Media playback is not supported on this device Hamilton equals Schumacher record
I feel like I’ve been struggling with the emotions and this means the world to me. Michael Schumacher
Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world drivers’ titles after a stirring late fightback secured Mercedes victory in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
The Englishman kept his composure to triumph in the wet desert finale, his first win of the season.
It took him a day shy of a decade after his first title at the 2005 Canadian Grand Prix, in his 143rd race, to notch up another title.
But once he took victory in a dramatic race in Abu Dhabi, he went around the circuit in a daze, understandably overwhelmed by emotion.
“I had goosebumps for three days,” he said. “I was going to cry with happiness if it hadn’t gone well.
“I feel like I’ve been struggling with the emotions and this means the world to me.
“Thanks to Michael for giving me this opportunity to race around these tracks and not just look at the trophies.”
The drama at the end started when Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who had led all of the championship after the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, clipped Max Verstappen, in his second F1 race for Red Bull, at the first corner in the final session of practice.
Verstappen, who had led at the start of the race, ran wide, threw his arms up and threw a large crash on Hamilton.
Hamilton had the chance to pass the title-winner, who needed to finish to have a chance of catching him, on lap nine but he ran wide again.
With five laps to go, Hamilton’s only hope of catching Vettel was to overtake Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for second.
The Englishman pitted at the end of lap 16 and his tyres were damaged by a heavy gearbox change at the end of lap 18, allowing Vettel to come back past him on lap 19 with another pit stop.
But his tires had performed well after the pit stop, their life again enhanced by the searing heat, and Hamilton ended up finishing second ahead of the Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, whose chances of the title had begun to fade after Vettel had moved back ahead.
With Hamilton ahead and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen calling for a new tyre to be introduced, there was no time for Haas to challenge Vettel, and it appeared likely that he would win despite fighting his tyres harder than anyone else in a sequence of circuits that included McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.
Media playback is not supported on this device Forget F1, Lewis Hamilton is the real challenger
But race stewards ordered Verstappen to carry on down the track as a caution. It was taken as a reprimand, but the 18-year-old was out front until the hard tyre-change period at the end of lap 40 after both Mercedes took their stops, and Mercedes took advantage of that.
Vettel finished third, while Ricciardo moved from fourth to fourth after a pit stop that was delayed due to collision between Williams’s Lance Stroll and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne that resulted in several dents to the tyres.
Vandoorne pipped Stroll for fifth, with McLaren driver Alonso down in seventh.
Fernando Alonso celebrates his best finish of the season by spinning out during a pit stop