Lewis Hamilton wins in Mexico but wait for sixth world title goes on
Briton now needs to finish only eighth in Texas after tactical masterclass
Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the F1 Mexico Grand Prix at the Hermanos Rodriguez racetrack in Mexico City. Photograph: Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images.
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 on Sunday.
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.
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 on the other end of the line.
“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 on an otherwise faultless afternoon for the Briton and his Mercedes team.
“What a job, guys,” yelled Hamilton on the radio. “Thank you so much for your hard work. That was a tough race, but what 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.
“I don’t mind (that I have to wait for the championship). I love racing, and I will take it one race at a time. This has been a grand prix I have wanted to win for some time so I am incredibly humbled for this opportunity.”