Mexico City - Lewis Hamilton joined one of sport's most
exclusive clubs on Sunday when he became just the third driver to win a fifth
Formula One world title.
His fourth-place finish at the Mexico Grand Prix lifted him
into the company of the sport's true greats, joining seven-time champion
Michael Schumacher and fellow five-time winner Juan-Manuel Fangio - who he
describes as "The Godfather" - in the F1 pantheon
To have won more than men like Australia's Jack Brabham,
fellow-Briton Jackie Stewart, Austrian Niki Lauda and Brazilians Nelson Piquet
and Ayrton Senna as well as modern day rival Sebastian Vettel is a spectacular
statement of achievement.
The son of a black father and a white mother, who survived a
broken home in his youth, Hamilton, 33, grew up on a municipal housing estate
in Stevenage where his father Anthony at one time held down three jobs to fund
his son's embryonic racing career in karts.
His journey was unprivileged and without luxury, but it was
clear from an early age that he had an outstanding gift for speed and all the
gutsy natural instincts of a born racer.
In 1995, aged 10, and wearing a jacket and shoes borrowed
from his predecessor as British Formula Cadet karting champion, he went to a
glittering awards ceremony in London where he met McLaren's then-boss Ron
He asked for an autograph and told him "one day I want
to race for you". Dennis replied: "Phone me in nine years and I'll
sort you a deal."
The McLaren chief did not wait that long. After less than
three years, he agreed to support Hamilton's passage through the junior
formulae en route to his F1 debut with his team in 2007.
Bold, determined and individual, he almost won the title in
his first record-breaking season as he reeled off nine successive podiums from
his debut in Melbourne, rocking the establishment along the way with his speed
and his style.
On and off the track, he was fast, somewhat mercurial and
occasionally tempestuous and this combination led to a fierce rivalry with
team-mate and two-time champion Fernando Alonso, who left McLaren at the end of
That was a signal of how tough it was to be for all his
future team-mates as Hamilton, who narrowly missed out on the 2007 title,
returned to triumph in 2008 with a dramatic last-gasp fifth-place finish in
He also showed frustration as McLaren failed to deliver the
speed to beat Vettel and Red Bull, who reeled off four straight title triumphs
from 2010 to 2013, by when Hamilton had departed for Mercedes.
Escaping the management regime of Dennis and his father,
Hamilton found freedom at Mercedes alongside team-mate German Nico Rosberg, his
teenage karting friend and rival.
This enabled Hamilton to express himself with a
headline-grabbing trans-Atlantic lifestyle, mixing with musicians and
He showed little love for any duty to obey conventions and,
for many observers, gave his sport a welcome injection of freshness and
diversity as champion again in 2014 and 2015.
Rosberg broke Hamilton's sequence of supremacy in 2016 and
then retired, leaving the Englishman to return this year and, helped by
Ferrari's October failings, deliver another season of record-breaking success.
He arrived in Austin this weekend with a record 132 pole
positions to his name and 71 wins.
His former McLaren team-mate Jenson Button summed up
Hamilton's pure speed when he said: "For me, over one lap, I don't think
there is anyone as quick as Lewis and I don't think there ever has been."
That speed, which has always been a natural talent, had last
season been allied to a more mature attitude to his job as team leader in the
post-Rosberg era at Mercedes.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff summed up: "He is never
satisfied. He never settles. He is never happy with where he is as a racing
driver and a human being. He wants to optimise, to develop and he is very much
part of the leadership of the team."
Having achieved so much as his sport's outstanding man of
the moment and best-known ambassador, it is now likely that Hamilton's humanity
- and his sensitivity to social issues - will emerge more frequently.
His own career and his quest for self-expression and freedom
has shaped his advice for young drivers.
"What I can definitely advise any kid that's out there
trying to race is don't listen to people who tell you that you need a mental
coach or you need someone to help control your mind," he said.
"You need to let it run wild and free and discover
yourself. It is all about discovery. And only you can do it."
Mexico Grand Prix results on Sunday:
1. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) 1hr 38min 28.851sec, 2. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) at 17.316sec, 3. Kimi Rikkonen (FIN/Ferrari) 49.914, 4. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:18.738, 5. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1 lap, 6. Nico Hlkenberg (GER/Renault) 2 laps, 7. Charles Leclerc (MON/Sauber) 2 laps, 8. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL/McLaren) 2 laps, 9. Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber) 2 laps, 10. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Toro Rosso) 2 laps, 11. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Force India) 2 laps, 12. Lance Stroll (CAN/Williams) 2 laps, 13. Sergey Sirotkin (RUS/Williams) 2 laps, 14. Brendon Hartley (NZL/Toro Rosso) 2 laps, 15. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas) 2 laps, 16. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas) 3 laps
Fernando Alonso (ESP/McLaren), Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Renault), Sergio Prez (MEX/Force India), Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull)
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 358 pts - champion, 2. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 294, 3. Kimi Rikknen (FIN) 236, 4. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 227, 5. Max Verstappen (NED) 216, 6. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 146, 7. Nico Hlkenberg (GER) 69, 8. Sergio Prez (MEX) 57, 9. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 53, 10. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 50, 11. Esteban Ocon (FRA) 49, 12. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 45, 13. Romain Grosjean (FRA) 31, 14. Pierre Gasly (FRA) 29, 15. Charles Leclerc (MON) 27, 16. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) 12, 17. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) 9, 18. Lance Stroll (CAN) 6, 19. Brendon Hartley (NZL) 4, 20. Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) 1
1. Mercedes 585 pts, 2. Ferrari 530, 3. Red Bull 362, 4. Renault 114, 5. Haas 84, 6. McLaren 62, 7. Force India 47, 8. Sauber 36, 9. Toro Rosso 33, 10. Williams 7