Lewis Hamilton secured his sixth Formula One world championship on Sunday in a U.S. Grand Prix won by Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.
The 34-year-old Briton finished second at the Circuit of the Americas to become only the second driver after retired Ferrari great and seven-times champion Michael Schumacher to win six titles.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took third place in the race while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished fourth and took an extra point for fastest lap.
A sellout crowd, that included both of Hamilton’s parents, arrived early at a sun-kissed circuit outside Austin expecting to see a coronation and were not disappointed as the Briton battled Bottas to the death.
Much of the drama in the championship chase had already been removed with Hamilton in position to clinch the title without even scoring a point.
But the 34-year-old showed why he is one of most competitive and greatest racers of all-time as he tried to crown his championship with a seventh U.S. Grand Prix victory.
He fell just short of crossing the finishing line first but nothing could stop Hamilton from sealing another driver’s title.
“It’s just overwhelming if I’m really honest. It was such a tough race today,” Hamilton told reporters.
“Valtteri did a fantastic job so huge congratulations to him.
“Today I just really wanted to deliver the one-two for the team. I didn’t think the one-stop was going to be possible but I worked as hard as I could.”
The math was as simple as it was daunting for Bottas, Hamilton would secure the title by finishing eighth or better but would not need any points on Sunday to retain the championship if the Finn did not win the race.
Any thoughts that Hamilton might approach the race with some caution were quickly removed as he went on the attack right from the start, shooting from fifth to third before the first lap was completed.
Bottas got away from pole position cleanly with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Hamilton in hot pursuit.
With Hamilton on a one-stop strategy and Bottas and Verstappen on two, the Briton took over the lead after his two challengers made their second pit-stops.
Victory now depended on whichever driver could make their tyres last.
With four laps to go and Hamilton grimly hanging on, there was nothing he could do to stop Bottas sweeping past him to take the win.
“My dad told me when I was six or seven years old never to give up and that’s kind of the family motto,” said Hamilton.
“I was pushing as hard as I could, I was hopeful that I might be able to win today but didn’t have it in the tyres unfortunately.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters)