Sebastian Vettel, who has been gracious and honourable in defeat, has admitted that Lewis Hamilton deserved to beat him to the 2017 drivers’ title, according to a Sky news report.
Hamilton, on Sunday, equalled Vettel’s record of winning four F1 world championships after a chaotic Mexican GP.
It was also a race that provided more on-track contact between the pair, with the pole-sitting Vettel shunting into the back of Hamilton’s Mercedes at the exit of Turn Two in contact that forced both drivers into early pit-stops.
While the Ferrari driver said that while the collision and his subsequent fourth-place finish was “disappointing”, he conceded: “It’s not that important what we have done today.
“It’s more important what Lewis has done and he’s done a superb job all year round and deserves to win the title.
“Congratulations to him. It’s not about anybody else today. It’s about him. It’s his day.”
Vettel needed to finish second at the very least to have any chance of taking the title fight to Brazil, but what seemed unlikely was soon a near-impossible task as he dropped to 18th following his early stop due to front wing damage.
The German made up 14 places and his drive included some stunning overtakes, but in the end he was made to pay for yet another 2017 collision – his first with Hamilton since the Azerbaijan GP in June.
Indeed, the multi world champions’ relationship appears to have turned sour since that point with Hamilton asking his Mercedes team “did he deliberately hit me?” after sustaining the first-lap right-rear puncture on Sunday.
But there was a sign of the early-2017 respect between the drivers in the media pen after Hamilton’s ninth-place finish, with Vettel embracing and congratulating the Englishman on his title triumph.
“I don’t fear him,” Vettel added. “I like racing with him but I would have liked a little bit more of that this year.
“Overall they were just the better bunch.”