MEXICO CITY, Mexico — While Max Verstappen won Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth World Championship. The Dutchman drove an impeccable race as Hamilton and championship rival Sebastian Vettel clashed on the first lap, dropping them down the order.
“Of course the start was very crucial,” Verstappen said. “I went round the outside, so that worked out well and from there on I was basically looking after the tyres. The car performed brilliantly in the race, so a big thanks to Red Bull as without them this wouldn’t be possible.”
“Of course you know after last week this is a perfect race. It was cruising, it was great.”
“Honestly it doesn’t feel real,” Hamilton said. “It was a horrible way to [clinch the title] to be honest, but what could I do? I wasn’t going to go easy at Turn 1 and I don’t think I was too aggressive or anything – I placed my car in the perfect position. I’m looking forward to seeing the replay because I left a lot of space for the car behind. But I kept going, kept coming back.”
Hamilton’s championship lead was such that Vettel either had to win or finish second with Hamilton not in the top five to keep the Ferrari driver’s hopes alive. Hamilton’s day did not start well. The third-place starter’s car had no power leaving the garage, and then the seat was incredibly hot on the grid.
Vettel got the jump on Verstappen, but the Dutchman pushed past Vettel at the first chicane. Hamilton, who went three-wide with Vettel and Verstappen, got clipped by Vettel at Turn one, leaving him with a puncture. At the end of lap one, Verstappen led Valtteri Bottas by 1.7 seconds as Vettel pitted for a new nose.
That was good to see for me and from there on I just pulled away and did my race,” Verstappen said of the clash. “I was confident that the car was going to be good, just looking at the long-run pace lap times. We just had to make sure the balance of the car was correct to be able to sustain that.”
With the championship contenders at the rear of the field, the Verstappen-Bottas battle was the important highlight at the moment. Meanwhile, Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo moved up from 16th to ninth in two laps. Sadly, his race came to an end on lap six with power unit issues.
Vettel was carving his way up the field, aggressively moving Massa out of the way for 15th. Vettel complained that Massa drove him off the track. Hamilton was running last and in danger of being lapped by Verstappen, which happened on lap 22.
Verstappen had a six-second lead over Bottas by lap 19, and was driving a metered, consistent race. Esteban Ocon, running third, would pit his Force India on lap 21, moving Kimi Raikkonen up to third, 23.6 seconds back.
Nico Hulkenberg retired his Renault on lap 26 on the way down to Turn one. The team told him to stop as the “car was not safe” and told him to “jump off the front” of it, which could be a suspected KERS grounding issue.
Vettel was up to tenth by lap 26, but still needed to push on. Hamilton, meanwhile, was running 17th, having just past Carlos Sainz’s Renault. The Englishman was complaining of tire issues, but hunted down Pascal Wehrlein’s Sauber in 16th.
While Wehrlein was mired down in the back of the field, teammate Marcus Ericsson was sitting just out of the points in 11th. The Swede had been running ninth early on. Ericsson pitted on lap 30, dropping him to 15th.
There was a virtual safety car on lap 33 for Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso, who retired with engine issues. Vettel and Hamilton pitted from eighth and 16th respectively, as did Verstappen, Bottas and Raikkonen. Verstappen led Bottas by 7.2 seconds at the end of the Virtual Safety Car.
Vettel set the fastest lap on lap 34, but then Verstappen went faster on lap 36 on supersoft tires. Hamilton was stuck behind Wehrlein in 15th, while Vettel had his hands full with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas. Vettel got by Magnussen, but was a full minute off Bottas in second, which put his World Championship chances out of reach.
With 20 laps to go, Verstappen held a 15.3-second lead over Bottas. Vettel got by the hometown hero Perez for sixth. Hamilton was just outside the points in 11th.
Vettel’s next target was Lance Stroll, and got by him for fifth on lap 55. Hamilton was on Felipe Massa’s back for 10th, passing him on lap 57 at Turn two, while Vettel had closed up on Ocon for fourth, getting him into Turn one on lap 58. Raikkonen was next on Vettel’s list, but the Finn was 23 seconds ahead of his teammate.
Carlos Sainz retired on lap 62, the fourth Renault-powered car to fail. Hamilton caught up to Fernando Alonso for ninth, but the McLaren driver fought back. Hamilton got Alonso at Turn four on lap 69 after a wheel-to-wheel duel.
Verstappen drove a quiet final few laps to win by nearly 20 seconds from Bottas.
Hamilton now joins Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio and Alain Prost as drivers who have at least four World Championships. The Englishman celebrated with a large Union Jack in the car on the celebration lap and a donut heading into parc ferme.
“I try to not leave any stone unturned – and that’s the philosophy the whole team have had,” Hamilton said. “As a driver I’m always trying to raise the bar.”
“Just the other day I was reminiscing about growing up in Stevenage, and watching TV and one day dreaming of being in F1. Here we are, 25 years later or whatever it is and I’m four-time world champion. A big, big thank you to all the fans. Thank you for your continuous support.”
1. Max Verstappen
2. Valtteri Bottas
3. Kimi Raikkonen
4. Sebastian Vettel
5. Esteban Ocon
6. Lance Stroll
7. Sergio Perez
8. Kevin Magnussen
9. Lewis Hamilton
10. Fernando Alonso
11. Felipe Massa
12. Stoffel Vandoorne
13. Pierre Gasly
14. Pascal Wehrlein
15. Romain Grosjean
16. Carlos Sainz
17. Marcus Ericsson
18. Brendon Hartley
19. Nico Hulkenberg
20. Daniel Ricciardo