F1 Mexican Grand Prix race results: Lewis Hamilton wins but fails to clinch title
Valtteri Bottas finishes third to take title fight to Texas
Lewis Hamilton moved to the brink of world title No. 6 Sunday, taking Mercedes’ 100th win as a constructor in Formula 1 while Ferrari stumbled yet again and threw away what should have been a comfortable victory in Mexico.
Hamilton had enjoyed his crowning moments in 2017 and 2018 on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, but after Sunday he will have to wait for at least one more week as his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas took third place.
The race got off to a typically frenetic start and a lot of the action as it had on Saturday centered around Red Bull driver Max Verstappen. Eager to make amends for his error of judgment from qualifying which had seen him slapped with a three-place grid penalty, Verstappen went side by side with Hamilton into the first few corners. But contact between the two caused both to take a short trip across the grass and drop positions.
A brief virtual safety car period should have given the Dutchman some time to calm down, but he instead seemed to get himself fired up even more. In a rush to get past Bottas for seventh place, Verstappen’s right-rear tire was clipped by the Mercedes’ front wing and a puncture became evident half a lap later.
Verstappen was forced to pit and fitted with hard tires in the hope that he could make a one-stop strategy work, but now dead last his chances of a third straight Mexican Grand Prix victory were gone.
Ferrari, promoted into a one-two starting position after the demotion of Verstappen Saturday, was busy making its escape at the front. However, Alex Albon was keeping the pair very honest and an early stop from the second Red Bull driver forced Ferrari into employing a split strategy.
With Charles Leclerc leading, he was left on the favored prerace strategy of a stopping twice. Sebastian Vettel was left out to switch to “plan C”—a one-stop strategy—but Mercedes blinked first and it seemed as though advantage had been handed squarely to Mercedes.
In another twist, Hamilton quickly began to light up the radio to question whether they had pitted too early. His hard compound tires he felt were dropping off at an alarming rate. However, it was unclear whether he was more concerned about Leclerc’s two-stop play, or the one-stop option of Vettel.
Among all of the confusion at the front, Verstappen was quickly slicing his way back through the pack and by lap 31 of the 71, was back in 10th and into the points.
On lap 36, Mercedes pulled the trigger on Bottas, and the following lap, Ferrari called time on Vettel’s opening stint. Leclerc and Albon, who both had to stop again, went past, as did Hamilton, but with Hamilton suffering with rear tire wear, he too looked like another stop would be needed before the end of the race.
Ferrari realized that it had made a mistake with Leclerc and pitted him for a second time on lap 45. Having hoped that they would be able to fit the soft tires for a last gasp dash to the line but stopping just under 30 laps from the end, the only option for Leclerc was the hard tire compound.
Mistake or no mistake, Leclerc was lighting up the timesheets as he set about closing the 16-second gap to Hamilton in the lead, and the race again looked as though it could go any of four ways with both Mercedes and Ferrari drivers with a chance to win.
Sadly, after such a tense buildup, the closing stages of the race were anticlimactic. The gaps had come down nicely, but tire management again came into the equation and prevented the top four from bunching up properly and making a real race of it.
As a result, Hamilton comfortably took the flag to extend his championship points lead to 74 points, just four short of claiming world title No. 6.
“Today is an incredible result,” said Hamilton. “I have to say a huge thanks to my team, Mercedes and our partners here. The guys have just continued to work incredibly hard and stayed focused.
“We came here thinking that we were on the back foot, knowing that it was a difficult race for us. I had quite a bit of damage on my car, so the race was quite a bit of a struggle.
“I just kept my head down, and it seemed like a long second stint—but I’m so grateful for today.”
Asked about the championship and the fact that he has to wait at least one race longer than in recent years to secure the trophy, Hamilton added, “I don’t mind. I just love racing and I take it one race at a time.”
Sitting second and looking strong for a large portion of the race, Vettel was unable to bridge the two-second gap to Hamilton. Sitting the same distance behind for over 20 laps at the end of the race, it looked like another one of those days where, in hindsight, Ferrari simply got its strategy wrong.
“I think, surprisingly, the hard tires worked really well,” said Vettel. “It was a very intense race because there was no break, and obviously I had Valtteri behind me giving me pressure in the final stint before I could focus on Lewis at the front.
“I think Lewis was just cruising for most of the second stint, up to the point where the pack was arriving. Then he, I guess, had enough tires left, so I’m happy because I think it was a good race. But maybe here and there with strategy we could have been a bit sharper.”
The only driver who can stop Hamilton in his title quest is Bottas, and he did just enough to ensure that the fight will continue on to the US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, next week.
“I enjoyed it and, considering yesterday (his qualifying crash), it was a good result,” said Bottas. “I’m very happy about the pace I had in the race. The start was quite tricky, I dropped a place there so had to come back a little bit, but I don’t think we could have done much more really today from where I started.”
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport||36:48.9||25|
|2||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari||1.766||18|
|3||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport||3.553||15|
|4||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari||6.368||12 (+1)|
|5||Alexander Albon||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||21.399||10|
|6||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||+1:08.807||8|
|7||Sergio Perez||SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team||+1:13.819||6|
|8||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team||+1:14.924||4|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda||+1 Lap||2|
|10||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda||+1 Lap||1|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault F1 Team||+1 Lap|
|12||Lance Stroll||SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team||+1 Lap|
|13||Carlos Sainz||McLaren F1 Team||+1 Lap|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing||+1 Lap|
|15||Kevin Magnussen||Rich Energy Haas F1 Team||+2 Laps|
|16||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing||+2 Laps|
|17||Romain Grosjean||Rich Energy Haas F1 Team||+2 Laps|
|18||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing||+2 Laps|
|Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo Racing||DNF|
|Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team||DNF|