Lewis Hamilton won the Mexican Grand Prix in a perfectly controlled race but was massively helped in the strategic battle against Ferrari.
However, the ‘championship fight’ will carry on for at least another week.
Arriving into the weekend, Hamilton needed to finish above Valtteri Bottas by 14 points to clinch the title, but with his rival finishing third then a 10-point gap was the outcome – Hamilton leads his team-mate by 74 points with three races remaining.
As long as Hamilton does not lose more than 22 points to Bottas in the next race, then the five-time world champion will win the title in the place he won his third in 2015.
But, this was not a ‘typical’ Lewis Hamilton victory.
It was a chaotic start for the Mercedes driver who got shoved wide by Sebastian Vettel on the run-in to turn one before coming together with Max Verstappen just moments after, as Hamilton subsequently dropped down to fifth.
Following such chaos, Hamilton pitted for the hard tyre on lap 23 whilst Vettel, who was on a similar strategy, stopped 14 laps later causing the Mercedes driver to doubt the timing of his stop.
“Way too early” Hamilton told James Vowles, Mercedes chief strategist, but the timing was perfect as the five-time world champion then controlled the race perfectly thereon, whilst others around him opted for a two-stop strategy.
Pole sitter, Charles Leclerc was one of them.
His first pit was for another set of medium tyres on lap 14, but then on his second stop for soft tyres, the right rear struggled to come on costing the Ferrari driver four-seconds at that moment.
This dented Leclerc’s hopes who then came out in fourth, but Hamilton showcased his champion ability to fend off Vettel who was in second.
This was Hamilton’s one-hundredth podium at Mercedes to only become the second driver to reach that milestone for a single constructor – Michael Schumacher the other on 116 for Ferrari.
What the top three said
Race winner, Lewis Hamilton: “We came here thinking we were on the back foot but we pulled through, I had quite a bit of damage on the car so the race was quite a struggle but I kept my head down. It felt like a long second stint, but I am so grateful today.
“I don’t mind (not clinching the title yet).
“Everything held together and the team did the best strategy, holding off the Ferraris was not easy in the end” he said.
Second placed, Sebastian Vettel: “Surprisingly, the hard tyres worked really well. It was an intense race because there was no break.
“It was a good race but here and there with strategy we could have been a bit stronger” he said.
Third placed, Valtteri Bottas: “The start was quite tricky, I dropped a place. But I don’t think we could have done much more today” he said.
By Edward Hardy
First seen on Formula 1