Mexican GP: Lewis Hamilton to start third after Max Verstappen penalty
Boost for Hamilton as he moves up a place on grid; Hamilton can seal title on Sunday - watch Mexican GP at 7.10pm on Sky Sports F1
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 27/10/19 7:15pm
Lewis Hamilton has received a major boost in his quest to clinch a sixth F1 title in Sunday's Mexican GP after being lifted to third on the grid thanks to pole-sitter Max Verstappen's grid penalty.
Hamilton qualified fourth, half a second down on the Red Bull, but will only start behind the Ferraris in the race after Verstappen was handed a three-place penalty for failing to slow for yellow flags on his final Q3 lap.
Charles Leclerc will now start on pole ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, and Hamilton.
Hamilton can wrap up the 2019 Drivers' Championship if he outscores Valtteri Bottas by 14 points on Sunday, and is now set to line up three places ahead of his Mercedes team-mate and title rival on the grid.
Bottas was the driver who forced the yellow flags after his heavy crash at the end of qualifying as he qualified sixth.
At the very least, Hamilton needs to finish on the podium to seal an early coronation.
Sunday's race starts at 7.10pm, with Sky Sports F1's build-up from 5.30pm.
Hamilton wanted 'very strict' Max penalty
Before Verstappen, who admitted he didn't bother slowing down for Bottas' stricken Mercedes, was given his penalty, Hamilton called for a "very strict" punishment.
"It is really important that the FIA are very strict on double yellow flags," said Hamilton (although they were actually single yellow flags waved when Verstappen passed). "There could have been marshals on the track.
"These volunteers put their lives on the line to make sure drivers are safe on the road and you have got people who are being careless and not abiding by the rules.
"Max didn't need to stay flat-out, he had already got pole. The FIA need to be very strict on that.
"Luckily, there were no marshals on the track, but for all he knew Valtteri could have been in the middle of the circuit and the marshals could have been there.
"A double yellow flag means slow the f*** down, there could be a massive incident ahead. The fact that he ignored it is not great. Hopefully the right calls are put in place so the drivers need to know to respect these things."
How Hamilton reacted to qualifying
Hamilton never looked likely to challenge the mighty Verstappen on Saturday, although he was only a tenth off Vettel.
"I think third place was possible but that last sector, they're always hot there," Hamilton told Sky F1.
"I'm generally happy with today, it's just hard to keep up with the others."
Fourth equalled Hamilton's worst qualifying result of the season - after claiming the same position at the last race in Japan - but Mercedes expected a tough weekend at what they have labelled one of their worst tracks of the season.
When's the Mexican GP on Sky?
Lewis Hamilton can clinch his sixth world championship at the Mexican GP - and you can watch it all exclusively live on Sky Sports F1.
"We knew it would be hard this weekend coming here, but I gave it everything," he added.
"It wasn't enough for pole but I think I got everything out of the car and it puts us in a fighting position for [the race] so I hope I can get a good start."
That 'fighting position' just got stronger, too.
For Hamilton to be champion at the Mexican GP, the following permutations apply:
- If Hamilton takes victory (25pts) and fastest lap (1pt), he will be champion if Bottas finishes fourth (12pts) or lower
- If Hamilton takes victory without the fastest lap, he will be champion if Bottas finishes fifth (10pts) or lower
- If Hamilton finishes second (18pts) with the fastest lap (1pt), he will be champion if Bottas finishes eighth (4pts) or lower
- If Hamilton finishes second without the fastest lap, he will be champion if Bottas finishes eighth, without the fastest lap, or lower.
- If Hamilton finishes third (15pts) with the fastest lap (1pt), he will be champion if Bottas finishes ninth (2pts) or lower
- If Hamilton finishes third without the fastest lap, he will be champion if Bottas finishes 10th or lower without the fastest lap
- If Hamilton finishes fourth or lower, the title race definitely goes on to the United States GP next week