Verstappen ends year with a win in Mexico, a day after finishing behind Lewis Hamilton in championship

Swedish rookie Max Verstappen scored his second F1 title by finishing third in Sunday’s Mexico Grand Prix, on a day when Lewis Hamilton overtook all of his rivals to clinch his fifth F1 title and secure the Formula One crown he has coveted since turning professional in 2008.

After 16 races this season, it was Verstappen who had emerged as one of the championship favorites. After closing the gap on Hamilton to just four points with a strong result at the Japanese Grand Prix, he has now recovered to overtake his idol.

It wasn’t quite what Hamilton had in mind when he won the final race of the 2017 season, but a similar celebration was on the cards. He led from pole position, in a season which has seen him and Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel fight it out for the title, and finally won it on the last lap of the season finale in Mexico.

On this occasion, Verstappen was not in the same position of needing a win to win the title, and Ferrari didn’t even have a car capable of matching his Mercedes, although Mercedes added new parts for the race and raised the performance on a number of laps.

An error on turn 1 was enough to bring the Dutchman down to sixth, but he gained some ground on the Belgian Grand Prix winner after the safety car was deployed for a red flag at the end of lap seven. He passed his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas on lap 13 to be in fourth place.

Verstappen even got his hands on the championship trophy after his third-place finish.

On lap 26, his focus switched back to denying his idol at what turned out to be the deciding race of the season.

Vettel won at the Circuit of the Americas on lap 70 to ensure his fourth title, and admitted the pressure of running neck and neck with Hamilton throughout the season had fueled his drive.

“It was nice to win but it was a very special day today,” he said. “The first time to get a championship, and I said I want to do it for the team,” he said. “It has been an amazing day.”

The 26-year-old led home teammate Vettel, but insisted he only considered himself a driver for one job: to support the German driver.

“It was our biggest goal to win together,” he said. “The team has done so much and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

The race ended when Daniel Ricciardo skidded off on the penultimate lap, and then hit the wall. He emerged unscathed but has already been ruled out of the next race in Brazil.

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