who started third on the grid, struggled with chronic tyre-wear after making a strong start in his Mercedes and settled for a cautious cruise to the title without a podium finish.
Verstappen, upstaged by his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in qualifying on Saturday, came home 17.108 seconds ahead of Vettel after the luckless Australian pole-sitter retired with nine laps remaining.
A puff of smoke signalled an engine failure and his eighth ‘Did Not Finish’ (DNF) of the season while his 21-year-old Dutch tyro team-mate secured a repeat of his 2017 triumph, his second win this season and the fifth of his career.
Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen came home third ahead of Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Nico Hulkenberg was sixth for Renault ahead of Charles Leclerc of Sauber, Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren, Marcus Ericsson in the second Sauber and Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso.