Lewis Hamilton stands on the brink of becoming just the second driver in Formula 1 history to win six or more world titles after triumphing at the Mexican Grand Prix. 

An inspired strategy call helped Hamilton leapfrog both Ferraris and move into the lead, before the Briton brilliantly coaxed his ageing tyres to the end and held off a late charge from Sebastian Vettel to claim his 10th win of the year. 

Here are some of the main talking points from the Mexican Grand Prix…

A champion’s drive from Hamilton

Hamilton’s 83rd career grand prix victory was up there among his very best. 

Not only did Mercedes arrive in Mexico City anticipating one of its worst performances of the season at the high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit - a venue it has struggled at in recent years - but Hamilton was faced with a monumental task on Sunday.

Starting third on the grid behind the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Vettel, Hamilton and Mercedes knew they would have to pull off something special to beat the resurgent Scuderia following its form turnaround since the summer break. 

Hamilton was punchy at the start and looked to challenge the Ferrari’s on the run to Turn 1, only to lose momentum when he was squeezed out onto the grass by a hard-defending Vettel. 

Having somehow avoided a collision, Hamilton escaped further drama at Turn 2 when he and Max Verstappen tangled at the apex of the corner, sending both wide across the grass in an attempt to avoid a full-blown crash. 

Despite having the title on the line and not needing to take risks, Hamilton was determined to take the fight to Ferrari, though he now found himself down in fifth after the first-lap melee. 

It looked as though Mercedes would be in for another tough afternoon in Mexico until a bold strategy gamble swung the race into Hamilton’s favour. An early stop helped Hamilton jump both Ferrari drivers to gain track position, but he still needed to complete a mammoth stint to have any chance of victory. 

With his Hard compounds being 13 laps older than Vettel’s, Hamilton expertly preserved his tyres for 47 laps and fended off Vettel’s late charge to claim his 10th win of 2019 by 1.7s. 

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff later admitted that Hamilton’s stint sounded “almost impossible”, while Hamilton’s tyre management masterclass also drew praise from Vettel, who described it as “pure magic”. 

“A first and third is a true showing of real strength and depth with our team and it’s a real pleasant surprise really, because we didn’t expect our tyres to go as far as they did,” Hamilton explained 

“We didn’t think we could manage a one-stop and we made it work.”

With his Mercedes teammate and direct title rival Valtteri Bottas finishing third, Hamilton now needs to score just four points at next weekend’s United States Grand Prix to be crowned champion in Texas for the second time in his career. 

Another win goes amiss for Ferrari 

It was another case of what could have been for Ferrari in Mexico as another chance to win went begging. 

Ferrari were favourites heading into the weekend and underlined why by setting the pace throughout practice, only to be shocked by the stunning performance of Verstappen in Q3 as the Red Bull driver claimed a surprise pole to end the Italian squad’s streak of recent qualifying dominance. 

Verstappen’s post-qualifying grid penalty for failing to slow down for yellow flags meant Ferrari inherited the front-row, with Leclerc starting on pole position ahead of teammate Vettel. 

The pair led the early exchanges but unlike Mercedes, Ferrari had not foreshadowed a one-stop being the optimum strategy. In an attempt to cover off the lead Red Bull of Alexander Albon, Ferrari committed Leclerc to an early two-stopper, while it kept Vettel on a one-stop in its attempts to take the win. 

But even on fresh tyres in the closing stages, Vettel was unable to catch and overtake the undercutting Hamilton, who held on to inflict a second successive defeat to Ferrari. 

After the race, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto admitted his team could have taken “more risks” with its strategy and conceded that Mercedes ultimately made the “right gamble” by carrying out one-stop strategies with both its cars. 

Leclerc was frustrated to have only finished fourth as the highest-placed two-stopper after starting on pole and said he wants to become more persuasive over team radio to help influence Ferrari’s strategy in future, much like Vettel did by guiding the team to extend his own first stint in Mexico.

Ferrari has had the fastest car at each of the last three rounds, but indecision on the pit wall and mistakes from its drivers have proved costly to squandering its chances in races it really should be winning - leaving Mercedes to capitalise and pick up the pieces.

Red Bull, Verstappen left frustrated

Red Bull left the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit knowing that possibly its best chance of scoring a third victory of the season had just slipped away.

Verstappen’s excellent pole position lap highlighted the strengths of the RB15 package in Mexico, and even after he was stripped of pole and had to start from fourth, he still demonstrated enough pace to suggest he could have challenged for the win. 

Frustrated by his qualifying penalty, Verstappen launched an attack on Hamilton’s Mercedes in a bid to snatch third at the opening sequence of corners, but the pair made slight contact and lost a handful of positions. 

Despite the setback, the Dutchman was flying and pulled off an audacious move under braking on Bottas’ Mercedes as he looked to get back into contention. However, his race was ultimately ruined after being tagged by Bottas’ front wing during the manoeuvre, which resulted in a puncture that dropped him to the back of the field. 

Verstappen was still able to recover to a strong sixth place, just one place behind teammate Albon. Verstappen’s performance led Red Bull team boss Christian Horner to believe a victory could have been on the cards had it not been for the puncture.

“It was frustrating to lose the pole position but it wasn’t the end of the world, we still had a car good enough to win the race and I think the thing that really screwed the race for us was ultimately the puncture,” Horner said. 

In the sister Red Bull, Albon turned in an impressive drive to take a solid fifth, having mixed it up with the race leaders and ran as high as third throughout the early stages. 

Albon’s prospects were significantly hampered after he got caught up behind McLaren driver Carlos Sainz following his early pit stop, costing him vital time. Nevertheless, the British-born Thai felt Mexico had been his “best race in terms of pace” since making his mid-season graduation to the senior squad. 

McLaren’s nightmare 

McLaren’s Mexican Grand Prix started with much promise but ended in a nightmare as the team failed to score for the first time since the Belgium Grand Prix at the beginning of September. 

For the third race in a row, McLaren duo Sainz and Lando Norris found themselves mixing it up with the big guns during the opening laps of Sunday’s race, but that was the best it would get.

The Woking squad’s race first began to unravel when an issue in Norris’ pitstop ruined the Briton’s race, before he was called into an early retirement having dropped to the back of the order due to the substantial time loss of not having his left-front wheel properly attached to his MCL34. 

In the other McLaren, Sainz looked well-placed to continue the team’s recent run of winning the midfield fight. But the Spaniard’s pace suddenly faded in his second stint after switching onto Hard tyres and he ultimately slipped to a low-key 13th. 

Sainz said McLaren’s pace struggles in Mexico had come as a “big surprise” but hopes the issue will prove to be a one-off, with team principal Andreas Seidl confirming the team will investigate why its performance was so disappointing.

Despite its non-score and chief midfield rival Renault getting both its cars inside the top 10, McLaren remains in pole position to secure fourth place in the constructors’ championship and holds a 38-point buffer over Renault with three rounds remaining. 

 

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