TROPHY-LADEN Briton Lewis Hamilton expressed his pride at clinching his fourth world title after finishing ninth in a turbulent Mexican Grand Prix last night.
Hamilton described the manner of his victory as “horrible”, having being hit by title rival Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari on the first lap in an incident which also resulted in the German breaking his front wing.
Vettel needed to come in the top two to keep the championship race alive, but could only manage a fourth-place finish as Hamilton overtook Sir Jackie Stewart’s haul of three world titles to become the most successful British F1 driver in history.
The 32-year-old has joined Vettel and France’s Alain Prost on four world crowns and now sits behind only Michael Schumacher, the all-time record holder with seven, and Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio, who has won five.
“Just the other day I was reminiscing about growing up in Stevenage and watching TV and dreaming of one day being in Formula One and here we are 25 years later and I’m a four-time world champion,” said Hamilton.
“I am really happy with this fourth title. I am proud of the [Union Jack] flag and everyone who represents it. I will continue to raise it as high as I can.
“My fans inspire me just as much as they sometimes say I inspire them. There have been so many things thrown at me during my life and I keep going. I do that with the support of my fans.”
The race was won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who claimed the third race win of his career and second in four attempts, after he took the lead at the first corner, a move which led to the collision between Hamilton and Vettel.
“Do you think he [Vettel] hit me deliberately?” Hamilton asked his Mercedes team. He later added: “It was a horrible way to do it [win the world title] but what can I do? I said I wasn’t going to take it easy.
“I placed the car in the perfect position and left a lot of space for the car behind. I kept coming back. Being 40 seconds behind is like being in no man’s land. I was just thinking about catching. The feelings are so mixed right now.”
Hamilton received congratulations from across the sporting world, including retired former Mercedes colleague, title rival and dethroned champion Nico Rosberg. “Really awesome performance,” said the German.
Rosberg’s fellow countryman Vettel, who saw his own somewhat forlorn title charge ultimately end in failure, cut a prickly figure but conceded Hamilton was now on a par with him in the pantheon of F1 drivers. “If you can count then yes,” he said. “I don’t fear him.”
Stewart, whose record Hamilton surpassed, said: “It is time for a change. Records are made to be broken. I don’t think because you have won a bunch of world championships you are the greatest. I still say Juan Manuel Fangio is the best and next to him was Jim Clark. Hamilton will be one of the best.”