Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates after claiming the Formula One world title on Sunday in Mexico City. Photo: VCGLewis Hamilton clinched his fourth drivers' world championship in unexpected but dramatic fashion on Sunday when, after a first-lap collision with title rival Sebastian Vettel, he finished ninth in the Mexican Grand Prix.
The 32-year-old Briton, who would have needed to finish in the top five to be sure of the title if Vettel had won the race, battled from last position in his Mercedes after suffering a puncture that needed an opening-lap pit stop as Dutchman Max Verstappen won the race for Red Bull.
Vettel, already a four-time champion, came home fourth for Ferrari after driving through the field from 19th following his part in the early crash with Hamilton. He also pitted for a new front wing.
Hamilton's title triumph made him the first Briton to be a four-time champion, elevating him clear of Jackie Stewart, and alongside Vettel and Frenchman Alain Prost.
Only German Michael Schumacher with seven titles and Argentine Juan-Manuel Fangio on five have claimed more championships than the Englishman.
"I don't know what happened at Turn 3, I gave him plenty of room," said Hamilton.
"It doesn't feel real man. It's not the race you want when you're 40 seconds down, but I never gave up."
After five wins in the previous six races, it was a disappointing way for Hamilton - who said he wanted to win the title in style - to win the crown.
Verstappen won the race convincingly ahead of Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and his Finnish compatriot Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari.
"I'd like to say a big thanks to everybody in this Mercedes team," said Hamilton. "What you've done the past couple of years is incredible. I'm so grateful."
Despite becoming the most successful British driver of all time, he reassured reporters that he was far from done.
"Four is a great number. But I want number 5 now," declared Hamilton, who also races with the number 44 on his car. "I want to go out at the top ... I could do the easy thing, like obviously Nico [Rosberg who quit days after winning last year's F1 world championship] did, which is just stop and retreat with these four titles. But I think there's more in me.
"I think there's more to come, more of a challenge."
Vettel finished fourth ahead of Frenchman Esteban Ocon of Force India, Williams' Canadian rookie Lance Stroll on his 19th birthday, and local Mexican hero Sergio Perez in the second Force India.
Dane Kevin Magnussen finished eighth for Haas ahead of Hamilton and two-time champion Fernando Alonso, who battled hard to resist Hamilton before finishing 10th for McLaren.
Verstappen led from the first lap once Hamilton and Vettel had clashed.
"The start was very crucial, I went around the outside and from then on I was just looking after the car and the tires," said the Dutchman after a third race win.