Formula 1: Hamilton wins the battle in Mexico but not the war

Image via Pirelli Sport Twitter: @pirellisport

Lewis Hamilton’s W10 suffered front-end damage when he tangled with first Sebastian Vettel and then Max Verstappen on the opening lap of the Mexican GP – but even couldn’t stop him.

In what started out as a thriller but ended as a damp squib, the Mercedes driver raced to the victory at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez, joined on the podium by Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.

The result means the Brit will have to wait until the next race, the United States GP, to possibly secure title number six.

Hamilton involved in bumper cars on lap 1

Ferrari initially held the advantage as Charles Leclerc, elevated to pole position following Verstappen’s post-qualifying penalty, led a Ferrari 1-2 into Turn 1.

He was helped in part by his team-mate Vettel, who had to defend against Hamilton, giving the Mercedes driver a nudge in the process.

Hamilton had to brake to avoid a bigger incident, dropping him into the clutches of Verstappen. That resulted in a harder hit with both Hamilton and Verstappen cutting the grass.

While Leclerc led the grand prix ahead of Vettel, Hamilton and Verstappen rejoined the action fifth and seventh with Bottas between them.

Verstappen’s Sunday went from bad to worse when he tried to take the position off Bottas and in the process sliced his tyre on the W10’s front wing. He fell to the very back of the field, taking himself out of the running for a podium finish.

Mixed strategies set the stage

While Verstappen set about recovering, which included another whack – this time with Kevin Magnusen, the front runners opted for a mix of one and two-stop strategies.

Leclerc and Albon went for a two-stopper with Hamilton, Vettel and Bottas opting for one.

With Leclerc and Albon stopping early, Vettel led, given a bit of breathing room by Mercedes as they pitted Hamilton on lap 24.

Vettel decided not to cover the Brit’s strategy leaving Hamilton to ask Mercedes if they had stopped him “too early”.

Vettel finally pitted just after the midway point of the 71-lap race with Bottas in a lap later.

Leclerc’s second stop took place on lap 44 with the Monégasque driver lining up behind the one-stopping leading trio, all four separated by less than 10s and with tyres of varying ages.

While it was by no means a ding-dong battle, 1-2-3-4 spent the final 20 laps closing in on one another only to come up short in dirty air.

Hamilton raced to the win, his second in Mexico, 1.7s ahead of Vettel with Bottas in third.

“Incredible result and a huge thank you to my team,” said Hamilton. “The guys have continued to work incredibly hard and stay focused.

“We came here thinking we were on the back foot as this has been a difficult race for us but we pulled through.

“I had front-end damage on my car so the race was a struggle but I just kept my head down.

“I’m so grateful for today.

“This is a race I’ve wanted to win for some time but it was has been tricky for us.”

The result means the title race continues into Austin with Hamilton 74 points to the good over his Mercedes team-mate.

Albon was fifth, taking the chequered flag ahead of Verstappen.

Sergio Perez shines for Mexico

Having failed to make it into Q3 at his home race, Sergio Perez was determined to make amends on Sunday.

He needed just five laps to work his way into the points and pulled off one of the best passes of the afternoon on Daniil Kvyat to run P8.

That became seventh when Daniel Ricciardo, the last of the one-stoppers, came into the pits.

But on fresher tyres Ricciardo caught the Racing Point in the final 10 laps and made his move only to lock up and run off the track.

Perez held onto P7, matching his best result at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez, while Ricciardo had to settle for eighth ahead of the Toro Rossos of Kvyat and Pierre Gasly.

Moments after the race, though, Kvyat lost his two points as he was slapped with a 10-second time penalty for crashing into Nico Hulkenberg on the final lap. That contact put Hulkenberg into the barriers; the penalty put him into the points.

Pit stop drama

Hot tyres and hot brakes perhaps played a role in the three notable pit top issues seen in Mexico.

Leclerc’s lost two seconds when his Ferrari mechanics were slow putting on a new rear-right. Alfa Romeo had a similar problem with Antonio Giovinazzi, however, it was Lando Norris who paid the biggest price.

Running P7 when he came in for his stop, the McLaren driver was given the go-ahead to leave his pit box only to discover that his front-left wasn’t attached.

He stopped before the end of the pit lane for his mechanics to push him back to the box and attach the tyre correctly.

That, though, was the end of Norris’ chances of scoring with the rookie falling two laps down and eventually parking his car.

He was one of two retirements with Kimi Raikkonen also calling it quits due to a technical issue.

Formula 1, Mexico GP: The resultLewis Hamilton – Mercedes    Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1.766sValtteri Bottas – Mercedes – 3.553sCharles Leclerc – Ferrari – 6.368sAlex Albon – Red Bull – 21.399sMax Verstappen – Red Bull – 68.807sSergio Perez – Racing Point – 73.819sDaniel Ricciardo – Renault – 74.924sPierre Gasly – Toro Rosso – 1 LapNico Hulkenberg – Renault – 1 LapDaniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso – 1 LapLance Stroll – Racing Point – 1 LapCarlos Sainz – McLaren – 1 LapAntonio Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo Racing – 1 LapKevin Magnussen – Haas – 2 LapsGeorge Russell – Williams – 2 LapsRomain Grosjean – Haas – 2 LapsRobert Kubica – Williams – 2 Laps

Did not finish

Kimi Raikkonen – Alfa RomeoLando Norris – McLarenHelp support journalists, the guardians of independent journalism, through our student media initiative that gives a voice to students and their generation! Find out more…Tags: Formula 1Lewis Hamilton


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