Lewis Hamilton reached a remarkable goal on Saturday, surpassing Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven Formula One titles.
The Mercedes driver, who has already won four of this season’s seven races, began the afternoon of Mexico’s rainy day with no championship to contest and, going into the last turn of the final lap, all he needed to do was end it.
It did not look possible. The safety car, twice deployed on the very troubled morning’s race, had meant Hamilton was on track in 11th place. But his superb speed on the run out and the condition of the track ensured that he made it down the straight to take the flag.
Even as his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, a recent winner in Brazil, clambered from the wreckage of the penultimate Lola, his rival could do little but finish second, benefiting from first contact with Hamilton and some brake failures on Bottas’s teammate, Felipe Massa.
Hamilton had indeed needed to be fastest as a result of the safety car. If he had not been, he would have left Mexico 10 points shy of Schumacher, who had a 49-point advantage over Fernando Alonso. Alonso has now finished third four times in a row, but if he were to prevail in Abu Dhabi, he would move past Schumacher in all terms. That result, however, is an open question, with defending champion Sebastian Vettel having shot up to third at his car’s wheel.
Hamilton, though, will now focus on his title bid in Abu Dhabi. Here, he will not only be competing for his fifth title but attempting to regain the 10-point advantage he lost with a pit-stop blunder in France. That has proved to be his undoing in each of the previous two years.