How the title was won: Story of the season as Lewis Hamilton saw off Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari challenge to claim fifth world championship
- Lewis Hamilton won his fifth F1 world championship after fourth place in Mexico
- The Mercedes star clinched the championship with two races to spare
- Sebastian Vettel had been the Brit’s main challenger throughout the season
- READ: All the latest F1 news, features and points tables
It has become a familiar sight to see Lewis Hamilton celebrating a world championship victory, especially in Mexico where he secured his fifth title one year on from his fourth triumph in the country
But the season has not always looked so straight forward for the Brit, who for the most part was seriously challenged by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
From Ferrari’s first blood down under to Hamilton’s coronation in Mexico, here is how the 2018 championship played out.
Australian Grand Prix
Hamilton looked in prime position to take a lights-to-flag victory having dominated qualifying to take pole.
But following a virtual safety car period during the race, Ferrari’s quick thinking engineered a strategy that saw Vettel pit under it and win vital seconds to eventually grab the race lead and an unexpected victory.
A distraught Hamilton was forced to settle for second as Ferrari drew first blood.
Points: Hamilton 18, Vettel 25.
Sebastian Vettel took a surprise win for Ferrari at the opening race of the season in Australia
Bahrain Grand Prix
Hamilton endured more woe between the races in Australia and Bahrain, picking up a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change causing him to start ninth in Sakir.
But the Brit soon charged up the field, only to see his progress halted once he reached third. It was still too early in the season for team orders so Valtteri Bottas maintained his second place in front of his team-mate.
Vettel was forced to nurse his fragile car towards victory as Bottas homed in but he left Bahrain with a commanding championship lead.
Points: Hamilton 33, Vettel 50.
Vettel reflects on two straight wins as Hamilton contemplates his slow start to the year
Chinese Grand Prix
Ferrari were once again the team to beat as Vettel took pole in qualifying ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, but race day would look very different for the Scuderia.
Vettel got involved in a tangle with Max Verstappen, resulting in a spin for the former, who had also got into a tussle with Hamilton during a chaotic race in Shanghai.
It left Vettel wondering what could have been with an eighth place, while Hamilton could only grab fourth as Verstappen’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo took a surprise win for Red Bull.
Points: Hamilton 45, Vettel 54
Max Verstappen crashes into Vettel while trying to overtake at the Chinese Grand Prix
Azerbaijan Grand Prix
The start of Vettel’s errors in 2018. The German was on course for a well deserved victory in Baku before a late safety car resulted in him ending up behind Valtteri Bottas.
Desperate to still take maximum points he made an ill-judged lunge on the Mercedes driver, only to lose out and heavily flat spot his tyres resulting in him losing a massive chunk of points to finish fourth.
Bottas suffered a dramatic puncture in the closing stages and it allowed Hamilton to sweep home and take one of the most fortunate wins of his career – and the championship lead with it.
Points: Hamilton 70, Vettel 66
A distraught Valtteri Bottas looks down to the ground after being denied victory in Baku
Spanish Grand Prix
From one of his most fortunate victories in Baku to one of his most dominant.
No one could get near Hamilton at Catalunya who after pipping Bottas in qualifying then went on to win by almost 20 seconds from his team-mate.
Ferrari had no answer for Mercedes’ pace, and through Vettel could only trail home in fourth.
Points: Hamilton 95, Vettel 78
Hamilton followed up his Baku with a dominating victory at the Spanish Grand Prix
Monaco Grand Prix
One of the less eventful races during the season and one where both championship protagonists were upstaged.
Vettel had the edge on Hamilton in qualifying but both were trumped by Ricciardo whose Red Bull was in its sweet spot at the Monte Carlo circuit.
The three would finish in formation order on race day, resulting in Vettel taking momentum out of Hamilton’s sails following the Brit’s back-to-back wins.
Points: Hamilton 110, Vettel 96
The Brit though was trumped by Daniel Ricciardo in Monaco as he pours alcohol into the Australian’s shoe for his trademark ‘shoey’ celebration
Canadian Grand Prix
A delayed engine upgrade left Mercedes up the creek without a paddle heading into Montreal and Ferrari made sure they took full advantage.
As Hamilton toiled to fifth place – his worst classified finish of the season – Vettel took a comfortable victory to regain the championship lead.
That being despite a farcical end to the race where the chequered flag was waved a lap too soon.
Points: Hamilton 120, Vettel 121
Ferrari hit back in Montreal as Vettel retook the championship lead thanks to his win
French Grand Prix
Once the upgrades came for Mercedes though there was no stopping them, well unless you drove into them.
Hamilton led away from pole towards a victory that never looked in doubt but his team-mate Bottas was hit by Vettel sending them both to the back of the field.
The Ferrari driver picked up a five-second penalty for causing the lap one crash and as a result had to settle for fifth place in a damage limitation drive.
Points: Hamilton 145, Vettel 131
As Hamilton led into turn one, team-mate Bottas was put into a spin by Vettel at Paul Ricard
Austrian Grand Prix
Mercedes’ worst race of the season. After Bottas took pole in a Silver Arrows one-two, and with Vettel down in sixth after taking a three-place grid drop for blocking Carlos Sainz in qualifying, it looked like the race was set to fall into Mercedes’ lap.
But disaster struck on race day for Bottas and Hamilton, with the former retiring early on and the latter struggling badly with graining on his tyres before he was then too forced out the race with a mechanical failure.
Vettel’s grid penalty arguably cost him the win but his third place behind Kimi Raikkonen and race winner Max Verstappen saw him retake the championship lead.
Points: Hamilton 145, Vettel 156
Hamilton holds his face in despair after being forced to retire from the Austrian Grand Prix
British Grand Prix
Hamilton had landed pole position in front of his home crowd but a terrible start saw him fall behind Vettel and Bottas before he was put into a spin by Kimi Raikkonen.
A storming drive soon had him clawing his way back up the field from the back of the pack, before a safety car offered him a small chance of claiming a sensational win.
Vettel took advantage of Bottas’s old tyres to pass for the lead before then claiming an unexpected victory. Hamilton was second, but his distraught post-race demeanor suggested this was of little consolation.
Points: Hamilton 163, Vettel 171
Kimi Raikkonen looks ahead as Vettel takes victory in front of Hamilton at the British Grand Prix
German Grand Prix
The turning point of the whole season. Vettel looked set to capitalise again when on home territory he took pole position. To sweeten his Saturday, a mechanical failure meant Hamilton would start 14th on race day.
But mixed conditions on Sunday brought Hamilton back into play at Hockenheim and after fighting through the field to second he then started to reel in Vettel for the lead.
The German choked by crashing out and in throwing away a home victory, allowing Hamilton to pick up the pieces with a win and a championship lead he would not relinquish again.
Points: Hamilton 188, Vettel 171
Vettel crashed out of his home race at the German GP while under pressure from Hamilton
Hungarian Grand Prix
Momentum stuck with Hamilton at the Hungaroring who after taking a dominant pole position in front of Bottas for a Mercedes lockout, never looked like throwing away his advantage.
The Brit skated off into the distance but Bottas could not prevent rivals from getting past late in the race, as on fresher tyres Vettel managed to squeeze past the Finn into second with team-mate Raikkonen close behind.
However, it was Hamilton who went into the summer break with a commanding championship advantage.
Points: Hamilton 213, Vettel 189
Hamilton sprays Vettel with champagne on the podium after winning the Hungarian Grand Prix
Belgian Grand Prix
Ferrari hit back at Spa as despite Hamilton’s dominant qualifying pace to take pole from Vettel, he had no answer to the rampant Ferrari on race day.
Vettel soon passed him at the start of the race following a huge crash behind them at turn one and from then the Brit could not get near his title rival for the rest of the afternoon.
The German’s win by over 11 seconds threatened a late-season revival by the now faster Ferrari, but it would be as close as he got to getting back into the title fight for the rest of the season.
Points: Hamilton 231, Vettel 214
Vettel strolled to victory at the Belgian Grand Prix as he takes the chequered flag at Spa
Italian Grand Prix
The stage was set for a perfect afternoon for the Tifosi, as their Ferrari cars led by Kimi Raikkonen lined up one-two on the grid at Monza.
But Hamilton passed Vettel on the opening lap, surviving a tangle at the second chicane which put the German into a spin and down the back of the field.
Although Vettel recovered to fourth, Hamilton went on to pass Kimi for the lead before taking a win that while sweet for Mercedes would have left a bitter taste at Ferrari.
Points: Hamilton 256, Vettel 226
At the Italian Grand Prix Vettel was put into a spin while trying to stop Hamilton overtaking
Singapore Grand Prix
Ferrari were hoping that Mercedes’ traditional bogey track would help kickstart their title bid and the signs were good for them when they topped the practice sessions.
But after Hamilton pulled out a sensational lap to secure pole Mercedes dominated the weekend from that point on.
The Brit took a very easy win in front of Verstappen and Vettel – finishing a massive 39 seconds in front of his title rival at Marina Bay.
Points: Hamilton 281, Vettel 241
Hamilton celebrates his Singapore win after stepping out of the Mercedes in parc ferme
Russian Grand Prix
Hamilton made it three wins in row at the Russian Grand Prix but only thanks to his team-mate’s assistance.
After holding off a Vettel challenge at the start, the Mercedes duo never looked like throwing away an opportunity to finish one-two.
But it was Bottas who led the way and, despite Hamilton’s commanding lead in the championship, he was asked to move over and allow the Brit to take maximum points, with Vettel third.
Points: Hamilton 306, Vettel 256
Hamilton won the Russian Grand Prix but standing on the top step of the podium he puts out a consoling hand to Bottas who was forced to move over and allow the Brit victory
Japanese Grand Prix
On one of Hamilton’s favourite circuits, the Brit took a gigantic leap towards securing his fifth world championship – with his title nemesis Vettel once again the architect of his own downfall.
Hamilton breezed to pole and led every lap on his way to victory in Suzuka, while Vettel spun off the circuit following an ill-judged pass on Verstappen for third place.
Vettel again had to perform a recovery drive to sixth, but it left his championship hopes as good as finished.
Points: Hamilton 331, Vettel 264
Holding the winners’ trophy at Suzuka, Hamilton reflects on taking a big step towards the title
United States Grand Prix
Hamilton’s first opportunity to win the title – and he nearly got close to pulling it off.
The Brit required just a seven point winning margin over Vettel, who after another tangle with a Red Bull – this time Ricciardo – was forced to recover to secure a late fourth after passing Bottas.
That meant Hamilton had to win to claim the championship but a decision to pit early backfired.
Despite showing impressive late race pace he was forced to settle for third behind race winner Raikkonen and Verstappen.
Points: Hamilton 346, Vettel 276
Hamilton had to settle for third in Austin behind race winner Raikkonen and Verstappen
Mexican Grand Prix
Red Bull stole the march on Ferrari and Mercedes in qualifying and transferred that pace to the race, as Verstappen cantered off to the win in front of Vettel and Raikkonen.
Hamilton though endured a miserable race as tyre graining issues saw him labour to a fourth place and a long way off the podium.
But his top seven finish coupled with Vettel failing to win ensured his fifth world championship was in the bag.
Points: Hamilton 358, Vettel 294
Despite finishing fourth, Hamilton secured his fifth world championship at the Mexican GP
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