The road to title glory: Key moments that helped Lewis Hamilton see off challenge from Sebastian Vettel to win his fifth world championship
- Lewis Hamilton sealed his fifth world championship with two races to spare
- The Brit’s fourth place at the Mexican Grand Prix saw him retain title
- Mercedes star has found another level in season battle with Sebastian Vettel
Lewis Hamilton was favourite from the start of the season to win a fifth world championship, but Sebastian Vettel’s early form for Ferrari set up an intriguing title battle between the pair.
The championship lead exchanged hands between the pair for much of the first half of the season before Hamilton found another gear to soar clear over the summer.
Here, Sportsmail looks at the key moments from over the season…
Lewis Hamilton celebrates in parc ferme after winning the world championship
A false start down under
It was put to Toto Wolff that Mercedes would begin the season in Melbourne as favourites for the world title. Word from Italy was that Ferrari had endured a terrible pre-season.
Wolff played his team’s chances down. Nobody believed him. Another team principal sitting next to him pulled a face behind Wolff’s back to indicate he thought Mercedes would have it all their own way.
Hamilton underlined that possibility with a pole lap 0.7sec ahead of the red cars, only for a miscalculation in the race to hand Sebastian Vettel the win.
A dejected Hamilton looks on after Sebastian Vettel won the season opening race in Australia
Vettel’s mistakes cost Ferrari
The idea that Ferrari were second best did not stand up to scrutiny. They had the faster car but the early results were inconsequential.
Soon a theme was emerging: Vettel’s self-induced errors, such as his over-exuberance in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, running wide and slipping down to fourth after attempting to take the lead off Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton went on to win when Bottas’ tyre exploded. Vettel’s mistake was one of eight that would undermine his championship challenge.
Vettel made an ill-judged lunge in trying to pass Valtteri Bottas at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Rain speeds up Seb’s slide
The 11th race of 21, at Hockenheim, and the pendulum swings decisively. When rain starts to fall, Vettel veers into the sand at Sachs Kurve.
‘It was a small mistake but had a big impact on the race,’ says the German, who saw Hamilton come from 14th on the grid to triumph.
Trailing by eight points going into the weekend, the Briton was 17 ahead afterwards. With one race before the summer break remaining, in Hungary.
Hamilton was dominant in wet qualifying conditions while Vettel was wary. Pole for Hamilton, the race win and the title impetus followed.
Vettel crashed at his home race in Germany, going out while leading to give Hamilton the win
A crushing blow for the Tifosi
Hamilton’s post-summer break form was blistering. Another great qualifying lap at the Belgian GP, though not the win, was followed by four consecutive victories. Two concussive blows were delivered in Italy and Singapore.
Vettel tangled with Hamilton on the first lap at Monza, damaging his car and putting him to the back of the field.
Hamilton passed Kimi Raikkonen to take the lead and the win in front of the Ferrari fans. It was crushing for Vettel on his team’s home track.
Ferrari were stunned in Monza by Hamilton who celebrates his Italian GP triumph
Echoes of Senna in Singapore
Then at night around the illuminated track of the city state, Hamilton again made a mockery of supposed Ferrari dominance with a pole lap more than 0.6sec faster than Vettel.
‘It’s stardust,’ said Wolff, lost for an explanation of his man’s speed that arguably eclipsed even Ayrton Senna’s qualifying mastery.
‘It fitted together like a jigsaw,’ said Hamilton of the lap of his life. Nobody but Lewis could make a moral claim for the title from that moment on.
Following his stunning pole lap in Singapore, Hamilton then converted it to a win at Marina Bay
It’s all over bar the shouting
Clearly all was not well within Ferrari, and Vettel took the malaise to heart. Whereas the bond between Hamilton and his engineers grew stronger.
So at the Japanese Grand Prix three weeks ago, Vettel tried to force the issue with a needless move on Max Verstappen and crashed.
He fought back to sixth but had lost 75 points to Hamilton in seven rounds. That was virtually that.
Vettel crashed into Max Verstappen at the Japanese Grand Prix to all but end his title hopes
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