Lewis Hamilton: 2017 Formula 1 world championship hardest to win

Lewis Hamilton said his fourth Formula 1 world championship was the hardest to win, after he clinched it by finishing ninth in the Mexican Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton: 2017 Formula 1 world championship hardest to win

F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel needed to win with Hamilton sixth or lower to keep the title battle alive until the penultimate race in Brazil, but the Ferrari driver could only finish fourth with Hamilton ninth following a first-lap collision between them.

MEXICAN GP ANALYSIS: The four-way 2018 fight ahead

It brought to an end F1's first two-team battle for the drivers' championship since 2013, with Hamilton winning his third title in four years with two races to spare.

The Mercedes driver has now joined Vettel, Alain Prost, Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as the only drivers to have won at least four F1 titles.

The newly-crowned world champion pointed to fending off a strong Ferrari, with two world champions in Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, and a resurgent Red Bull as a key reason for making this title "definitely" the hardest to win.

"2008 was tough, 2007 [when he narrowly missed out] was difficult. 2008 was very tough. The following years have just been different," said Hamilton.

"This year, being in a position to really lead the team and help drive, motivate and direct the car exactly where I want it to go in its development, alongside a great team-mate and fighting against a great team in Ferrari with the highest decorated, or was the highest decorated driver in the sport - we are now both - was a massive challenge I was looking forward to.

"It's great to have two teams fighting. You could see through practice, us all within a tenth, the top six or whatever.

"I think that's great. We need more of that. It pushes us all more to the limit, it pushes the cars more to the limit and that's ultimately what has got us excited for the sport."

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff added that this year, in which Mercedes won its fourth consecutive constructors' championship, was "certainly the hardest for the team" as it battled to get the most out of a car he has described as a "diva".

"We had quite some ups ands downs - a new car, new tyres - and to accept that this is the reality now, and to progress, was difficult for the team, and took the maximum out of us."

Hamilton echoed that sentiment, adding: "We've all loved that challenge. Every single individual in the team has really raised their game.

"You go to the factory and I'm like 'why are you still here at 7pm or 8pm?' Sometimes it's later. They are like 'I've got a championship to win'. That hasn't come so easy."

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