Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton wins the Grand Prix of Mexico, but the Briton can not yet celebrate his world title. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel ranks second. His team has to ask themselves questions about the right tactics.
Lewis Hamilton has to wait at least a few days for his sixth Formula 1 title despite a brilliant victory in Mexico. The Mercedes star left Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel behind on Saturday at the tire crunch in the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, but can still be compelled by team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the remaining three rounds of the season. The Finn secured third place and is now 74 points behind Hamilton.
The World Cup crowning of Hamilton is probably delayed by a week. In Austin, the Briton can make the fifth triumph in the past six years perfect this Sunday. Hamilton is eighth on the Texas course. Vettel had to say goodbye to Japan in the fifth-to-last race of the season and mathematically out of the World Cup fight.
In Mexico, the 32-year-old German initially struggled for supremacy in his own team. Stable rival Leclerc later climbed to pole position in the qualification he had prevailed before Vettel. Both profited as well as Hamilton from the penalty against Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman had not gone off the accelerator in the Red Bull unlike his last quick lap when the Yellow Flags had been swung over by Bottas's Mercedes due to a heavy impact. Verstappen slipped from pole to start four. The first row was red, Hamilton behind and the approach to the first turn on the 2250 meters high course long. It was called leeward chance. "The third grid position is not the worst," said team boss Toto Wolff. For a World Cup break for Hamilton, Mercedes had not necessarily prepared but first.
Hard fight on the first kilometers
After a title fiesta it did not look like it after the first few kilometers. Hamilton's attack at the start repelled Vettel. Inside Verstappen wanted to pass the British, but it was too narrow. They touched twice, had to go through the grass and lost ground. Hamilton initially fell back to fifth place. At the top, Leclerc held on despite a driving error, which also led to the involuntary contact with Vettel Ferrari.
And what did Bottas do, who had to start from sixth? The Finn slipped to seventh place in the meantime, was then easily rammed by Verstappen, but made fast like Hamilton again places well. The two drove first in places four and five behind Leclerc, Vettel and Alexander Albon, who had benefited the second Red Bull from the failed start attacks of the competitors the most. Verstappen, on the other hand, was forced to change tires early after a flat tire, and the winner of the past two years initially turned around in last place. As the first of the leadership quintet Albon came into the box for the exchange. After that Leclerc. He got the same tire compound, was also called: Vettel's 21-year-old stable rival had to change the tires again in any case. Vettel, meanwhile, was on a one-stop strategy.
"Let him drive," said Vettel
Then Hamilton challenged the Germans and came into the pits earlier. "Let him drive," countered Vettel the request of the command post, now also to raise new tires. Right or wrong? "It feels like we've changed the tires too early," sparked Hamilton, who has to do without his actual master race engineer on the Mexico-USA trip. The strategy was clear: Hamilton should win the race, preferably the fastest race lap. If Bottas then only fourth, the triumph would be perfect. Hamilton doubted Hamilton was quarreling. "You can do that", Mercedes chief strategy James Vowles fired him now also over radio.
When Vettel got the first tire and Leclerc had the tires changed from the second time on, Hamilton drove ahead, followed by Vettel, Bottas and Leclerc. Nothing seemed decided yet. Bottas came closer to Vettel. The Heppenheimer held the pressure as well as before him Hamilton, who is after his tenth win of the season and the 83rd Grand Prix success also before the new coronation. "I do not care that I have to wait, I love racing and I just take one race after another," Hamilton said. "That's an incredible result, we knew it would be a difficult race for us, but we have pulled it through. "