Lewis Hamilton’s F1 championship journey: From Super Saturday to failing Ferraris
Lewis Hamilton secured his fourth Formula One championship in the Mexico Grand Prix but he had to fight hard to stave off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and put in some determined performances in qualifying on Saturday.other sports Updated: Oct 30, 2017 14:09 IST
There were doubts, scares and a new rivalry to enjoy, but the result was familiar in Formula One’s hybrid era: Lewis Hamilton is world champion.
Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s return to the title picture has breathed much-needed fresh air through F1 after the stale fug of the Hamilton-Rosberg battle left Mercedes fighting with themselves, but the Scuderia’s late-season fade, allied with Red Bull’s early-season woes, mean the Silver Arrows and Hamilton are peerless again.
A fourth world title moves Hamilton level with Vettel, but this has been a season in which the Briton reached new heights, establishing himself as the greatest one-lap man in F1’s history.
His record on Saturdays this year is astonishing ...
1st, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 1st, 14th, 1st, 1st, 3rd, 1st, 4th, 1st, 1st, 5th, 1st, 1st, 1st, 3rd.
Those 11 pole positions take his tally to 72 - more than anyone in the history of the sport, having overtaken the great Michael Schumacher at Monza - and Hamilton has turned eight of them into victories.
Of course, the points follow on Sundays, and here we examine the key junctures that have made Hamilton F1’s most successful Briton.
RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX (Hamilton: 73, Vettel: 86)
Having traded wins and second places with Vettel in the opening three races, Hamilton was the first to blink as he struggled to handle the “diva” Mercedes and finished fourth in Sochi.
Vettel, crucially, could not take advantage, however, as Valtteri Bottas picked up a maiden F1 race win to limit the damage somewhat for his team-mate.
AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX (Hamilton: 139, Vettel: 153)
Hamilton won in Canada after a bruising Monaco Grand Prix, in which Vettel was handed the racier strategy over Ferrari colleague Kimi Raikkonen, who had qualified on pole - perhaps suggesting the Scuderia were ready to back Vettel’s title bid from the early weeks.
The German had looked serene in the opening seven races, but the street race in Baku - where Mercedes enjoyed a large power advantage - saw Vettel crack for the first time, bizarrely banging wheels with Hamilton behind the safety car.
Vettel was given a drive-through penalty, wrecking his race, but Hamilton was denied a huge win in scarcely believable circumstances as his headrest came loose and forced him to pit, putting the Brit behind Vettel and denying him the chance to take first place in the standings.
The psychological impact was notable, however, and Vettel’s attention was perhaps taken away from the track in Austria, where Bottas again beat him to a win as Hamilton struggled.
BRITISH GRAND PRIX (Hamilton: 176, Vettel: 177)
Silverstone followed the Red Bull Ring and Hamilton delivered one of his great drives, totally dominating the weekend to win his home race for a fourth year in succession.
Vettel has an oddly poor record at the British Grand Prix and had looked on course for a fourth-place finish until disaster struck on the penultimate lap, his tyre blowing - a lap after Raikkonen suffered the same issue on the other Ferrari - to leave him scrambling for a seventh-place finish.
It left Hamilton within a point of Vettel in the standings and with momentum on his side.
SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX (Hamilton: 263, Vettel: 235)
Though Vettel stemmed the tide with a win in Hungary, Hamilton enjoyed dominant wins in Belgium and Italy to take the outright lead in the standings for the first time all year.
A trip to Singapore was expected to see Vettel regain his lead, however, and the German qualified on pole at a tight and twisty Marina Bay Circuit not to Mercedes’ liking - Hamilton starting from fifth.
The course of the season was seismically shifted at the first corner of the race, however, as Vettel, Raikkonen and Max Verstappen all crashed into each other, ending all three drivers’ races.
n rare wet conditions, Hamilton took full advantage, skirting around the early danger to win, extend his lead and leave Ferrari searching for answers.
JAPANESE GRAND PRIX (Hamilton: 306, Vettel: 247)
Behind the eight ball from Singapore, Ferrari endured a miserable Malaysia Grand Prix as engine trouble meant Raikkonen failed to start and Vettel had to begin from the back of the grid.
Vettel sneaked his way to a supreme fourth-place finish, while Hamilton reacted nervously to his second behind Verstappen - with subsequent races suggesting Ferrari held an advantage.
But Suzuka killed off their hopes, a faulty spark plug forcing Vettel to retire after four laps and allowing Hamilton to streak clear and open up a commanding 59-point lead with just four races remaining.
MEXICAN GRAND PRIX (Hamilton: 333, Vettel: 277)
By the time the campaign arrived in Mexico, it was more a question of when and not if Hamilton would wrap up the title.
And that question was fairly comprehensively answered at Turn 2 on the opening lap, when the two drivers came together, forcing both to pit and fall to the back of the field.
The incident was more damaging to Vettel’s hopes than Hamilton, as the German needed a second-place finish to have any chance of keeping the title race alive.
Hamilton eventually worked his way to ninth to leave Vettel requiring a win to keep his slim hopes alive for another race, but he fell well short as he crossed the finish line in fourth.
First Published: Oct 30, 2017 14:03 IST