While the Formula One® season ended with a familiar face on top, the 2018 campaign provided some of the best thrills, close finishes, frightening collisions and key moments that we'll be talking about for years to come.
The world watched as Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton dominated the second half of the season en route to his fifth-career World Championship — tied for second most all-time — and as Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari continually slipped up on their way to the finish line.
With a familiar face crowned champion and a legendary driver saying his farewell to the sport, let's look at the moments that defined the 2018 F1® season.
Hamilton Spoils Vettel's Homecoming
There's always going to be an argument about which race led to the eventual champion taking hold in the title race, but it's tough not to lean towards the events of the German Grand Prix when reflecting on the 2018 season.
Ferrari's Vettel entered the race eight points ahead of Hamilton, and the German was looking to extend his lead on home soil.
Vettel led for most of the race, looking for his first ever F1 victory in his home country, but then disaster struck. In the final laps, the wet conditions on the track finally got to the Ferrari driver as he drifted off the course and into the barriers. In the interim, Hamilton, who started the race from the 14th position, overtook the then-leader and bolted towards the finish line for what he described as a "miracle" victory.
I wish I could describe this feeling right now... What a day, true proof that you should never give up!! The team did such a great job as they always do, I can’t thank them enough! I kept the belief and it came true. A big, big thanks to God 🙌🏾 #Godisthegreatest @MercedesAMGF1 pic.twitter.com/5j3VBNFpJA— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) July 22, 2018
The win put Hamilton 17 points ahead of Vettel, and set the course for things to come. Hamilton won six out of the next seven races (including Germany) and took the title race into his own hands, while Vettel was continually plagued by personal errors and mistakes.
Kimi Claims COTA
With the title race coming to a close and Hamilton needing to place three spots higher than Vettel at the United States Grand Prix, it looked like the drama was already written for the Circuit of The Americas™.
But little did Hamilton know that he would instead be fending off a bid from Ferrari's second driver, Kimi Raikkonen. The Iceman took the lead at COTA in the first lap and never let up, keeping Hamilton and a soaring Max Verstappen from overtaking him throughout the race
The victory was a resurrection for the Fin — it was his first win in 113 race starts. It was also a bittersweet moment, as Raikkonen left Ferrari at the end of the year to join Sauber for the 2019 season.
Ericsson Crash in Monza
One of the darker aspects of F1®, but also a reality of high-speed racing, is the potential of large-impact crashes occuring during a race or practice.
That unfortunate reality hit for Sauber's Marcus Ericsson when he was involved in one of the most jaw-dropping (for the wrong reasons) crashes of 2018.
During a practice round before the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Ericsson's car took a sharp left turn leading up to the first corner and collided head on with the wall. After the initial collision, his car started to topple and barrel-roll with debris flying everywhere.
Somehow, someway, the Swede walked away from the devastated remnants of his vehicle.
Take a look at the crash for yourself:
It wasn't the picture-perfect sendoff with a race victory or trophy in hand, but then again, nothing in Fernando Alonso's career has gone exactly to plan.
The saucy Spaniard said goodbye to F1® at the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the finale of the 2018 season. Alonso won back-to-back World Championships in 2005 and 2006 for Renault, but couldn't rekindle that magic throughout the next decade.
While there is some speculation that Alonso may return in the future, he says that his current decision is the one he plans to stand by.
Hamilton Raises No. 5
When the dust was settled, the tires cooled down and the engines stopped, Hamilton stood above the rest of the competition and etched his name into the history books.
Hamilton officially won his fifth World championship after a fourth-place finish in the Mexican Grand Prix, but his legendary season didn't stop there. He ended the season as the first man to surpass 400 points in a season, thanks to his first-place finish at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
With championship No. 5 now in the bag, the 33-year old Hamilton now has a new magic number — 7. That is the number of titles held by Michael Schumacher, and Hamilton will make it his new goal to reach that tally over the coming seasons.
With the type of season the Brit had in 2018, it's hard to believe he won't give Schumacher a real run for his money.
Be at the 2019 United States Grand Prix
With the 2018 season in the books, we're already looking forward to what F1 has in store for 2019. We already know one of the biggest events on the calendar will be the sport's return to the Circuit of The Americas for the 2019 United States Grand Prix. With an Official Ticket Package from COTA Experiences, you can be in the heat of the action among the biggest names in the sport at the USGP. Click below to see our Official Ticket Package offerings: