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INSIGHT: How Lewis Won the 2018 Drivers' Championship

The tale of title number five...

As Bono, Lewis' Race Engineer, said over the radio after he crossed the line fourth, "the Championship wasn't won today. It was won through a season of solid work and some f*****g great driving".

So many details go into winning a Formula One World Championship. From consistent results, to strong reliability, hard graft, constant learning, mental resilience... we could go on and on. It's a complicated, ambitious and challenging target to reach, but that makes the success feel all the sweeter.

For Lewis, the dust is starting to settle on a whirlwind weekend in Mexico, where we faced tough tests and struggled to fourth and fifth with our cars. But, crucially, that fourth place was enough for Lewis to wrap up title number five with two rounds to spare.

It wasn't the ideal way to win a World Championship. But, once it's yours, nothing else matters and you wouldn't want to change the road you took to get there. This season, we've faced our most difficult and intense battle of the Hybrid era. Ferrari started the year strong and have been relentless opposition, while Red Bull have put up a good fight too.

For Lewis to secure the Drivers' title at round 19 of an immensely competitive and tricky 21-race season is proof of the strong form he's been in all year long. In fact, we'd go as far as saying he's in the best form of his Formula One career so far.

The stats don't lie either. He's scored nine victories so far and is guaranteed to end the year with the highest tally of the season. Nine pole positions, 15 podiums... he sits atop many of the stats lists after 19 rounds, thanks to the remarkable consistency that's helped him to a fifth title - joining a very elite group of racers, as a result.

Pole position at the season-opener in Australia kicked the year off well, but the deployment of the Virtual Safety Car and the resulting impact on his race strategy dropped Lewis to the runner-up spot. A remarkable fightback in Bahrain featured a three-car overtake and a well-earned third place finish, before a tough Chinese GP in Shanghai.

Azerbaijan once again put on another impressively-bonkers Grand Prix. Sadly, that drama included a late puncture for Valtteri whilst leading - but it did promote Lewis to victory and his first win of the season. He was back on the top step in Spain, too, after a stunning drive.

It was a dominant display at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and a welcome boost of confidence, in what looked set to be a fierce fight at the front. "This is more like it, let's keep this up!!!" Lewis said over the radio after crossing the line. But, would the good results continue?

It became obviously from the moment the 2018 field hit the track that the pecking order would ebb and flow from each race weekend. Some tracks clearly suited our car, others favoured the Ferrari or Red Bull. Monaco and Canada were tough weekends for us, the latter being a particularly heavy hit.

But, despite a tough couple of weekends, Lewis left Montreal just one point behind Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers' standings. The battle was very much on - he just needed some positive momentum to carry through the daunting triple-header to come...

That looked likely, too, after a measured victory at Paul Ricard - as the French GP returned to the calendar - and then we were swiftly off to Austria. But, the momentum hit a stumbling block when Lewis exited the race with a loss of fuel pressure, joining Valtteri on the sidelines after a devastating double retirement for the team.

It didn't get much better on lap one at Silverstone, in front of the adoring British GP crowds. Lewis was on the hunt for a sixth victory at his home event and a spectacular Qualifying lap put him in pole position to achieve that. But, a tap from Kimi Räikkönen at Village sent his fortunes spinning.

Dropping to the back of the pack wasn't ideal... but Lewis never gives up. Digging deep, he gave it absolutely everything in his fightback, scything through the field and eventually finishing second to secure a healthy haul of points for his Championship tally. A tough afternoon, but still plenty of opportunities to shine...

Losing hydraulic pressure in Q1 wasn't how Lewis had wanted to kick-start his charge in the second half of the season, but that didn't stop him from storming to an incredible victory in Germany from 14th on the grid - helped, of course, by Vettel's Ferrari exiting the race from the lead, after beaching it in the gravel trap in slippery conditions.

Rain also played a role in our fortunes in Hungary. We didn't expect the Hungaroring to suit the W09, but heavy showers in Qualifying levelled the playing field and Lewis was in a league of his own out there. He emerged from the spray on pole and converted that to an unexpected victory to leave Budapest with a 24-point advantage. Not a bad way to enter F1's summer break...

The team returned to action at Spa-Francorchamps in late August and were met with a wake-up call. Ferrari had clearly taken a big step forward and, while Lewis took pole, there was nothing he could do to keep the rapid Vettel behind.

Thankfully, the team came back fighting in Monza, with Lewis surviving a tap from Vettel on lap one and a close battle with Räikkönen to take victory at Ferrari's home event. Revenge had never felt so sweet - but the real turning point was still to come...

Singapore has been something of a 'bogey' track for us in the past - particularly in 2017 (even if we did emerge from the mayhem with a fortuitous win!) We were determined to change that, though, and riding the positive wave of Monza's race result, we found ourselves right in the fight at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Lewis' pole lap on Saturday was one that we will all remember for quite some time, and has been a stand-out moment from his 2018 season so far. "That lap just started perfect and it just kept going - it felt magical," he said afterwards. "It felt like one of the best - if not the best lap I've ever done. It's what my brother and me would call a 'sexy lap'."

His pole position margin? A cool 0.319s over Max Verstappen's Red Bull. He converted his Qualifying result into a commanding victory, only once looking challenged (when he got bogged down in traffic). Victory in Singapore and a 40-point advantage over his nearest title rival... that was the turning point.

From there it was onwards to Russia where the team scored a 1-2 finish - but it wasn't one that sat comfortably. Valtteri was on impressive form all weekend, taking pole and leading the first part of the race. Lewis sat in second, lost a place to Vettel in the stops and retook the position again with a daring Turn 4 overtake.

However, he'd blistered his tyres in the process. In order to protect Lewis and give him the maximum points possible in the Drivers' title fight, the difficult call was made to swap our drivers around. Valtteri duly moved over, like the absolute gentleman and team player that he is, with Lewis going on to win. We're racers at heart, but it's the head that sometimes has to overrule the heart.

Suzuka is always one of the highlights of the season. The brilliant fans, the incredible culture, the legendary track... it's a weekend to remember every year. 2018 was definitely one of those for Lewis, claiming his 80th pole position in F1 and leading another 1-2 finish on Sunday - taking his 50th win with the team in the process.

There was a lot of talk and expectation ahead of the US GP in Austin, Texas. With his exceptional record at the Circuit of the Americas (5 wins from 6 races), many were certain Lewis would be crowned Champion in the Lone Star State. Things looked encouraging on Saturday, after taking pole. But it unravelled for him in the race and P3 wasn't enough to give him the title.

He wouldn't have to wait long, though. Mexico was a tough one. We struggled all weekend and were clearly the third fastest team. So, for Lewis to Qualify P3 on the grid was a remarkable achievement and put him in a strong position to take the title the following day.

His start was close to perfection and jumped him up to second place. In fact, he briefly led into the first corner, but smartly backed out to avoid any possible contact. Verstappen's Red Bull romped off into the distance, while both of our cars hit issues with tyre degradation, transitioning Lewis to a two-stop race.

Fourth was the best position possible for Lewis on Sunday afternoon in Mexico City. But while it was a second consecutive year off the podium at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, once again the result was enough for him to seal the title.

"Honestly, it's very hard to realise it at the moment," he said afterwards, clearly struggling to sum up his emotions. "It's something I dreamed of, but I never in a million years thought I'd be standing here today a five-time World Champion.

"I never knew that was going to happen and I am just so grateful to everyone who has helped me be here. To achieve the same thing Fangio had done with Mercedes so many years ago, is an incredible feeling and very surreal at the moment. This is a very humbling experience."

Even a few days later, we're not sure if the achievement has really sunk in yet for Lewis. It can take some time. He's further cemented his name in F1's history books and joined a very exclusive club that only Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher were a part of - racers with five or more Drivers' titles.

A Championship-winning season is a complicated recipe, with a long list of ingredients. And no driver will ever get all of them in the bowl! It was a rollercoaster ride, arguably one of the most intense of his career. But, Lewis did it. He's now a five-time F1 Drivers' Champion. And we couldn't be prouder.