Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - PHIL DUN­CAN SPORTS REPORTER ■ Email: ■ Twit­ter: @york­shire­post

BRI­TAIN’S Lewis Hamil­ton came home in fourth place at a dra­matic Mex­i­can Grand Prix, but it was enough to se­cure the For­mula 1 ti­tle for a fifth time.

The 33-year-old Mercedes driver has now drawn level with Juan Manuel Fan­gio, and is just two short of Michael Schu­macher’s record, but in a dra­matic race won by Max Ver­stap­pen he ran off the road while de­fend­ing third place from Daniel Ric­cia­rdo.

Hamil­ton, who needed to fin­ish only sev­enth at the Au­to­dromo Her­manos Ro­driguez to beat Se­bas­tian Vet­tel to the ti­tle with two rounds to spare, spent much of the race at odds with his Mercedes team as he strug­gled for pace.

But, just as in Mex­ico City last year Hamil­ton did enough to win the cham­pi­onship, his fourth in five quite re­mark­able years. Fer­rari’s Vet­tel fin­ished sec­ond.

“It’s a very strange feel­ing right now,” Hamil­ton said as he got out of his car and cel­e­brated. “I have been at Mercedes since I was 13 so to com­plete the ti­tle, and Fan­gio won two cham­pi­onships with Mercedes, is an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing. It feels very sur­real.”

Hamil­ton paid trib­ute to his fa­ther An­thony, and the rest of his fam­ily, adding: “To my fam­ily back home, I love you, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the hard work that my fa­ther did. It is a great mo­ment.”

While there may be 22 per cent less oxy­gen here at the high-al­ti­tude Mex­ico City venue, some 2,200m above sea level, Hamil­ton kept his cool on a manic stam­pede to the open­ing bend.

Start­ing in third, the Bri­ton was the fastest out of his marks and cut through the mid­dle of Ric­cia­rdo and his Red Bull team­mate Ver­stap­pen to mo­men­tar­ily take the lead on the 220mph, 900-yard charge to the first brak­ing zone.

With the cham­pi­onship on his mind, and the open­ing three cor­ners the big­gest threat to his his­toric quest, a cau­tious Hamil­ton took no risks, de­cel­er­at­ing faster than Ver­stap­pen, and who could blame him?

Hamil­ton slot­ted in be­hind the Dutch­man, with pole-sit­ter Ric­cia­rdo drop­ping to third. Be­hind, Vet­tel, know­ing that he had to win to stand any chance of stop­ping Hamil­ton, held off a fast­start­ing Valt­teri Bot­tas, the pair even bang­ing wheels at Turn 3, both es­cap­ing with­out dam­age.

Hamil­ton, who had shown no signs of strain – de­spite car­ry­ing the weight of his­tory on his shoul­ders – was soon com­plain­ing about his frag­ile tyres.

Then he snapped at his race en­gi­neer Pete Bon­ning­ton telling him to leave him to it. It would be­come a theme of the race.

With Ver­stap­pen gal­lop­ing into the dis­tance and Hamil­ton los­ing time to his ri­vals be­hind, he was the first of the lead­ers to stop for fresh rub­ber on lap 11.

Hamil­ton started a trend with Ric­cia­rdo and Ver­stap­pen fol­low­ing suit on laps 12 and 13. Vet­tel, run­ning longer, stayed out, and it was not long be­fore Kimi Raikko­nen, in the sis­ter Fer­rari and out of sync with those around him, was hold­ing up Hamil­ton.

On lap 17 Hamil­ton was fixed on Raikko­nen’s gear­box, with the Finn strug­gling on worn tyres. There were hearts in mouths in the Mercedes garage as Hamil­ton came within inches of touch­ing Raikko­nen as they slammed on the an­chors for Turn 1, be­fore the Bri­ton held his nerve on the out­side of the left-handed Turn 2 to make his way past the Fer­rari at the en­su­ing right-han­der.

Hamil­ton now just needed to keep his Mercedes on the tar­mac, but it is never easy with Hamil­ton and it was not long be­fore he was on the ra­dio again, be­moan­ing his tyres.

In con­trast Vet­tel was fly­ing and af­ter pass­ing Ric­cia­rdo he was straight on to Hamil­ton’s Mercedes. On lap 39 he whizzed past his ri­val for sec­ond.

“The left front tyre is go­ing to be bald,” Hamil­ton moaned over the ra­dio. “Why did you give me the wrong tyres, man?

Vet­tel had pulled out a stag­ger­ing 12 sec­onds over Hamil­ton in just six laps and the Bri­ton was soon de­fend­ing from Ric­cia­rdo.

As they roared down to Turn 1 Hamil­ton then locked up his front-left tyre and, in a plume of white smoke, ran on to the grass.

Hamil­ton gin­gerly made his way back on to the cir­cuit. “These tyres are dead,” he yelled. His crew ran into the pits, and Hamil­ton stopped for a sec­ond time. He would re­join in fifth.

From there, Hamil­ton just made sure he got his car over the line, and was pro­moted one place af­ter Ric­cia­rdo’s en­gine blew up with 10 laps re­main­ing.


Bri­tain’s Lewis Hamil­ton stands on his Mercedes af­ter be­ing crowned For­mula 1 world cham­pion for a fifth time de­spite stut­ter­ing over the line in fourth place yesterday at an in­ci­dent-packed Mex­i­can Grand Prix.


OVER THE LINE: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamil­ton is con­grat­u­lated by a mem­ber of his crew af­ter claim­ing his fifth For­mula 1 ti­tle at the Mex­ico Grand Prix.

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