Lewis Hamilton wins F1 title, Max Verstappen wins Mexican Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton (L) is congratulated on his 5th F1 championship by chief challenger Sebastian Vettel. Getty Images
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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Lewis Hamilton won his fifth career Formula One championship with a fourth-place finish Sunday at the Mexican Grand Prix, a race dominated by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Hamilton’s season championship was all but assured, and after a brief bid for the lead off the start and a scary run off the track late, he finished off the title with a drive further into the F1 record books. The British driver tied the late Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina for second-most titles in F1 history. Only Germany’s Michael Schumacher has more with seven.

The 33-year-old Hamilton won titles with McLaren in 2008 and with Mercedes in 2014, 2015 and 2017. He also clinched last season’s title in Mexico City.

Verstappen earned his fifth career victory and defended his 2017 race win.

\Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the F1 Mexico Grand Prix.

At age 33, Hamilton can set his sights on something previously unthinkable: chasing Schumacher.

Hamilton’s championship this season arguably ranks among his best. For the second consecutive year, he fended off a strong challenge from Ferrari in a season when even Hamilton had to admit the Italian team often had the stronger car.

Title rival Sebastian Vettel finished second Sunday and Ferrari also took third with Kimi Raikkonen

Hamilton has won four of his five titles with Mercedes and he’s contract through 2020, a deal he extended this season. And even with Ferrari’s mechanical gains, Mercedes shows no signs of slowing down.

Hamilton’s drive wasn’t the Sunday leisure spin he’d hoped for as he complained of problems with the car and tires much of the race. He even had a drive off into the grass when he missed the corner out of the long straight at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. He got the car back on the track with any damage, except for a moment’s aggravation on his historic day.

“A very, very surreal moment,” Hamilton said of his championship. “I was just trying to bring the car home.”

Red Bull had dominated qualifying to earn its first 1-2 start of the hybrid engine era, but pole-sitter Daniel Ricciardo was beaten off the line by Verstappen and Hamilton. Ricciardo’s race ended late with engine failure.

Hamilton could have let the Red Bulls ride off from the start, but he’d promised to look for a shot to grab the lead. He nearly found it when he saw a gap between the Red Bulls and tried to take it. The straight line power of his nosed his car in front until Verstappen cut under him at the first corner.

“The start was the key,” Verstappen said. “I was determined to win today.”

Hamilton could afford to back off because all he had to do to finish no worse than seventh to win the championship. And even that would have Vettel to win.

Hamilton’s primary goal was to avoid trouble. A bump from Vettel at the first turn punctured a tire which relegated him to ninth.

Vettel, a four-time champion himself, opened the season with a strong charge of two straight victories before Hamilton and Mercedes dominated the second half of the season.

Vettel will have the small consolation of beating Hamilton in the title-clinching race, passing him about midway through on a run down the long straight in a test of power between F1’s top two teams

Hamilton wrapped up the title with two races left.

“He did a superb job all year,” Vettel said. “I would have loved to hang in there a little bit longer.”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.