Olympic champion Lewis Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher’s all-time record after winning the world title at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton needed to finish sixth or higher to be crowned world champion for a fifth time, which was achieved by taking fourth place.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso took the fourth place he needed to finish eighth in Abu Dhabi to finish on the podium for the sixth year in a row.
After becoming world champion for the fifth time, the 30-year-old Hamilton said: “I don’t think I will ever get tired of this.
“This shows a lot about the hard work. When I was 21 and trying to get a job, I was getting in lots of fights, but I couldn’t afford any.
“It’s not an easy sport for anyone to win. But now I can do it with total feeling, with no worries, with no heart attacks.
“It has been a tough season, everyone in my team has made a huge effort.
“But we’ve really tried to make it as easy as possible for myself.”
For many months now Hamilton and Mercedes have been saying he would need to get three successive wins to win the title, but in a year in which he never took a race win outside of Brazil he appears to have been passed for the title by Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who was a second behind him in fourth in Abu Dhabi, just as he was at the start of Sunday’s race.
“Coming into the season I said there were three races,” Hamilton said. “With Sebastian qualifying second I’d have to take each one, every time, and the final one here was always the one I thought about the most.”
“It’s more than incredible. I’m honoured to join Michael and the others.”
As well as a new championship, Hamilton has kept alive his hopes of a fifth consecutive world title, which would make him the greatest ever driver.
This was the halfway point of the title battle. Vettel is still second, seven points behind and 51 behind Hamilton, with Alonso just eight behind and in eighth place.
Hamilton has a 50-point lead over Vettel and has a 62-point cushion over Alonso. Alonso will be retiring at the end of the season.
For Hamilton, this was a win – and a really good one, too – and a ninth podium of the season. But as Vettel said: “Lewis is a hell of a driver and I’ll never take his crown away. I think he’s the best in the world and just far and away the best driver of our generation.”
Vettel added: “This has been a phenomenal season with the ups and downs.
“We have been close – in Australia he did well on tyres and then in the races it was a bit up and down.
“It wasn’t as good as I would have liked it to be and once we really realised we were battling for the title and almost won, it’s going to be an interesting summer break.”
Drivers of Hamilton and Alonso – a club of seven
Media playback is not supported on this device Hamilton’s decade of excellence
As the year comes to a close, there has been much talk of how the young Hamilton might have fared against the legends of Formula 1 history.
One particular episode occurred at the Belgian Grand Prix earlier this season, when Hamilton celebrated becoming world champion in Senna’s father’s tribute to the late Brazilian, Formula One’s ultimate all-time great.
When Hamilton ended his lap celebrating with the new Brawn GP car in the paddock, Vettel asked who the driver of the new car was, to which Hamilton replied: “I hope my name isn’t Fernando.”
Vettel said: “You don’t believe in F1 until you have had such a feeling for it. As Lewis said, you would walk into the paddock and feel a lot of the weight of the world off your shoulders.
“You see people you have never even met before and it’s like a present. You walk past Fernando and he is smiling and waving.
“It’s a unique feeling and unique points for F1. I don’t know if it’s because of what I have done but I’ve come to realise over the years how crazy this world of motorsport is. It can be very exciting as well as very quite unique.”
Hamilton said: “I spent so much time reflecting on what had happened I forgot about being champion. It’s been a privilege and an honour. I am so proud of what we have achieved.”