Lewis Hamilton has won his fifth F1 world championship, making him the joint second most successful driver of all time.
The 33-year-old becomes only the third man in history to win five world titles. He matches the haul of the Argentine legend Juan Manuel Fangio and is two behind all-time record holder Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton needed only to finish seventh at Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix to become champion, even if Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel had won – but the German could manage only second place behind the dominant Max Verstappen, despite a valiant and strong race.
It was a difficult race for the Mercedes driver, who battled tyre problems throughout, but his finishing position just off the podium, in fourth, was more than enough to seal the biggest achievement of an illustrious career.
At the end of the race, Hamilton pushed his car through a series of celebratory “doughnut” spins in the track’s stadium section, before waving to the capacity 135,000 crowd.
Hamilton said: “It is a very strange feeling right now. This was won through a lot of hard work through a lot of races. I am so grateful for all the hard work, for everyone who has been a part of it.
“To complete this, when Fangio has done it with Mercedes, it is an incredible moment.
“It was a horrible race. I got a great start and was working my way up and I really don’t know what happened after that. I was just trying to hold on and bring the car home.”
Vettel broke off from his post-race interview to congratulate Hamilton, as the two men embraced at the conclusion of a titanic battle.
The Ferrari driver said: “Well deserved. Congrats to him and his team. They did a superb job all year, we need to stand there and accept that. We would have loved to hang in there a bit longer but that wasn’t the case.”
Under-par Mercedes seal it in Mexico
The race was a reminder of what might have been for Vettel, as both Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas fell back with excessive tyre wear and his Ferrari moved up with an aggressive strategy to pressure the Red Bulls in the closing laps.
But it was too little too late for Vettel, whose season, once so promising, unravelled in the summer and early autumn with a series of errors from driver and team.
Hamilton and Mercedes were well below the high standards they set for themselves as they won six out of seven races from the German Grand Prix in late July to the Japanese race in early October.
But that run – and the consistent excellence that both pressured Vettel and Ferrari into their mistakes and won races through the highest quality driving and team work – had put Hamilton into a comfortable position.
And it was enough to seal the championship despite such a relatively lacklustre race, perhaps their poorest in terms of absolute performance of the entire season.