Lewis Hamilton clinched his fifth Formula 1 world championship despite a difficult Mexican Grand Prix that saw him finish fourth amid tyre struggles, as Max Verstappen took a dominant victory for Red Bull.

Despite fighting for the lead in the opening stages of the race, Hamilton saw his day unravel as excessive tyre wear on his Mercedes car left him powerless to stop title rival Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the second Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen all pull clear through the race.

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But fourth place was nevertheless enough for Hamilton to secure the drivers’ championship with two races to spare, with Vettel missing out on the victory required to keep the title race alive to Brazil.

It saw Hamilton become just the third five-time world champion in F1 history, following Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio. Hamilton is now tied with Fangio’s tally of five world titles, and two short of Schumacher’s all-time benchmark.

Starting third on the grid behind the two Red Bulls, Hamilton made a stunning start to split them on the run down to Turn 1, with Verstappen seizing the lead as pole-sitting teammate Daniel Ricciardo dropped back to third. Hamilton’s title rival, Sebastian Vettel, managed to cling on to fourth place despite light contact with Valtteri Bottas on the run to Turn 5, while Esteban Ocon was forced into an early stop for a new front wing after contact with Nico Hulkenberg.

Verstappen wasted little time in opening up a gap to Hamilton, quickly moving out of DRS range. The gap between the two grew significantly through the first stint as Hamilton struggled with graining on his tyres towards, causing his times to dip dramatically. Mercedes brought Hamilton in at the end of Lap 11, fitting him with a set of Supersofts which it planned to run to the end of the race.

Red Bull opted to pit Ricciardo one lap after Hamilton in a bid to keep the gap between the two stable, with the Australian emerging still a couple of seconds behind the Mercedes. Verstappen came in on the following lap, his lead having stood at almost seven seconds prior to the pit cycle, also taking Supersofts that Red Bull wanted to see out the race with.

Ferrari rolled the dice by keeping both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen out longer, with the pair coming in at the end of Lap 17. Vettel emerged in P4 once again, having failed to cut into Ricciardo’s advantage, while Raikkonen found himself much further behind Bottas - who pitted on the same lap as Hamilton - than before the stops, the overcut having backfired dramatically.

Fearing excessive tyre wear, Verstappen was told to slow his pace at the front down and to try to match Hamilton’s times, the gap between the pair now up to nine seconds. Hamilton began to report his tyres “weren’t feeling too great” just 10 laps into his stint, but with no fresh sets remaining, the Mercedes driver was told to keep his head down as Ricciardo and Vettel both began to close.

All of the leading drivers began to struggle with their tyres as the race neared half-distance, but Verstappen was able to eke his lead out bit by bit. Ricciardo’s struggles were compounded by heavy traffic, which allowed Vettel to close before using DRS down the main straight and passing on the inside at Turn 1, seizing third place. Vettel quickly ditched Ricciardo, setting his sights on champion-elect Hamilton ahead.

Vettel easily swallowed up the gap to Hamilton, and made light work of the Mercedes on the main straight using DRS on Lap 39, taking P2. Verstappen was told not to react to Vettel’s lap times, but again to focus on tyre management. Ferrari informed Vettel it would be switching back to ‘Plan A’ and told him to push, angling for a second pit stop.

While Ricciardo had managed to get through the worst of his graining, Hamilton’s tyres were fading badly, leaving him at the mercy of the Red Bull driver in the fight for P3. After keeping Ricciardo at bay for a number of laps, Hamilton lost the position at Turn 1 when he locked up, prompting Mercedes to call him into the pits with 24 laps to go. With only a used set of Ultrasofts available, Hamilton was left focusing on tyre management to get to the end of the race.

Ferrari made good on its plan to two-stop Vettel, bringing him in on the same lap as Hamilton for a fresh set of Ultrasofts. Red Bull looked to cover Vettel by pitting Verstappen on the following lap for fresh Supersofts, ensuring his buffer remained at around eight seconds heading into the final 20 laps.

Red Bull looked to stunt Vettel’s charge by keeping Ricciardo out on Supersofts, with the Australian putting up a staunch defence that left his Ferrari rival struggling for life in his Ultrasoft tyres.

However, Ricciardo’s hopes of a first podium since Monaco were snatched away in heartbreaking fashion when he suffered an engine failure with 10 laps to go, forcing him to park up at the side of the track and retire from the race. It marked his eighth DNF of the year, continuing his rotten run of bad luck.
 

Verstappen was able to cross the line with a comfortable buffer of 17 seconds for his fifth career victory and second straight in Mexico, having also won last year’s race.

Vettel was able to secure P2 for Ferrari as a result of Ricciardo’s late DNF, with teammate Kimi Raikkonen making a one-stop strategy work perfectly en route to third place. The result also saw Ferrari cut the gap to Mercedes in the constructors’ championship down to 55 points.

While it had not been a straightforward race, Hamilton crossed the line in fourth place to clinch his fifth world championship, three of which have now been sealed without a podium finish. Teammate Valtteri Bottas followed home in P5, having made a third pit stop late on for a set of Hypersofts that allowed him to set the fastest lap of the race.

Nico Hulkenberg finished as the top midfield driver in sixth place for Renault, giving the team a boost in its fight against Haas for P4 in the constructors’ championship as the American team failed to score any points. Renault now sits 30 points clear with two races remaining this year.

Sauber managed to leapfrog Toro Rosso in the constructors’ standings as Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson finished P7 and P9 respectively. Toro Rosso picked up one point with Pierre Gasly in P10, who fought from last place on the grid, but it was not enough to stop the team dropping to P9 in the constructors’.

Esteban Ocon finished 11th for Force India after his early damage, finishing ahead of Brendon Hartley on-track. Hartley dropped from 12th to 14th as a result of a five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Ocon earlier in the race, promoting Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin both up one place for Williams. Haas finished as the slowest team, with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean in 15th and 16th respectively. 

Sergio Perez’s hopes of continuing his streak of home-race points were dashed just past half-distance in Mexico when he sustained a brake issue, forcing him to retire. Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. also saw his day come to an early end, going off in the final sector and sparking a Virtual Safety Car, while Fernando Alonso’s race ended just three laps for McLaren as debris from the early Ocon-Hulkenberg clash caught in his car, causing it to overheat.

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