Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took victory in Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix, but will have to wait at least one more race before being assured of this year’s world title.
The Briton will seal his sixth championship — and his fifth in the last six years — at next weekend’s United States Grand Prix provided he does not finish lower than eighth, with teammate Valtteri Bottas the only other driver still capable of overhauling Hamilton’s points total, reports Xinhua news agency.
Hamilton’s win on Sunday came after a tense and tactical affair that showcased his ability to push hard while minimising tyre wear.
The opening laps gave little indication of how the race would finish, with Hamilton dropping to fourth after light contact with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, and the twin Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel looking strong at the front.
But, while Leclerc and the third-placed Red Bull of Alex Albon pitted on lap 15 for the first of two stops, Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas stayed out, setting the stage for an intriguing tactical battle.
Hamilton made his only pitstop on lap 24, meaning he would have to complete a 47-lap stint on worn tyres, and the Briton initially seemed pessimistic about his chances of making the strategy work, radioing his team to suggest that he had pitted too early.
Vettel and Bottas waited until lap 38 to pit for new tyres, and once Leclerc and Albon had made their second stops, the German found himself in second place behind Hamilton, and with his tyres considerably fresher, he must have fancied his chances of overhauling the Mercedes.
However, Vettel reckoned without Hamilton’s skilful tyre management, as the Briton was able to conserve his older rubber without sacrificing lap time to take his 83rd career win.
The German had to be content with second place, with Bottas rounding out the top three. Despite starting from pole position, Leclerc could only finish fourth after Ferrari’s decision to bring him in for an early pitstop backfired, and with the Scuderia now having failed to convert pole into a win for the third consecutive race, uncomfortable questions about the team’s operational capabilities are increasingly being asked.
After a bright start, Albon faded slightly to finish in a lonely fifth place, one position ahead of teammate Verstappen, whose race was ruined after his right rear tyre was punctured when dicing with Bottas in the opening laps.
Hamilton’s win moves him onto 363 points, ahead of Bottas on 289 and Leclerc on 236. In the constructors’ championship, Mercedes have already been crowned champions and now have 652 points, with Ferrari second on 466 and Red Bull sitting third with 341.