It seemed apt that Lewis Hamilton should seal his fourth Formula One title in dramatic fashion. After winning five of the last six races, the odds seemed pretty good for Hamilton to mathematically secure the championship with a win at the Mexican Grand Prix but an incident-filled first few corners quickly made that fairytale conclusion pretty much impossible. After losing a chunk of his front wing in a first corner tussle with Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel then bumped into the back of Hamilton, who had attempted to pass the wounded Ferrari on the outside of the third corner. With Vettel’s front wing severely damaged, he was forced into the pits on the first lap – but he wasn’t alone. The collision with Hamilton had punctured his rear right tyre, leaving the championship leader to limp to the pits for three quarters of the first lap.
It gave the Ferrari driver a glimmer of hope; Hamilton now sat nearly 30 seconds behind Vettel in last. However, Vettel had a lot to do in order to keep the embers of his championship hopes alive. Now in 18th, assuming Hamilton wouldn’t get any points, Vettel had to finish in the top two. If Hamilton managed to weave through the back of the field unscathed and climb up to 9th, Vettel would have to win the race – a tall order with the marauding Max Verstappen leading the pack.
“Hamilton, ever the kid in the playground, continued to harass Kevin Magnussen in 8th even though the title was all but his.”
Vettel made a good go of it, climbing to 4th with 11 laps remaining. Should he catch his teammate Kimi Raikkonen in third he’d surely be let through to chase down Valtteri Bottas. However, Hamilton’s tenacity shattered that dream after a breathtaking scrap with his former teammate Fernando Alonso for 9th place. After wrestling each other through a few S-bends, Hamilton finally passed the wily Spaniard around the outside with some DRS assistance. It proved to be a crucial pass; Vettel, who currently sat a good 20 seconds off Raikkonen in 3rd, had to win the race to prevent Hamilton claiming his landmark fourth title.
With his dream completely deflated, Vettel allowed his teammate to cruise to a podium spot whilst Hamilton, ever the kid in the playground, continued to harass Kevin Magnussen in 8th even though the title was all but his. It’s ironic that Hamilton should seal his title with his worst finish of the season but his determination in the face of such a severe incline at the start of this grand prix spoke volumes of his distinction.
With four titles, Hamilton is now the most successful British F1 driver of all time, surpassing Sir Jackie Stewart’s three. Hamilton also surpasses his idol Ayrton Senna and pushes himself up to joint third in the all-time standings alongside Alain Prost and Vettel. Only Michael Schumacher (7) and Juan Manuel Fangio (5) have more. With the might of the Ferrari well and truly restored, the 2017 championship win is arguably the most demanding of Hamilton’s career after his last gasp title win at Interlagos in 2008. It’s the first time that Vettel and Hamilton have gone toe-to-toe across the course of a season with near-equally competitive cars. Hamilton’s emergence as victor against the accomplished Vettel will arguably make this title the sweetest yet.