Lewis Hamilton completed the 51st Grand Prix win of his career in Mexico to ensure the 2016 F1 championship remains alive with two races remaining. Hamilton was largely comfortable throughout and only suffered a minor scare, running wide at the first corner. Hamilton, however, will recognise that the advantage in the title still remains firmly with his teammate, Nico Rosberg. Even if Hamilton were to collect maximum points in the final two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi this would likely be insufficient to overhaul the current gap of 19 points which affords Rosberg the luxury of requiring just a 2nd and a 3rd place finish.
However this win in Mexico, a typical dominant Hamilton performance, now takes the three time World champion to equal 2nd in the all-time list of Grand Prix victories, level with Alain Prost, and behind only Michael Schumacher. It provides further weight to the argument that were it not for Hamilton’s frequent reliability problems the state of the drivers championship would be very different.
Yet Rosberg did all that was necessary to preserve his position, and although he suffered a similar scare to Hamilton at the first corner whilst tussling with Max Verstappen, certainly the manner of his drive points to his growing maturity as a driver. In a weekend were Hamilton was clearly dominant there was no need for Rosberg to take any risks.
The race played out in front of a capacity crowd of 120,000 which Hamilton described in his post-race interview as ‘honestly the best we get anywhere’. For much of the 71 lap race there was very little spectacle as Mercedes completed the rather expected 1-2. Yet the battle for the final spot on the podium, between Vettel, Riccardo and Vertsappen, proved to be worth the wait and certainly provided its fair share of controversy.
The differing strategies of the drivers meant that entering the last five laps of the race, Verstappen was under severe pressure from both Vettel and Riccardo. On lap 68 this pressure duly told on the 19 year-old as he ran wide, cutting part of the opening corners, which prompted calls from Vettel to give up the place. Verstappen however did not relent and further aggravated Vettel by backing him into Riccardo. Riccardo looked to seize his opportunity on the final lap yet an audacious piece of defensive driving from Vettel prevented the pass.
Vettel’s anger at Verstappen was evidently apparent as he offered a furious tirade of expletives over the team radio. Initially it appeared as though Vettel would take some consolation from a 3rd place finish as Verstappen was given a 5-second penalty for cutting the track. However Vettel’s joy was short lived as in further controversy he was penalised by 10 seconds for dangerous driving on the final lap whilst defending against Riccardo. The Australian was duly promoted to 3rd. The FIA has since decided not to take any action against Vettel for his outburst at the end of the Grand Prix.
Next-up, the drivers head to Brazil where Hamilton will be looking to defy his largely poor record in Sao Paulo and keep the pressure firmly upon Rosberg, with the German knowing that one win will give him his first world championship.
Photo Credit: Eduardo Verdugo