Lewis Hamilton wins Mexican GP but made to wait for sixth F1 title
Hamilton takes victory with 'one of his best drives' but title battle moves on to USA as Bottas is third behind Vettel; Leclerc fourth after two stops, Verstappen sixth after early puncture
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 28/10/19 8:01am
Lewis Hamilton masterfully won a tense Mexican GP ahead of Sebastian Vettel but will have to wait at least a week to secure a sixth F1 title.
Hamilton needed to outscore Valtteri Bottas by 14 points or more to seal an early coronation, but his Mercedes team-mate finished third behind the lead Ferrari in a strategy-led race to extend the championship battle.
"I don't mind [waiting for the championship]," said Hamilton. "I love racing and I take it one race at a time. This is a race I've wanted to win for some time so I'm incredibly humbled by today's opportunity."
The United States GP, round 18 of the 21-race season, is live and exclusive on Sky Sports F1 next Sunday.
Hamilton's win wasn't filled with aggression or dazzling overtakes, but was just as impressive as many of the 82 previous victories that have helped him to five F1 titles.
After overcoming first-lap contact with Max Verstappen and running onto the grass, Hamilton somehow maintained race-winning pace on worn tyres as he completed a 47-lap second stint to hold off Vettel and Bottas.
"We came here thinking we were on the back foot, knowing it was a difficult race for us but we pulled through," added the Englishman.
"I had quite a bit of damage on my car so the race was quite a bit of a struggle. I kept my head down and it seemed like a long second stint. But I'm so grateful for today."
Charles Leclerc finished fourth as Ferrari failed to capitalise on their front-row lockout. The Monegasque twice pitted from the lead, but couldn't trouble the top three despite running on fresh tyres.
Vettel admitted Ferrari could have been a "bit sharper" when it came to strategy.
Alex Albon, who looked in contention after a strong start, was only fifth, while Verstappen recovered from a nightmare start to place behind his team-mate. Not only did Verstappen tangle with Hamilton, but he sustained a puncture when passing Bottas early on and a pit-stop dropped him to the back of the field.
It was an incredibly frustrating weekend for Verstappen - who lost pole thanks to a post-qualifying penalty - but his drive, featuring a mega 65-lap stint, deserves credit.
Sergio Perez was seventh ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while McLaren had a nightmare as Lando Norris suffered a botched pit-stop and later retired, while Carlos Sainz, who started seventh, fell back to 13th.
Nico Hulkenberg, meanwhile, had a dramatic last-lap collision with Daniil Kvyat, but still took a point after the Toro Rosso driver was handed a 10-second time penalty.
Mexican GP result
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
3. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5. Alex Albon, Red Bull
6. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
7. Sergio Perez, Racing Point
8. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault
9. Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso
10. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault
How Hamilton beat Ferrari for 'one of best wins'
Ferrari, who inherited pole after Verstappen's penalty, held all the cards in Mexico - especially after emerging from the first lap unscathed while Hamilton and Verstappen dropped back.
Hamilton, who was scarily forced wide on the main straight by Vettel, then nudged into Verstappen both drivers aborted the next corner and onto the grass. While Hamilton recovered from that damage and quickly passed the McLarens after that unwanted escapade, Verstappen picked up a race-defining puncture when moving ahead of Bottas through the stadium section.
But Ferrari, perhaps foolishly, reacted to Albon's early pit-stop with race leader Leclerc - a decision which effectively forced him into a two-stop race. It turned out to be the wrong call.
Hamilton didn't look to be in contention for the victory when coming in for his first stop on Lap 24, and insisted to his Mercedes team early on that his hard tyre wouldn't last. That frustration grew further when he saw that Ferrari had kept Vettel out, with Hamilton sure that the German would then have better chances at the end of the race.
Mercedes, however, aced their call - and Hamilton's unhappiness turned to pure focus when entering the closing stages. Although Vettel, whose tyres were 13 laps fresher, and Bottas were hunting the championship leader down, Hamilton matched their pace and eventually easily finished ahead of the Ferrari.
And all that with the pressure of a title challenge, on worn tyres, and with damage to his Mercedes.
"What a drive, for me that was one of his best drives," said Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion and Hamilton's former McLaren team-mate, on Sky F1.
"We know Lewis as the aggressive driver, fighting for that victory.
"This was a really different victory, looking after the tyres, looking after the car and getting the job done."
Vettel later told Sky F1 that Mercedes got "lucky" but Ferrari "didn't have the speed" - although Mexico was another example of a record-breaking team out-foxing their main rivals, even at one of their least competitive tracks.
Hamilton can win the title by finishing eighth next week in Austin, while Bottas has to win.