Lewis Hamilton’s sixth Formula One title was kept on ice despite a hard-fought victory at the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Mercedes driver needed to finish 14 points clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas to take the overall championship, but the Finn’s third-place finish means Hamilton will have to wait until next weekend’s United States Grand Prix, where he is likely to wrap up the title.
Championship stakes aside, it was an intriguing race in Mexico with teams opting for different tire strategies — some drivers pitting once, others twice — as grid positions changed frequently throughout the contest.
Hamilton’s Mercedes was unfancied before the race with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc quicker during qualifying.
The Briton had voiced concerns over his team radio that he had pitted too early, but the tactic in fact worked to perfection. Hamilton had plenty of life in his tires to close out the race, finishing 1.7 seconds ahead of Vettel with a well judged drive.
“Today is an incredible result. We came here thinking we were on the back foot and it was a difficult race for us, but we pulled through,” said Hamilton, whose victory also marked Mercedes’ 100th as a constructor in F1.
Hamilton started third on the grid behind the Ferrari pair of Leclerc and Vettel after Verstappen had originally qualified in pole but was handed a three-place grid penalty for ignoring warning flags.
After being forced off the track with Verstappen at the start of the race, Hamilton worked his way up the grid and lasted 48 laps on his second set of tires to record a second victory in Mexico.
Vettel and Bottas completed the podium, while Leclerc, who fell foul to a slow pit stop, finished fourth.
The Red Bull duo of Alexander Albon and Verstappen were fifth and sixth respectively, Verstappen having been forced to the back of the grid after colliding with Bottas on lap four.
Victory in Mexico, Hamilton’s 10th of the season, means he needs just four more points to wrap a third consecutive title.