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Lewis Hamilton clinches SIXTH Formula One world title despite losing out on USA Grand Prix win to team mate Valteri Bottas

Lewis Hamilton wrote his legend in stars and stripes under a blue Texan sun to become Formula One world champion for a sixth time.

He hid tears of joy under his visor as his race engineer Peter Bonnington told him: ‘What a drive, mate. You did that in style.’

At 34, the Englishman moved one title ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio, El Maestro as his awestruck contemporaries called him, and completed yet another milestone in his transformation from a Hertfordshire council estate boy into a global star of sport.

He held his head in his hands afterwards, seemingly incredulous. The grandeur of the feat slowly crept into his mind. His voice creaked with emotion.

He pointed from the podium to his father Anthony, the other most important figure on the journey, after coming second in the US Grand Prix with another smart and brave drive.

He could not quite make his tyres last well enough to claim the race win, despite nursing his rubber brilliantly for the last 32 of the 56 laps. His Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas passed him four laps from the end to claim the win, but not the glory.

That went to Hamilton, who has proved again and again that in the wet, in the dry, in the hot, in the cold, in the day, during the night, across 13 seasons of near-uninterrupted brilliance, that he is not only one of motor racing’s all-time greats but surely the finest British sportsman of his era.

Nobody, including Sir Andy Murray, has dominated a truly world sport over that passage of time.

The mathematics suggested Hamilton did not have too much to fear. Eighth place would have been enough to seal the title with two rounds to spare regardless of a Bottas victory. That still meant finishing was the priority and this rendered the start the single most nervy moment of the day.

Would Red Bull’s up-and-at-‘em Max Verstappen, starting third, ensnare Hamilton, starting fifth? They had grappled with each other in recent days, in Mexico last week and during qualifying here on Saturday, and swapped criticisms.

But on the grid, just before a trio of crooners warbled the national anthem, the two Alphas shook hands and patted each other on the back.

Were they making up? It looked cordial. Was it a precaution by Hamilton to defuse the situation before they went wheel-to-wheel again on the first lap? Very wise, if that was the case.

So to that steep climb into the blind first left-hander beside a sea of people in the stand and on the grass slope. Hamilton, only needing to avoid danger, confined himself to his own zip code.

Then he overtook Charles Leclerc comfortably at the first corner before sweeping brilliantly beyond the other Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel on the outside of Turn 8. Whoosh and he was gone.

Those few moments – clean and lickety-split – were marks of the champion driver. Vettel, who retired with suspension failure, sought Hamilton out for a hug in the pre-podium room. It was a long and warm embrace between the two most decorated drivers of the present.

Twice Hamilton led the race, after Verstappen – who finished third – and Bottas peeled in for their two stops. The perfect ending looked possible but even the star man could not get his tyres to perform the impossible.

This latest championship success is confirmation of all the hopes we invested in Hamilton when he first burst across our horizon in 2007.

His daring deeds through the opening corners at Melbourne on his Formula One debut is a memory that still lingers now.

So numinous was his early form that every rookie who followed has fallen short in comparison. Even the best of the mortal pretenders, Verstappen and Leclerc, fine young drivers both, failed to land with a Hamilton-style clap.

ajay
Sports freak at your door step

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