Lewis Hamilton wrote his name into the pantheon of Britain’s all-time sporting greats by winning his sixth Formula One World Championship in America.
The 34-year-old moved above the sport’s Argentinian godfather Juan Manuel Fangio and within striking range of Michael Schumacher’s record collection of seven after he took the chequered flag in Texas in second place.
Hamilton was required to finish only in the top eight to be certain of clinching the Championship here.
Valtteri Bottas did all he could to take the title fight on to Brazil by passing Hamilton, on a different strategy to his Mercedes team-mate, for the victory with four laps remaining.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen ran Hamilton all the way to the line, but finished just eight tenths of a second behind the Englishman.
“Get in there, Lewis,” came the roar from Hamilton’s race engineer Pete Bonnington. “That is it. Champion of the world. You did that in style, mate.”
“Still we rise, guys,” replied an emotional Hamilton. “What an incredible weekend. To everyone that came out, I cannot believe it. I really can’t believe it.”
Hamilton parked up in the spot reserved to celebrate his World Championship. Still sitting in his car, he removed his helmet and balaclava before standing on top of his silver machine and lapping up the adulation of the American crowd. He ran into the arms of his Mercedes mechanics to celebrate before retrieving a Union flag.
“It is overwhelming if I am honest,” said Hamilton. “I feel so much emotion.
“I have got my mum and dad here, my step-mum and step-dad here. It is an honour to be up there with the greats. My dad told me when I was six or seven never to give up – that is the family motto.
“I was pushing as hard as I could today and I was hopeful I could win but I didn’t have enough left in the tyres.”
Asked how many more Championships he is targeting, he added: “I don’t know about Championships but as an athlete I feel as fresh as I can be, these next races we will keep pushing and I want to give a big shout out to all the fans and the Brits who have come out here this weekend.”
On Hamilton’s sixth world title, Verstappen said: “It’s very impressive, what else to say. He’s doing phenomenally, has a great team behind him and hopefully we can take to the fight to them next year.”
Race winner Bottas said: “It’s a nice win, it feels good. I’ve felt very good in the car since yesterday. We have a strong pace and I’m very happy. Only thing I could have done in terms of the Championship race, the rest was up to Lewis.
“Big congratulations to him. I personally failed on my target this year but there is always next year.
“He deserves it. He’s a great champion.”
The Belfast Telegraph