Lewis Hamilton has been crowned Formula 1 world champion for a fourth time after finishing ninth in an eventful Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, moving into an unassailable points lead with two races remaining this season.
Mercedes driver Hamilton came together with title rival Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap, leaving both cars with damage that forced them to pit early and drop to the back of the field.
Vettel was able to fight his way back up to fourth at the checkered flag, and while Hamilton could only recover to ninth, it was enough to clinch his fourth F1 crown.
“I did everything I could,” a breathless Hamilton told David Coulthard after the race following celebratory donuts in the Foro Sol stadium section.
“I had a good start. Not sure what happened at Turn 3. I tried as hard as I could to come back. Big thank you to my family, my team, Mercedes. I’m so proud to be a part of it.
“Honestly it doesn’t feel real man. This isn’t the race I want. 40 seconds behind. But never gave up. I kept going right until the end.
“I just want to lift it up to my family, God and my team.”
The success sees Hamilton re-claim the drivers’ crown he lost to former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016, and follows previous championship wins in 2008, 2014 and 2015.
Hamilton is just the fifth driver in history to win four F1 titles, following Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and Vettel.
Hamilton also now undisputedly stands clear as the most successful British driver in F1 history, exceeding Jackie Stewart’s tally of three world titles.
Hamilton, having had 20 or so minutes to reflect when speaking to NBCSN in the pen a bit later, reflected a bit further.
“Today was such an unusual race. I told you I wasn’t going to go easy at the start. I’d give it everything,” Hamilton told NBCSN. “I didn’t think I was too aggressive. I think I placed my car in a perfect place. Not sure why he hit me. I’ll watch the replay.
“I got knocked down. All I could think was get knocked down, and keep going. I never gave up. I kept pushing right to the flag. That’s what I’m most proud of. A big thank you to my team. I wouldn’t have won any of these races without Mercedes supporting me.
“To do it in Mexico… with all these difficult times, it’s a great day to do so. Brackley, Brixworth, so many people… I’m a small link in the chain.
Hamilton added his respect for Vettel after their season-long battle.
“He’s a worthy World Champion. A worthy competitor. Someone I appreciate as a champion,” he said.
“Regardless of what happened throughout the year, and today I’m not sure what happened, I value him as an exceptional champion. To win against someone as good as him means a lot.”