Mexico Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton keeps title battle alive with win as Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen clash

Hamilton closes the gap to Nico Rosberg to 19 points but the German can clinch a maiden title with victory in Brazil

Philip Duncan
Sunday 30 October 2016 21:54
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Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the Mexico Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the Mexico Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton kept his slim world championship hopes alive with a crushing victory over his rival Nico Rosberg in the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hamilton, who recorded his second triumph in seven days following his masterclass in the United States, is now 19 points adrift of Rosberg with just two races remaining.

The championship battle remains out of the Briton's control, however, after Rosberg survived a lunge from Red Bull's Max Verstappen to cross the line in second place.

Indeed Rosberg will now secure his maiden title if he wins the Brazilian Grand Prix in a fortnight's time. The German can even afford to finish second and third at the remaining two races to clinch the crown.

Verstappen finished third ahead of Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, but the former was given a five-second elapsed penalty for leaving the track at turn one and refusing to give the place to Vettel. The German was subsequently bumped up to third. However, after the race stewards confirmed that Vettel, who took to the podium to celebrate his third-place finish, had been handed a 10-second penalty for a dangerous and erratic defensive move under braking when fighting with Daniel Ricciardo on the penultimate lap.

Lewis Hamilton wins the Mexico Grand Prix

Hamilton, 31, revealed earlier this week that he is relishing the challenge of usurping his Mercedes team-mate Rosberg at the top of the championship standings.

And the Briton has been in inspired form from the get-go here, comfortably faster than Rosberg in practice and qualifying before claiming the 51st victory of his career with a dominant display in front of 135,000 fans on Sunday.

Hamilton's season has been plagued by engine troubles and slow starts but, for the second race in succession, the triple world champion got the perfect getaway to retain the lead on the near 1,000-metre run down to turn one.

Hamilton celebrates winning the Mexico Grand Prix

But perhaps preoccupied with keeping Rosberg behind, Hamilton locked his front-right tyre and ran on to the grass. He essentially missed out the opening four turns before rejoining the track but, as Rosberg and Verstappen banged wheels behind him - a coming together which was declared a racing incident following an investigation by the stewards - he remained in the lead. Despite being bumped on to the grass, Rosberg retained second ahead of Verstappen.

Esteban Gutierrez, Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein then tripped over one another with the latter sustaining significant damage to the front of his Manor. His race was over, and the safety car was deployed with debris scattered across the track.

Hamilton closes the gap to Rosberg to 19 points

When the race restarted on lap four, Rosberg failed to threaten Hamilton, and from there the show was all but over. Vettel, on a longer first stint, led for 12 laps but, after he pitted at the end of lap 32, and Hamilton was released back into the lead, it was only a matter of the world champion nursing his Mercedes home, which he did to fine effect.

Hamilton took the chequered flag a distant eight seconds ahead of Rosberg to move alongside four-time world champion Alain Prost, into second on the all-time winners' list. Only Michael Schumacher has tasted more victories in Formula One's long history than the man from Stevenage.

Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel celebrate on the podium

For Rosberg, second could yet be enough as he bids to emulate his father Keke, the 1982 world champion, and win the title. In a race of little drama, Verstappen attempted to pass Rosberg on lap 50 after the German came unstuck while lapping Carlos Sainz, but Verstappen failed to make his move stick.

There was controversy late on, too, after Verstappen and Vettel were stripped of their podium places following timed penalties which promoted Ricciardo to third, with Verstappen eventually finishing fourth and Vettel fifth..

Verstappen, who only discovered he had been penalised as he prepared to step on to the podium, was adjudged to have left the track and gained an advantage.

Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, crossed the line in 12th with British rookie Jolyon Palmer 14th.

"This is honestly the best crowd," said Hamilton. "They turn up and they have such great passion for the sport. It is great to see.

"Nico has done a great job. I am really gratfeul for the team. It is great for us to have a one-two."

Rosberg added: "Lewis was a bit too fast this weekend so I will have to accept second place. It is okay to be second."

A furious Sebastian Vettel lost his podium finish after the race

Final Positions after Race (71 Laps):

1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1hr 40mins 31.402secs

2 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:40:39.756

3 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:40:52.260

4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:40:52.725 + five-second penalty

5 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:40:48.715 + 10-second penalty

6 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:41:20.778

7 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India 1:41:30.293

8 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams 1:41:37.014

9 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 1:41:47.608

10 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:41:48.200

11 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap

12 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren at 1 Lap

13 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren at 1 Lap

14 Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault at 1 Lap

15 Felipe Nasr (Bra) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap

16 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap

17 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Renault at 1 Lap

18 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap

19 Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Haas F1 at 1 Lap

20 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 at 1 Lap

21 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Manor Racing at 2 laps

Not Classified:

22 Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Manor Racing 0 Laps completed

PA

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