Lewis Hamilton has been crowned Formula 1 world champion for a fourth time.
Hamilton was hit by title rival Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap of the Mexican GP but secured the championship after fighting back into the points while the Ferrari driver only finished fourth.
“It doesn’t feel real,” said Hamilton. “I’m really happy with this fourth. I’m going to have to take some time to really think about it but I’m proud of the flag and everyone who represents it.
“That’s not the kind of race that you want but I never gave up.”
Hamilton’s feat makes him the most successful British driver in Formula 1 history and draws the Mercedes driver level with Vettel and Alain Prost in the all-time standings.
Only five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher, who won a record-breaking seven, have won more drivers’ titles in F1 history.
But Hamilton’s coronation was overshadowed by his first-lap clash with Vettel when the Ferrari hit the rear of the Englishman’s Mercedes.
“Did he hit me deliberately?” Hamilton asked over team radio.
After the race, the 32-year-old added: “I don’t think I was too aggressive. I put my car in the perfect position and I left a lot of space for the car behind.”
But the pair later warmly embraced in the paddock as Vettel congratulated Hamilton as a deserved champion.
“Lewis has done a superb job all year round and deserves to win the title,” said the German.
Hamilton and Vettel were forced to pit at the end of the first lap but Hamilton emerged a further 30 seconds behind the Ferrari and facing a long afternoon fighting back into the top ten.
Hamilton eventually crossed the line in ninth.
“It was a horrible way to do it, to be honest,” Hamilton said. “I had no idea what was going to happen to the championship,
“I hope those that are watching are happy with this year’s result and I’ll continue to rise it as high as I can.”