MEXICO CITY – It wasn’t the way he wanted to do it, but on Sunday afternoon at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez Lewis Hamilton joined elite company with his fourth Formula One World Championship.
The Mercedes driver was forced to pit following the opening lap after contact with Sebastian Vettel left him with a flat right-rear tire. He recovered from last in the field to finish ninth, which thanks to Vettel’s fourth-place effort was enough for Hamilton to seal the championship.
“To be honest, this fourth world title is not even registering right now,” Hamilton said. “There is all this energy from the people around you, but it takes a while for it to really sink in. I am incredibly grateful when I think about everything that was going on this year and everything that had to be in place to produce this result. I didn’t do this on my own, there are over a thousand people back in Brackley and Brixworth who have created this beast that has given me the opportunity to exploit my abilities. I have received such great support from around the world, and I want to thank all of you that believed in me.”
The championship puts Hamilton in rarified air. He joins Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Juan Manuel Fangio as the only drivers to win four or more Formula One crowns.
Hamilton gave a large portion of the credit to Mercedes, for whom he’s won three of his four Formula One titles. He won his first Formula One title in 2008 while driving for McLaren, which at the time received its engines from Mercedes.
“Mercedes signed me when I was 13, alongside McLaren and obviously I had exceptional years with McLaren,” Hamilton recalled. “Very, very special time there, and will always have a special place in my heart. Meeting Ron (Dennis) when I was 10, telling him that one day I wanted to be a world champion in his car, and him giving me that opportunity, wherever he is today I hope he knows how grateful I am for that.
“Then moving to this team which was obviously such a… people through it was a big risk, and gamble, but I had every belief in my heart, 100 percent belief in my heart, that it was the right thing to do. Even if in the beginning it may have been difficult, I knew at some stage we would have this kind of success. It’s really weird how I had that. And then just to see the team grow. It’s trickled down from the top, with great bosses, great board members who support the team one hundred per cent. So to everyone back in Stuttgart, a big, big thank you.”
So what does the future hold for Hamilton? Hopefully a fifth championship according to the 32-year-old native of England.
“Four is a great number. I want number five now,” Hamilton said. “I’m going to stick with four, enjoy number four but I think, you know, you just take one step at a time.”