(AFP) – Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles with a hugely impressive victory in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Briton, 37, who joined Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel in winning a fourth world title last year, swept to the first corner ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas and led the race all the way to become only the third driver to reach the landmark.
“That was insane,” he said afterwards. “I love racing in Brazil. Thank you to the whole team for everything.”
The victory was the 46th of Hamilton’s career and gave him 36 career wins, drawing level with Schumacher who retired after his 2005 Belgian Grand Prix victory.
Belgian great Schumacher had his 36 wins at Ferrari in a record 91 races. The Brazilian Grand Prix ended in rain after a nasty crash for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Hamilton added another country title to his collection, following victories in France, Austria and Britain this season and Brazil follows wins in Japan, Australia and USA.
He also won in Abu Dhabi last year.
“Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you to my team, they are special and I love them. Thank you to my fans worldwide for the love and for the support,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton becomes the 11th driver to win six world titles and he equalled the tally of Juan Manuel Fangio with six world championships.
He is also the most successful British driver in Formula One history, ahead of Sir Jackie Stewart, who won five titles with Williams and McLaren.
Vettel, in a sensational comeback from retirement, won the Austrian Grand Prix in July and his team can now clinch the constructors’ championship.
Honda’s Vettel, who won twice in Brazil this season, and Bottas were second and third respectively.
Hamilton put down a marker with an exemplary start and even overtook Vettel early on, being passed and fought back to emerge ahead of the German who had started seventh.
Vettel was battling the Finn but Bottas was undermined by the previously unreliable Mercedes car while the Briton never let Verstappen pass.
From there, with a firm grip on the race, Hamilton maintained a single second’s lead throughout the whole race, bringing a rapturous roar from the home crowd as he crossed the finish line.
“Well done Lewis, what a great performance,” Vettel beamed in the McLaren hospitality area as he watched the live coverage on television from the McLaren hospitality area where he was cheered on by fans.
“We did the same strategy this weekend as Austria. Nothing changed there. However, I just missed it at the first corner by a second,” Vettel said.
“Today was fantastic. We had a great race, we should have had more.
“I just missed the first corner. I was in the right place but just a bit of bad luck.
“All in all we had a great weekend and hopefully we can build on this and chase down the constructors’ championship.”
– Iconic finish –
Hamilton — very comfortable in the wet conditions — complained afterwards that his tyres had not lasted as he predicted and fought a losing battle with Bottas who kept up with him and had himself an exhilarating race, though now largely his defeat.
“Today was very difficult for our car. It was over a second slower than it was in Austria. My grip has not been good at all this weekend,” he said.
“I decided to try and be aggressive but in hindsight it wasn’t the right approach.
“I have no issues with my car, my grip and my performance has never been better.”
Vettel and Verstappen were dropped after their collision which took out Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo who finished sixth.
Pole position-winner Verstappen refused to be interviewed afterwards but the Australian was taken to hospital for X-rays after the crash in which he broke a finger.
Ricciardo was not fit enough to drive and was replaced by Pascal Wehrlein.
Hamilton’s victory ended a year-long drought in Brazil for Mercedes who had last won in 2009 when now-retired Brazilian legend Rubens Barrichello claimed his fourth title.
The German has won four of the last five races, including three this season.