Lewis Hamilton claimed a second controlled victory in as many weeks as he gave his title chances another boost with a lights-to-flag win at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico ahead of Mercedes AMG Petronas team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg.
Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer’s Daniel Ricciardo was classified third – eventually – as his stablemate Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel came to blows in the dying embers of the contest.
As was the case in Austin, the two Silver Arrows made level starts from the front row, with Hamilton pulling across to the right to cover off any advance from Rosberg. However, Hamilton locked his left-front brake heading into the heavy braking zone for turn one, and was forced to skate across the grass before rejoining in the lead. The stewards ruled Hamilton, who had his lead neutralized by a safety car period for an incident behind involving Pascal Wehrlein’s Manor and the Sauber of Marcus Ericcson, had not gained an advantage, and the status quo was upheld.
Ricciardo chose to pit early for a set of medium compound tyres during the safety car window, but despite emerging in front of Verstappen a call from the team came to allow the Dutchman through, which Ricciardo duly obeyed.
Then came one of Verstappen’s most impressive stints in Formula One yet. Despite the inherent advantage the W07 still possesses on circuit, the Red Bull driver closed to within striking distance of Rosberg. “He’s just trying to put you under pressure Nico” came the reassuring call from Rosberg’s engineer.
Verstappen came close – but not close enough – to relieving the championship leader of second. After Rosberg locked a wheel whilst lapping the STR-Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr., Verstappen attempted a move on the inside three corners later, but slid wide on opposite steering lock. Rosberg duly reclaimed his position and began to build a sustainable advantage.
Whilst Hamilton continued virtually trouble-free at the head of the field, an edgy affair for third place that would drag out long after the race ensued. A long first stint for Vettel had seen him recover to challenge for the final spot on the rostrum, but when passing Verstappen for third into turn one, the latter ran across the grass and held his spot. Vettel cried foul, Red Bull agreed – but crucially the FIA did not. “Tell Charlie [Whiting, race director] to f**k off” was the German’s pragmatic view on the situation.
Vettel then claimed Verstappen was backing him into the sister Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, though a boisterous defensive move into the fourth corner on the penultimate lap ensured Vettel would cross the line fourth. Cue angry hand gestures between Vettel and Verstappen.
Confusion was the order of the evening post-race in Mexico. Verstappen was handed a five-second penalty for gaining an unfair advantage by crossing the grass immediately after the race, and Vettel duly took to the podium ceremony to claim third, before he was then penalised for moving under braking multiple times in defense against Ricciardo. He recieved a ten-second penalty and dropped to fifth, handing the Australian third.
Sergio Perez gave the home fans something to cheer about with a singular point in tenth, though compatriot Esteban Guttierez languished a disappointing 19th in the Haas. By virtue of finishing 7th, Perez’s Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenburg maintains their advantage in the Constructors over Williams Martini Racing by a slender nine points.
For Hamilton, the weekend represented another dominant performance as he bids to chase down Rosberg and claim a fourth world title, but with time running out he will be praying for an error from the German in either of the final two rounds. With Interlagos next on the calendar, Brazil might just be his best chance.
“This is honestly the best crowd we get anywhere. In our home country it is always great, but these guys have such a great passion” commended Hamilton to the stadium complex after climbing from his car.
“Nico is doing a great job. I’m really grateful the team did a great job.”
“I was using a lot of sign language. You have to understand the adrenaline.” explained Vettel of his clash with Verstappen.
“Then obviously he left the track and didn’t move and so you can understand why I was annoyed. I was really disappointed when I crossed the line.”
RACE RESULT – MEXICAN GRAND PRIX (71 LAPS):
|1||Lewis HAMILTON||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||1h40m31.402s|
|2||Nico ROSBERG||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||+8.354s|
|3||Daniel RICCIARDO||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||+20.858s|
|4||Max VERSTAPPEN||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||+21.323s*|
|5||Sebastian VETTEL||Scuderia Ferrari||+27.313s*|
|6||Kimi RAIKKONEN||Scuderia Ferrari||+49.376s|
|7||Nico HULKENBERG||Sahara Force India||+58.891s|
|8||Valterri BOTTAS||Williams Martini Racing||+1m05.612s|
|9||Felipe MASSA||Williams Martini Racing||+1m16.206s|
|10||Sergio PEREZ||Sahara Force India||+1m16.798s|
|11||Marcus ERRICSON||Sauber F1 Team||+1L|
|14||Jolyon PALMER||Renault Sport F1 Team||+1L|
|15||Felipe NASR||Sauber F1 Team||+1L|
|16||Carlos SAINZ JR||Scuderia Toro Rosso||+1L|
|17||Kevin MAGNUSSEN||Renault Sport F1 Team||+1L|
|18||Danill KVYAT||Scuderia Toro Rosso||+1L|
|19||Esteban GUTIERREZ||Haas F1 Team||+1L|
|20||Romain GROSJEAN||Haas F1 Team||+1L|
|21||Esteban OCON||Manor Racing||+1L|
|DNF||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor Racing||Crash damage|
1 Nico ROSBERG – 349
2 Lewis HAMILTON – 330
3 Daniel RICCIARDO – 242
4 Sebastian VETTEL – 187
5 Kimi RAIKKONEN – 178
1 Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team – 679
2 Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer – 427
3 Scuderia Ferrari – 365
4 Sahara Force India – 145
5 Williams Martini Racing – 136