Defending champion Lewis Hamilton secured his third world title in dramatic fashion on Sunday when he took victory in a roller-coaster, stop-start, wet-and-dry United States Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old Briton, who started from second on the grid, came home 2.850 seconds clear of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to deliver his 10th victory of a dominant season.
Hamilton now has an unbeatable total of 327 points, moving him beyond the reach of both Rosberg, who finished second, and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, who came home third.
But an emotional Hamilton owed his victory, in the end, to an unforced error by Rosberg on the 49th lap when he made a mistake and ran wide at Turn 15 as the pair duelled for the lead.
“It’s the greatest moment of my life,” said Hamilton, on the verge of tears.
“Thank you all so much, I am so grateful to you all. And to my family I love you all.”
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen finished fourth for Toro Rosso ahead of Sergio Perez of Force India, Carlos Sainz in the second Toro Rosso, Jenson Button of McLaren and Pastor Maldonado who was eighth for Lotus.
Felipe Nasr came home ninth for Sauber and Australian Daniel Ricciardo was 10th for Red Bull, having passed two-time champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren on the final lap.
Hamilton’s success enabled him to equal the record of Jackie Stewart as the only Britons to win three drivers’ world titles and the first to win two championships in succession.
“I’m very disappointed,” Rosberg told rock star Elton John who was carrying out the podium interviews at the Circuit of the Americas.
“Something like that (his late error) has never happened to me ever. Really tough to lose the lead and the win like that.”
Vettel, who started from the middle of the grid after a 10-place penalty, added: “We have a great car. I think we have exceeded all expectations, but it doesn’t feel great when you cross the line and you know you can’t win the championship any more.”
Three-time champion Niki Lauda welcomed Hamilton to the exclusive club for triple title-winners and forecast the 30-year-old Briton would “get better and better.”
Lauda, a member of the Mercedes’ team senior management, said the race was “the best ever to watch” and a fitting way for him to take his third crown.
“That was good, very good,” said Lauda. “You just cannot complain. It was the best race ever, to watch.
“Now he’s only as good as I am! But, I’m joking. He will get better and win more, I tell you.”
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff added: “Lewis deserves the world championship. He was brilliant in his driving and Nico was a little less lucky.
“We need to build him up again in the next few days, but it’s an amazing feeling, double constructors’ and drivers’ champions.”
Hamilton’s 10th win of the season enabled him to move one victory clear of four-time champion Vettel as the driver with the third most wins in Formula One history.
Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher won 91 Grands Prix, Alain Prost won 51 and Hamilton has now won 43 races, one more than Vettel’s total of 42.
Ayrton Senna, Hamilton’s childhood hero and inspiration, won 41.