Belfast Telegraph

Hamilton powers to win but must wait for sixth world crown


Happy days: Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory last night
Happy days: Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory last night
Valtteri Bottas
Happy days: Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory last night

by ian parkes

Lewis Hamilton's wait for a sixth world title will go on to next weekend's United States Grand Prix despite an impressive victory in Mexico yesterday.

Hamilton produced an amazing effort to make his tyres last for 48 of the 71-lap race, but after Valtteri Bottas finished third, Hamilton - who needed his Mercedes team-mate to be fifth to be certain of the title - narrowly missed out on being crowned world champion here.

The British driver now needs to finish only eighth in Austin to be absolutely sure of the Championship that will move him to within one of Michael Schumacher's record haul of seven.

Hamilton had looked out of contention to win at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, but his all-conquering Mercedes team pulled off a tactical masterstroke, stopping him eight laps later than pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and 14 laps before the Monegasque's Ferrari team-mate, the second-placed Sebastian Vettel.

Leclerc's early change for rubber ensured he would have to come in again - he did with 27 laps remaining.

Hamilton assumed the lead for the first time and somehow managed to get his wearing rubber to the chequered flag to claim a fine win.

Vettel finished second with Leclerc fourth. Alex Albon took fifth for Red Bull, one spot ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen who fell out of the mix after he suffered an early puncture following a banzai move on Bottas.

Although Mercedes' tyre gamble proved a masterstroke, Hamilton had been on the radio to question his pit wall's decision.

"It feels like we stopped way too early," he said. Moments later, Hamilton voiced his concerns again. "We stopped too early. There is a long way to go on these tyres, man."

Marcus Dudley, deputising for Hamilton's regular race engineer Pete 'Bono' Bonnington, watching on TV back in Britain following a medical procedure, was the reassuring voice.

"It is going to be difficult," he said. "But we are on for a win if you can do this." Chief strategist James Vowles echoed Dudley's message. "Lewis, this is James, you can do it."

They proved to be right. Indeed, Hamilton even had enough life in his tyres to attempt a late salvo for the fastest lap and a bonus point to make ninth good enough for the Championship in Austin next weekend. He could not quite manage it.

"What a job, guys," yelled Hamilton on the radio. "Thank you so much for your hard work. That was a tough race, but a fantastic job. That was for Bono."

After hugging his Mercedes mechanics, Hamilton said: "Today is an incredible result. I have to say a huge thanks to my team.

"We came here thinking we were on the back foot, and knowing it would be a difficult race, but we pulled through. I kept my head down and it seemed like a long second stint."

Hamilton lined up in third after Verstappen was controversially stripped of his pole. Bottas started in sixth after his Mercedes crew repaired his wrecked car from qualifying.

Hamilton roared away and took a nibble at Vettel on the 800m charge to the opening bend. Vettel afforded Hamilton no room, and the Mercedes star was forced to back out.

Verstappen, who had started one spot behind Hamilton, drew alongside the five-time world champion - but Hamilton had no desire to concede the place.

The Briton slid across the apex of the left-handed second bend, running on to the grass and taking Verstappen with him.

By the time Hamilton had recovered, he had dropped to fifth, but wasted little time in passing the McLaren of Carlos Sainz to move up to fourth.

Vettel was the last of the leaders to stop for new tyres on lap 37. Leclerc would lead, but when he came in for a second time, 10 laps later, Hamilton was promoted to the front. From there, he never looked back, crossing 1.7 seconds clear of Vettel.

FIA Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City.

Leading Final Positions after Race (71 laps): 1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1hr 36mins 48.904secs, 2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:36:50.670, 3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:36:52.457, 4 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:36:55.272, 5 Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 1:37:10.303, 6 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:37:57.711, 7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:38:02.723, 8 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:38:03.828, 9 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 lap, 10 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 lap.

World Championship Standings after Mexican Grand Prix:

Drivers: 1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 363pts, 2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 289, 3 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 236, 4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 230, 5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 220, 6 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 76, 7 Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 76, 8 Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 74, 9 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 43, 10 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 38, 11 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 36, 12 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 35, 13 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 34, 14 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 31, 15 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 21.

Manufacturers: 1 Mercedes GP 652pts, 2 Ferrari 466, 3 Red Bull 341, 4 McLaren 111, 5 Renault 72, 6 Scuderia Toro Rosso 65, 7 Racing Point 64, 8 Alfa Romeo Racing 35, 9 Haas F1 28, 10 Williams 1.

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