By Neil Leverett
- Britain’s Lewis Hamilton wins fifth World Drivers’ Championship, after finishing fourth in Mexican Grand Prix
- Max Verstappen wins dominant race as Sebastian Vettel comes in second in Mexico City
- Hamilton becomes only third man to win five Formula One crowns, drawing level with Juan Manuel Fangio – two behind Michael Schumacher
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – After Lewis Hamilton wins an historic fifth World Drivers’ Championship, what five moments paved the way to Formula 1 greatness?
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Youngest-ever World champion after late Brazil drama
With just a season’s experience under his belt, Lewis Hamilton won his inaugural World Drivers’ Championship at Interlagos in Brazil in his second campaign at the age of just 23-year-old but after late drama in South America, the Briton’s career have been all-so different.
Pitching a heated battle with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa for much of the 2008 season, Hamilton held a seven-point lead coming into the season’s final race, after a spectacular drive to win in China and needed to finish only fifth, even if Massa were to win on home tarmac.
During a wet race of intermittent showers, the British driver slipped to fourth before falling to sixth after pitting to change tyres. After regaining fifth place, Hamilton only had to hold his place to become champion but was overtaken – perhaps rather ironically by future nemesis Sebastian Vettel – and with a lap to go it seemed like glory would be snatched away.
On a dramatic last lap however, Hamilton closed on Timo Glock who was 18 seconds ahead of him, as the German struggled on dries. In a frenetic dash to the finish, Hamilton only needed to pass Glock to secure the title and did so on the penultimate bend of the race to cue celebrations for the Briton and his McLaren team, as Massa fell short in would be the closest the Brazilian came to a championship crown.
Formula 1 King again in Abu Dhabi
It took the Briton another six years to sit on the F1 throne again after a run of frustration years with the British manufacturer. His switch to Mercedes however, saw Hamilton win the first of a remarkable four world titles in five years.
As the German racing team began a period of domination, so too did the duo of Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg who developed quite the rivalry in the seasons to come.
This time around however, it was the Stevenage Driver who coasted to victory. With double points on the line for the first time in history in Dubai, Hamilton sauntered to the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi to beat Rosberg to the championship by 67 points.
Briton wins number three in Austin
There was a similar tale of overall dominance the season after also, as Hamilton won 10 out of 19 races in 2015 to eventually be crowned champion with three races to run at the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
Vettel returned to form also, both Germans could do nothing to prevent the Briton’s late-season dominance in winning five of the last nine races. A still-improving McLaren driver defended his championship successfully, as few wondered if anyone could stop the Briton’s reign.
As it transpired, the following season would see Hamilton relinquish his motor racing crown. Both he and Rosberg had played cat and mouse across the 2015 campaign, but after a late season collapse, the Briton failed to win a third successive title as Rosberg came in behind his number one in the season’s traditional finale once again in Abu Dhabi to crown the 31-year-old as Drivers’ champion.
Passions run high as Hamilton overcomes Vettel
As Rosberg rather surprisingly elected to retire after his title victory, it was then left for Vettel to pick up the Germanic reins in Formula 1. A four-time former world champion, Ferrari and McLaren vied for supremacy across the season, typified by a Hamilton-Vettel duel.
In what was becoming a closely-fought season, it was events in Baku in Azerbaijan that sparked their rivalry and lit the fire under Hamilton which led to his fourth world crown. After Vettel had sorely tested the patience of his opponent by ‘brake testing’ him in his words, the Brit branded his foe ‘a disgrace’ as the told BBC Sport.
Hamilton went on to roar back during the second half of the season, winning in Mexico just he he did this year as the wheels rather fell of the Vettel title challenge, as Hamilton himself drew level on four championships.
‘Fight for Five’ sees greatness secured in Mexico
Which brings us around to events of this past weekend, as Hamilton cruised to number five despite finishing off the podium at Autodromo Hermanos on Sunday evening.
After initially promising much, with Red Bull in particular suggesting they might make their presence felt in both title and constructor battles, both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo encountered engine issues, as the former failed to hone his raw driving potential in wins – rather more enforced retirements.
As Red Bull surge fell away, Vettel was bent of beating Hamilton to the title in what was billed the ‘fight for five’ with both men sitting on four Drivers’ Championships.
After winning the opening two races of the season, Vettel staked his claim that he could do so, but only went on to win a further three times during an extended 21-race calendar, as Hamilton won in Italy, Singapore, Russia and Japan to effectively put an end to any hopes of a late-season rally.
Crowned world champion for fifth time in his career, only Schumacher sits ahead of Hamilton in the annuls of Formula 1 history, with seven titles to his name. Hamilton may be fast approaching his veteran years, but the great German will now surely be the dangling carrot for the Briton to carry on and enter the conversation as the greatest driver in the sports’ history.
The Brazilian Grand Prix takes place at Interlagos between the 9-11 of November
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