Lewis Hamilton celebrating his
(Photo from: www.telegraph.co.uk)
Lewis Hamilton kept his championship hopes alive with a comfortable victory in Mexico to make it two wins in a week. The gap between him and Rosberg has now been cut to 19 points however Rosberg can afford to finish second to Hamilton in the two remaining races and still be crowned 2016 Formula 1 World Champion.
Hamilton controlled the whole weekend and took his 59th pole position of his career on Saturday, only 6 behind his hero Ayrton Senna. Rosberg joined his teammate on the second row, after being as low as fifth at one stage in the session. The Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Riccardo completed the second row with Nico Hulkenberg qualifying a highly respectable fifth. Kimi Räikkönen joined the Force India on the third row with Sebastian Vettel seventh the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa eighth and ninth as Carlos Sainz Jr rounded out the top 10.
Race day and as the lights went out the Mercedes duo initially got an equal start, however as they progress down the long pit straight. Hamilton was able to take the lead. He did not have an easy turn 1 though as he outbraked himself ran wide over the grass and rejoined the track at Turn 3.
There was further action behind as Verstappen saw his chance to make his move for second. Unlike Rosberg who started with soft tyres, Verstappen was on the faster red walled Super-Soft and knowing he had to make his move early, he dived down the inside of the German at Turn 1, clashing wheels in the process, to try and make his move. Rosberg had to take to the grass at Turn 2 to avoid contact and remained in second.
The action continued further down the order as around Turn 2 local hero Esteban Gutierrez clipped Pascal Wehrlein’s Manor into Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber, eliminating the young German on the spot. This prompted the safety car as his car was retrieved from the side of the track.
The early safety car also ensured that various strategies would come into effect throughout the race as Daniel Ricciardo pitted from fifth to fit the medium tyre, dropping him to 17th. The Australian quickly started carving his way through the field and pitted again on lap 50 to ensure he closed rapidly in on those ahead of him.
At the front however, the race was largely uneventful, with Hamilton controlling the gap to Rosberg in second who himself was controlling the gap to third. Hamilton made his first stop on lap 17, three laps later than teammate Rosberg and came out in second, only behind Vettel who would continue in the lead for another 7 laps before making his own stop.
The only scare for either Mercedes was on lap 50, when Verstappen closed drastically on Rosberg for second and dived down the inside at Turn 4, after the German had made a small mistake into Turn 1, compromising him down the long straight between Turn 3 and 4. However the Dutchman was unable to get the car stopped and dropped back to third and soon fell away and into the clutches of Vettel’s fourth placed Ferrari.
After slowly coming under more and more pressure from Vettel, Verstappen cracked on lap 68 locking up his front left going into turn 1 and taking to the grass, a move Vettel thought ensured he unfairly gained an advantage. Once the race it was deemed that Verstappen had indeed gained an advantage and he was demoted from third to fifth after he received a five second penalty, ensuring Vettel had his first podium finish since Monza, or so we thought.
As the duo squabbled further this allowed Riccardo to close, who had once again made his way to fifth. He himself went for a move at Turn 4 on Vettel for fourth however the Ferrari driver defended valiantly keeping the place and leaving Ricciardo locking up heavily in avoidance. This move would be investigated after the race and saw Vettel also given a penalty, this time a 10 second penalty which dropped him behind the Red Bull duo. This promoted Ricciardo to third and Verstappen to fourth. However the series of events will be remembered for the expletive laden radio comments from Vettel throughout the battling.
At the front however it was easy for the Mercedes duo who took another 1-2 finish with Hamilton beating Rosberg by 8.354 seconds and in doing so he took his 51st victory of his career. The tally equals that of four time World Champion Alain Prost and is now joint second in the all time list, only behind Michael Schumacher who is on a staggering 91.
Daniel Ricciardo eventually finished third ahead of his teammate Verstappen in fourth with Vettel fifth and Räikkönen sixth. Nico Hulkenberg continued his fine end of season form with seventh ahead of the Williams duo of Bottas and Massa as local man Sergio Perez completed the top 10.