Lewis Hamilton joined a very elite group when he won his fourth world championship in Mexico, becoming just the fifth driver to do so. He secured it by coming home ninth – a slightly unusual, but definitely memorable way to do it.
How does that compare to the way the sports other four-time champs won their fourth title? Let’s take a look.
The 2013 season was shaping up to be as close as the previous season had been, but safety concerns about the tyres led Pirelli to make some adjustments mid-season. From then on Sebastian Vettel was pretty much untouchable, winning in Germany, finishing third in Hungary, and then going on to win the last nine consecutive races of the year, a record.
With so many wins he obviously wrapped up the championship fairly early – in India, to be exact, the 16th of the 19 races that year. After starting from pole, he elected to pit very early – on lap two to be exact – and quickly made his way back up to second place. He assumed the lead again when Mark Webber pitted and went on to win from Nico Rosberg by almost half a minute as Webber retired.
It was a crushing performance, and with his championship lead over Fernando Alonso extended to 115 points with three races to go, he was crowned champion. To celebrate he decided not to go to parc fermé and instead go back to the pit straight, where he did several donuts and got out and praised his car in front of a packed grandstand of fans.
It was an awesome sight, but not for the spoilsports at the FIA. They fined Red Bull (who’d also won the constructors’ title) and reprimanded Vettel for his crowd-pleasing antics. Not that he cared – he’d just won four consecutive championships!
When you think of Michael Schumacher at Ferrari in the early 2000s, you think of one word: dominance. 2002 (when he was on the podium for every single race) and 2004 (when he won 12 of the first 13 races) are usually remembered as being his most commanding years, but 2001 was also a pretty damn dominant season for him.
Across the year he won nine races, retired twice, and, apart from a fourth place at Monza, was second in all the others as teammate Rubens Barrichello didn’t even win once. Also, his closest rival for much of the year was, well, David Coulthard…
By the 13th round in Hungary, Schumacher only had to win to take the title. He started off well by taking pole by eight-tenths of a second, and from then on it never really looked in doubt.
Aside from during the pit stops, Schumacher led the whole race and took the win – a record-equalling (at the time) 51st – and his fourth world championship with four race left to go in the season. Barrichello came home in second, which also meant Ferrari won the constructors’ title.
By finishing third Coulthard was out of the hunt (not that he was ever really in it), and though he ended the season as runner-up, he’d only amassed 65 points to Schumacher’s massive tally of 123.
Alain Prost took a sabbatical from F1 in 1992. Nowadays that’s usually a euphemism for retirement (we’re still waiting for Mika Hakkinen to come back from his sabbatical!) but Prost actually returned to F1 in 1993, and with one of the greatest F1 cars of all time at his disposal – the Williams FW15C.
Across the year he won seven races and was on pole 13 times as he waltzed to the title, with little threat from an inexperienced Damon Hill on the other side of the garage or from Ayrton Senna in an underpowered McLaren.
He won on course to secure the championship at Monza, but with five laps to go his engine failed whilst he was leading. That meant his coronation would have to wait until the next round in Portugal, the 14th of the 16 races that year.
Hill (who was his closest championship challenger heading into the race) took pole but his car wouldn’t start on the parade lap and he had to start from the back, all-but guaranteeing Prost the championship as long as he got to the finish ahead of his teammate.
After the pit stops had all shaken out, Prost found himself in second behind Schumacher. Though he was faster than the Benetton driver he took zero risks and was quite content to sit behind in order to make sure of the championship (especially as Hill had brilliantly recovered to third).
As Schumacher held on for his second career victory, Prost was crowned world champion for the fourth and final time in his career, as he’d announced that weekend that he would be retiring from the sport at the end of the season.
Juan Manuel Fangio won back-to-back titles with Mercedes in 1954 and 1955 (to add to his earlier one for Alfa Romeo in 1951), but with Mercedes withdrawing from motorsport at the end of 1955 following the Le Mans disaster, Fangio ended up signing for Ferrari for 1956.
He didn’t get on very well with Enzo Ferrari, but the team’s Lancia-designed cars were the best at the time so he stuck it out, and the title battle ended up being between himself and his teammate, Peter Collins.
Heading into the final race at Monza, Collins needed a bit of luck to win the championship – he’d have to win and hope that Fangio retired.
Unbelievably, a bit of luck was exactly what he got. The steering arm on Fangio’s car broke and he was out, putting Collins in a position to win the championship. However, in what has to be the ultimate sporting gesture in F1 history, Collins handed over his car to Fangio during a pit stop because he felt he deserved to win it more, and saying that he’d have plenty of time to win one for himself in the future.
Stirling Moss won the race, but Fangio brought Collins’ car home in second place, winning the fourth of his five world championships in the process. Sadly for Collins, he never did get to win a championship of his own as he was killed during the 1958 German Grand Prix at the Nordschleife.