MEXICO CITY (AFP) - A relieved, if happy, Lewis Hamilton admitted clinching his fourth drivers' world title in a tense and dramatic Mexican Grand Prix was something of a horror show.
The 32-year-old Briton, who thrilled an enthusiastic crowd with celebratory 'donuts' after completing his slow-down lap with a British flag in his cockpit, came home ninth to seal the championship.
Dutchman Max Verstappen, 20, won the race in convincing fashion for Red Bull, his second win of the year and third of his career while Hamilton's title rival four-time champion Sebastian Vettel finished fourth.
"That was a horrible way to do it to be honest," said Hamilton, who knew Vettel had to finish first or second to prevent him taking the championship.
The pair collided at the first corner on the opening lap when the German's Ferrari hit the rear right wheel of Hamilton's Mercedes.
Both cars were damaged and returned to the pits, Hamilton with a puncture and Vettel needing a new front wing.
"I was trying not to be too aggressive there in T1 and left a lot of space for the car behind," said Hamilton who asked his team if it had been a deliberate move by Vettel, but there was no clear response.
"I'd like to say a big thanks to everybody in this team," said Hamilton. "What you've done in the past couple of years is incredible. I'm so grateful.
"I kept coming back today and I am proud to race for all the team. I have tried this year to work hard and do all I can in this team. I try not to leave any stone unturned in my preparation and that is the team philosophy.
"We have won four constructors' titles and that is so amazing, too.
"In this race, I was 40 seconds behind and you know that just feels like being in no-man's land, but like I said I never gave up."
He added that he had no immediate thoughts of adding to his four titles - only Michael Schumacher on seven and Juan-Manuel Fangio on five have won more.
"I am taking it one day at a time right now," he said. "I am really happy to have won this one, my fourth.
"And, in the end, I want to make people happy. This is what is important and in my heart, I am so grateful for today.
"And this crowd, here in Mexico, is just amazing. The fans here are the best in the world."