Mexican GP: Fifth world title for Hamilton as Verstappen doubles up
Lewis Hamilton clinched his fifth F1 world championship with a fourth-placed finish in Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for the second year in a row.
Hamilton had gone into the 71-lap race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with a virtually unassailable 70-point lead over closest title rival Sebastian Vettel, who finished second ahead of his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton, who matches the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio on the all-time list, was making a successful defense of the title which he also sealed in Mexico last year.
Only Michael Schumacher with seven F1 titles is ahead of him after his latest triumphant season.
“To complete this when Fangio did this with Mercedes is an incredible feeling and very surreal,” he said.
The 33-year Briton made a superb start to the race, moving from third on the grid in his Mercedes to overtake pole sitter Daniel Ricciardo and nearly forcing his way into the lead.
But Verstappen kept ahead and slowly pulled away from Hamilton and his other challengers to secure the fifth victory of the burgeoning F1 career for the 21-year-old Dutch prodigy.
“The start was very important. From there onwards I could do my own race,” he said. “I hope we can be a bit closer to Mercedes next season,” he added.
Hamilton endured an uncomfortable afternoon, struggling for grip with his tire choice and needing only a seventh-placed finish to guarantee the title, he put up little challenge as first Vettel and then Ricciardo overtook him.
“It was a horrible race, I really don’t know what happened, I was just holding on trying to bring the car home,” he admitted.
The unlucky Ricciardo later suffered another retirement in a year blighted by bad luck, allowing Hamilton to reclaim the place, with his teammate Valtteri Bottas in fifth.
Behind the frontrunners, there was disappointment for the home crowd when Mexican Sergio Perez was forced to retire in his Force India, while the retiring Fernando Alonso was out on the first lap after debris hit his McLaren.
Vettel, needing to win to keep his hopes alive, was gracious in defeat, hugging Hamilton as the two greats shared a moment.
“It’s not an easy day, but well deserved (for Hamilton) so congratulations to him and his team they did a great job.”
Vettel’s hopes of a fifth world title dissipated in the second half of the season, with Hamilton finishing on the podium for nine of the last 10 races and securing a string of victories, while the German and his Ferrari team made crucial mistakes to undermine his challenge.
“We were just not good enough,” he admitted in the post-race media conference.
With two rounds remaining in Brazil and Abu Dhabi the only issue outstanding is the constructors’ championship, with Ferrari cutting the gap on Mercedes to 55 points after Mexico.