MEXICO CITY: Lewis Hamilton won the Mexican Grand Prix for Mercedes yesterday after a first-lap scare but the Briton will have to wait until next weekend’s race in Texas to secure his sixth Formula One world championship.
Hamilton’s 10th win of the season, and 83rd of his career, was also a 100th for Mercedes as a constructor.
The victory stretched his lead over Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas to 74 points with 78 to be won from the last three races – making the title a formality that will surely be wrapped up in Austin.
Hamilton had needed to score 14 points more than Bottas at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to win the title in Mexico, but managed only 10 more after the Finn made sure of third.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was a close second with team mate Charles Leclerc, who started from pole position and set the fastest lap but was undone by strategy and a problem pitstop, fourth.
“We came here thinking we were on the back foot, knowing it was a difficult race for us but we pulled through,” said Hamilton, who had not finished on the podium in Mexico for the past two years.
“I had quite a bit of damage on my car so the race was quite a bit of a struggle.
“I don’t mind (not taking the title in Mexico),” he added. “I love racing and I take it one race at a time.”
Bottas now has to win in Austin with a fastest lap to stay in the mathematical reckoning while Hamilton need score only four points – an eighth place – to be sure of the title whatever his team mate does.
Both Mercedes drivers lost out at the start, with Vettel squeezing out Hamilton, who had lined up third behind the two Ferraris. The Briton then banged wheels with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Hamilton tracked on the grass, wrestling with the steering wheel to prevent a race-wrecking spin, and returned in fifth place with Bottas losing a place to seventh.
As Leclerc led away, Red Bull’s British-born Thai rookie Alexander Albon made the most of the mayhem to slot into third place.
Verstappen dropped to the back of the field after contact with Bottas left the 22-year-old Dutch driver limping back to the pits on an empty wheel rim after a right rear puncture.
Verstappen, winner in Mexico for the past two years, carved his way back through the field to sixth at the chequered flag with Albon fifth.
Mexican Sergio Perez was seventh for Racing Point, to cheers from the sellout crowd.
Meanwhile, Formula One has given up on plans to have three reverse-grid qualifying races next season, according to the sport’s managing director Ross Brawn.
The experiment would have seen regular Saturday qualifying replaced with a short race, with drivers lining up in reverse championship order with the overall points leader last. The results would then set the grid for Sunday’s race.
Brawn said that two of the 10 teams had voted against. He did not identify the teams.