Lewis Hamil­ton wins 4th F1 cham­pi­onship with 9th-place fin­ish at Mex­i­can Grand Prix

While Lewis Hamil­ton clinches the cham­pi­onship to be­come the most dec­o­rated Bri­tish F1 driver in his­tory, the Nether­lands’ Max Ver­stap­pen wins Sun­day’s race.

Rome News-Tribune - - SPORTS - By Jim Ver­tuno As­so­ci­ated Press Sports Writer

MEX­ICO CITY — Lewis Hamil­ton won his fourth ca­reer For­mula One sea­son cham­pi­onship on Sun­day with a ninth-place fin­ish at the Mex­i­can Grand Prix in a race won by Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen.

Hamil­ton had to over­come first-lap chaos when his Mer­cedes was bumped by ti­tle ri­val Se­bas­tian Vet­tel of Fer­rari. Hamil­ton got a tire punc­ture and Vet­tel had wing dam­age. Both had to stop im­me­di­ately for re­pairs.

That left them in a fu­ri­ous bid to catch up as Ver­stap­pen sped away to vic­tory. Vet­tel fin­ished fourth but had to win or fin­ish sec­ond to push the ti­tle chase to the last two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Hamil­ton’s cham­pi­onship makes him the most dec­o­rated Bri­tish driver in F1 his­tory, pass­ing Sir Jackie Ste­wart. He is one of only five driv­ers in F1 his­tory with four or more.

Hamil­ton held his hel­met in his hands as he crossed the fin­ish line, then took a lap around the track while wav­ing the Bri­tish Union Jack.

Vet­tel didn’t make any of it easy, in more ways than one.

A wild start saw Ver­stap­pen bump the Fer­rari while fight­ing through the first turn at the end of the track’s long straight. Ver­stap­pen got the edge and got out when Hamil­ton made a move to get past Vet­tel, who drifted left. The Fer­rari’s left front wing clipped Hamil­ton’s right rear tire, dam­ag­ing both cars and forc­ing their driv­ers to pit for re­pairs.

As Ver­stap­pen pulled away, a seething Hamil­ton asked his team over the ra­dio if Vet­tel made con­tact “on pur­pose.”

“Not sure, Lewis,” the team replied. Race stew­ards de­ter­mined no in­ves­ti­ga­tion was nec­es­sary.

Both driv­ers made a mad scram­ble to get back to­ward the front, weav­ing through the traf­fic that bot­tles up a short track at the Au­to­dromo Her­manas Ro­driguez, and Hamil­ton was strug­gling to make up any ground. On lap 23, he was so slow that he was shown a blue flag, the or­der to let a faster car — Ver­stap­pen — go past him.

Vet­tel was on a fu­ri­ous pace to push the cham­pi­onship to the next race. He never got close. Late in the race, he asked his team if he could get sec­ond but when told how far be­hind he was, Vet­tel replied, “Oh mama mia, that’s too much.”

The fin­ish al­lowed Hamil­ton to cel­e­brate cham­pi­onships in four ci­ties, with Mex­ico City join­ing Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 2008, Abu Dhabi in 2014 and Austin, Texas, in 2015.

“Viva Mex­ico!” Hamil­ton told the crowd when he got out of his car.

Hamil­ton’s cham­pi­onship will spur ques­tions about his place among the best driv­ers in F1 his­tory. The 32-year-old joined Vet­tel and Alain Prost as four-time win­ners. He now trails only Ar­gentina’s Juan Manuel Fan­gio (five) and Ger­many’s Michael Schu­macher (seven) for the most of all time.

He sur­passed the three won by his idol, Brazil­ian Ary­ton Senna, who is still con­sid­ered one of the most el­e­gant and skill­ful driv­ers in F1 his­tory.

Hamil­ton’s Mer­cedes car has dom­i­nated the era of turbo-hy­brid en­gines adopted in 2014. Of Hamil­ton’s 62 ca­reer vic­to­ries, 30 have come over the last four years, a span of 77 races.

He chased down this cham­pi­onship over the sec­ond half of the sea­son af­ter Vet­tel won two of the first three races. Fer­rari fal­tered as Hamil­ton had racked up five wins over the past seven races and his car has been as steady as his driv­ing. Hamil­ton has fin­ished ev­ery race and missed the podium just five times.

Ed­uardo Ver­dugo / The As­so­ci­ated Press Bri­tish driver Lewis Hamil­ton cel­e­brates win­ing his fourth For­mula One cham­pi­onship at the end of the Mex­i­can For­mula One Grand Prix auto race Sun­day in Mex­ico City.

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