FORMULA 1

Lewis Hamilton wins fifth Formula One world title at Mexico Grand Prix | Sport

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Measured even by the exceptional standard he has set in dominating Formula One Lewis Hamilton, in taking his fifth title in Mexico, has unquestionably raised the bar to new heights. We, like he, should revel in his achievements. If motor racing’s history is defined by drivers, this must surely now be considered the Hamilton era. Delivering the championship was proof, were any needed, that not only is he at the peak of his powers but that as things stand no one can match him.

Max Verstappen won the race for Red Bull but Hamilton’s fourth place was enough to seal the title. The Briton knew what he had to do and delivered, as he has so often this season.

A celebratory win would doubtless have been welcome but Hamilton’s remarkable run to the title has repeatedly been defined by his ability to play the long game, exercising the judgment of champions to optimise every situation. Daring and committed when required but also exercising ruthless control when called for. At the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez he faced a tense race, struggling with tyre wear and vibration but he was calm and considered in conceding places when necessary and carefully bringing his car home.

Hamilton and Mercedes entered the weekend sticking to their gameplan of taking each race as it comes and the British driver insisted he would race as normal from third on the grid. They were unable to quite do so as Mercedes were left at the end wondering just where their performance had gone. Yet Hamilton and the team wanted to close it out in Mexico and did so with disciplined attentiveness. He needed only seventh place or better to take the title and ensured he did so.

When the celebrations in Mexico City finally die down, Hamilton may consider his fifth title, equalling the great Juan Manuel Fangio and only two behind Michael Schumacher’s record, as perhaps the most satisfying of his career. His first for McLaren in 2008 will never be forgotten but this was the climax to a season when the 33‑year‑old had admitted Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel had presented a challenge like no other he had faced.

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That he has closed it out with two races remaining perhaps does a disservice to just how hard he has had to work. The season had opened with Ferrari and Mercedes evenly matched but the Scuderia took the advantage in the development war, giving Vettel the faster car from the British Grand Prix onwards. With the points gap between them now so cavernous it is worth noting that until the German Grand Prix, the 11th meeting of the season and only eight races ago, the lead had changed hands five times. Before Germany, at Silverstone, Vettel was leading by eight points.

Hockenheim perhaps summed up the difference between the two and began the run that gathered an almost inexorable momentum, which culminated in Mexico. Hamilton won in Germany from 14th with Vettel crashing out after an error in the wet. On the podium the British driver stood, arms outstretched, head raised to the heavens amid glowering skies, thunder, lightning and torrential rain. Had a flight of valkyries swept across the track it would have been almost fitting as Hamilton enjoyed the blow he had struck.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates securing his fifth Formula One world title, at the Mexico Grand Prix.



Lewis Hamilton celebrates securing his fifth Formula One world title, at the Mexico Grand Prix. Photograph: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

It was the first in what turned into a barrage. He left Germany with a 17-point lead, one that would not be surrendered again and went on to win six of the eight races since then. Indeed the numbers brook no argument. He has nine wins to Vettel’s five and nine poles to Vettel’s five. He has endured a mechanical retirement where Vettel has had none and until Mexico had only twice not finished on the podium.

Which reflects why it is he, not Vettel, who takes the crown. Where Hamilton has been almost flawless, after a string of misjudgments across the season by the German and Ferrari their chances had all but gone. Vettel had to win in Mexico and managed only second, in front of his teammate Kimi Räikkönen.

Verstappen’s win was a fine drive as he took the lead into turn one and held it throughout the race. It is his fifth victory and his second this year makes it two in row in Mexico after he took the flag here last year. In a race where tyre wear dominated the Dutchman proved to have the measure of his rubber and the opposition, with a composed performance that once again proves what great potential he has.

Hamilton had made a great start into second but with the Mercedes struggling for pace and heavy on its tyres he could not hold the place. A nervy lock-up that sent him off when being passed by Vettel was the most dangerous moment in a race when he was extraordinarily circumspect in ensuring he did not over-engage in battles at the expense of the war.

Expectations had been high that Hamilton would take the championship at the last round in the US yet, denied there, it was but a postponement. Hamilton, like all the great champions, knew how to turn the screw and end it with clinical finality in Mexico, a race that was ultimately only the coda to a peerless collection of performances. A fifth title was deserved vindication of a season Hamilton will long treasure and fair warning that he has more to come.

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