5 key moments leading to Lewis Hamilton’s sixth F1 world title
Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth world championship at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at five key moments leading to Hamilton’s title triumph.
The perfect start
Hamilton’s Mercedes team rolled up for the season opener in Melbourne expecting Ferrari to dominate. The Scuderia impressed during pre-season testing, with the overwhelming evidence suggesting Mercedes would start the year on the back foot. But Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas joining him on the front row. While Hamilton would have to settle for second after Bottas beat him to the opening corner, Mercedes’ ominous pace set the scene for the opening third of the campaign. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel – who was expected to be Hamilton’s main challenger for the title – finished an eye-watering 58 seconds behind the winner.
Eight in eight for Mercedes
Hamilton bounced back from defeat against Bottas by going on to win six of the next seven races, culminating in his best-ever start to a season. The Briton’s sixth triumph of the year arrived at the Paul Ricard Circuit. Hamilton won by almost 20 seconds in a grand prix widely derided as one of the dreariest in recent memory. But Hamilton was now already 36 points ahead of Bottas and 76 clear of Vettel.
Silverstone record breaker
An off-colour weekend followed for Hamilton in Austria as he finished only fifth. But the Briton returned to form in style in front of a bumper 141,000 crowd at Silverstone. Bottas was set to play the role of party pooper after he held Hamilton off in a frenetic opening few laps. However, the race turned on its head when Antonio Giovinazzi beached his Alfa Romeo. The ensuing safety car allowed Hamilton to take the lead and claim a record sixth win in front of his adoring fans.
A magic Hungarian fightback
Hamilton arrived in Budapest wounded by a torrid showing in Hockenheim where he spun from the lead and finished ninth. He then delivered probably the best display of his championship-winning year. Trailing Max Verstappen, Mercedes rolled the strategy dice, pitting Hamilton for fresh rubber. Hamilton was given 21 laps to wipe out Verstappen’s 21-lap lead. It seemed improbable – Hamilton himself questioned the call on the radio – but the Mercedes star turned in a catalogue of spellbinding laps to catch and then fly round the outside of Verstappen with just three laps left. His Mercedes boss Toto Wolff described Hamilton’s performance as from a “different dimension”.
From Russia with love
Following a torrid opening half of the year, Ferrari became the team to beat following the sport’s summer break. Hamilton should never have been in contention to win in Sochi, but the bumbling Scuderia threw away a certain one-two after Vettel broke down and Charles Leclerc dropped from first to third. The win, Hamilton’s ninth of the year, took him 73 points clear at the championship summit with just 130 to play for – a sixth title surely inevitable.