Re-write the record books – history has been made. To the names Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher you can now add Lewis Hamilton, who became just the third F1 driver to win as many as five world championships by finishing in fourth place in Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.
“It's a very strange feeling right now," beamed Hamilton after stepping out of his car following a trademark series of donuts. “I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13, to complete this, when Fangio has done it with Mercedes, is an incredible feeling. It’s a bit surreal at the moment...”
For many, this season will rightly be remembered as one of Hamilton’s best. For long periods it was Ferrari, looking for a first championship since 2008, who were in the ascendency, their SF71H appearing both a quicker and a more adaptable machine than the Briton’s Mercedes, and Sebastian Vettel – himself chasing a fifth drivers’ crown – proving a formidable opponent for Hamilton.
But after being beaten by the German in Belgium in August, a victory that had appeared to shift the momentum firmly back in the Ferrari driver’s camp, Hamilton moved into another gear - and Vettel simply couldn’t stay with him. A run of four victories in five races meant Hamilton arrived in Mexico for the third from last race of the year with a 70-point championship advantage, and needing simply to finish in the top seven to seal the deal, regardless of where Vettel finished.
In the event, Hamilton was beaten by Vettel for the first time since Spa, and finished off the podium for only the fourth time this year as Mercedes had one of their more disappointing races of the year from a performance standpoint. But just as in Brazil in 2008 when the 71-time Grand Prix winner clinched a first drivers’ crown with fifth place, and just as in Mexico last year, when he claimed his fourth title with ninth, it mattered not.
Hamilton is champion once more and will now rightly be considered one of the greatest drivers of all time.
The question now is: Where will the winning end? With his Mercedes deal running until at least the end of 2020, Schumacher’s all-time titles record – once considered unbeatable – is now in sight. It will be fascinating to see what happens next...