Six key races in Lewis Hamilton's championship season

Austin (AFP) –


Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth drivers world championship title on Sunday when he finished second at the United States Grand Prix.

AFP Sport looks at six key races in the British star's triumphant season:

Bahrain – Leclerc foiled win by engine problems, Hamilton wins

-- After finishing second behind Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the season-opening Australian race, Hamilton enjoyed a slice of luck to claim his first victory of 2019. A dominant Charles Leclerc had claimed his maiden pole position for Ferrari but, after a poor start, had to ignore team orders and pass Sebastian Vettel as he climbed back to lead before an engine problem saw him drop to third. The win put Hamilton within a point of Bottas at the top of the standings, preventing the reinvigorated Finn from enjoying a more luxurious early advantage.

China – Hamilton dominates to move six points clear and take control

-- In F1's 1000th race, Bottas took his second pole of the season after Melbourne, but Hamilton dominated from the start and pulled clear to establish a clear six points lead in the title race, gaining the momentum.

Spain – Hamilton out-starts Bottas to seize initiative

-- Having seen Bottas win from pole in Azerbaijan as Mercedes dominated the early season races, Hamilton bounced back at the Circuit de Catalunya. The Finn was supreme in qualifying again with his third straight pole, but Hamilton passed him at Turn One to register his third win in five and begin a run of four in a row that established him on top of the title race. His dazzling lap for pole in Monaco, two weeks later, proved he was back to his best.

Canada – Vettel penalty gifts important win for Hamilton

-- This was a race shrouded in controversy created on lap 48 when Vettel, who led from his first pole of the season, went off under pressure from Hamilton and then almost hit him as he re-joined. The stewards handed Vettel a five-seconds penalty that relegated him to second despite finishing first with Leclerc third. Ferrari's bid to appeal with new evidence was rejected at the following French race where Hamilton reigned supreme again in a processional Mercedes' sixth one-two of the season.

Hungary – Masterful tactics and flawless driving

-- Evidence of the threat from Red Bull's aggressive Max Verstappen, who beat Leclerc to win in Austria and then stormed to a dramatic win in rain-hit Germany, came when he took his maiden pole position and led the way at the tight Hungaroring with Hamilton unable to pass him.

But a masterful decision to take an extra pit stop saw the champion storm to victory, thanks to his fresher tyres in the closing laps. Ferrari's resurgent speed was soon to transform the form-book and show how valuable this triumph was for Hamilton.

Japan – Hamilton storms to retain advantage

-- The threat of Typhoon Hagibis forced qualifying to take place on Sunday morning, Vettel grabbing pole to give Ferrari their fifth pole in a row since the European summer break.

But the Italian team converted only three into victories, Hamilton winning at Sochi and Bottas at Suzuka where the Briton's third place kept him in a comfortable lead. It was his 29th successive race in the points and, despite nine wins in 17 races to that point, his consistency and tenacity were proving invaluable.