He shocked even himself but Lewis Hamilton claimed not only victory in an action-packed Turkish Grand Prix but also sealed his seventh world championship in the process.
With Valtteri Bottas needing to out-score his Mercedes team-mate by eight points to take it to the next race in Bahrain, the Finn did himself no favours with a spin at the first corner - one of four he would have - relegating him to the back of the pack. He would end up a lap behind Hamilton come the chequered flag.
Hamilton stuttered at the start and got stuck behind Sebastian Vettel, who made a remarkable start in his Ferrari. At one stage, Hamilton was more than 20 seconds off the lead, but when the German pitted, he was able to draw back to the leading pack of Lance Stroll, Sergio Perez and Alex Albon.
Max Verstappen had threatened to be a player for the race win but spun trying to pass Perez for second, while Stroll's lead fizzled out with a pit-stop onto new inters which he simply could not activate.
Hamilton's charge saw him pass Perez for the lead as others pitted, but he opted to stay out and spent 53 laps on his intermediates to claim a victory which looked unlikely just 24 hours earlier.
“I'm lost for words," he said afterwards. "Naturally, I have to thank the team, here and at the factories. Our journey has been monumental. I also want to thank all my fans for sticking with me for all these years. And to my family. We dreamed of this when I was young, watching Grand Prix, but this is way beyond our dreams.
“We knew coming here would be difficult. We were massively disappointed with qualifying, we were on the back foot, but we learned a lot. Today, we had that small moment at the start of the race and I couldn't pass Seb for a while, but I could see everyone pulling away. But I kept my head down and picked up the pace. I couldn't figure out what our problem was, but we got to a drier patch and it started to come back to me and I was improving all the way through.
“I decided to stay out and as the tyres got more slick, it was exactly what we needed. New slicks would not have lasted. I lose the championship in 2007 in the pitlane like that, but I felt like I had this under control. Just wow.”
Perez managed to hold off a late charge from Charles Leclerc to keep second spot on the last lap, but an opportunist move from Vettel saw him pass his team-mate for third at the final chicane.
"One more lap on those tyres and I think they would have exploded," said Perez, who also took his tyres to more than 50 laps. "The vibrations were so bad. But it made the race. Looking after them through the conditions was fantastic. I think Lewis was extremely strong towards the end, but we had a really good result.
“I wasn't aware Charles was so close to me, he passed me, I passed him back at the end. It was a chaotic race but a great result for us."
Vettel, picking up his first podium of the season, added: "It was quite intense but good fun. I haf a good opening lap, and was quite happy on the wets but on the inters it was only towards the end we found the pace again. It was a surprise to get the podium on the last lap!
“I saw that Charles was close to Sergio, so I was chasing them down and I could see them fight. When I saw Charles lock up, I took the opportunity.
“I was thinking about dry tyres with about 20 laps to go, but the tyres we so worn I was already on slicks but nobody dared. I would have liked to put them on because I think I could have won, but I'm happy to be on the podium.”
Leclerc just about managed to hold off Carlos Sainz for fourth place, ahead of both Red Bulls of Verstappen and Albon, who slumped to sixth and seventh come the chequered flag. Lando Norris finished eighth after a late pass on the hapless Stroll, with Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the points in tenth.