Hamilton secures title in Mexico as Verstappen wins race
Mexican Grand Prix

Hamilton secures title in Mexico as Verstappen wins race

28/10/2018

Lewis Hamilton secured his fifth world championship at Sunday's Mexican Grand Prix as Max Verstappen took the race victory.

Hamilton finished in fourth place, but with title rival Sebastian Vettel failing to win the race, he would have been crowned champion, regardless of his finishing position.

It was a scrappy race for Hamilton, as he struggled with tyre wear throughout and dropped positions, but he will soon forget those minor setbacks as the scale of his remarkable achievement sinks in.

Only Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher have won five championships or more in Formula One, moving Hamilton into a very exclusive club among the greatest drivers of all time.

The result of the Mexican Grand Prix brings an engaging title battle to an end, with Hamilton getting the better of Vettel for the second year in a row.

Looking back, the championship swung over the course of six races between the German Grand Prix in July and the Japanese Grand Prix in October. A series of mistakes in that period saw Vettel's title campaign collapse just as Mercedes started to improve, allowing Hamilton to extend his championship lead to an unbeatable margin.

But Vettel's errors should take nothing away from the remarkable achievement of F1's newest five-time world champion, who will target Schumacher's seven titles over the remaining two years of his Mercedes contract.

The Mexican Grand Prix ultimately hinged on tyre wear, with Verstappen, Vettel in second place and Hamilton all adopting two-stop strategies to ensure that they made it to the end of the race on fresh rubber. Having started from third on the grid, Hamilton briefly took the lead away from the line, only for Verstappen -- who started second -- to lunge up the inside and snatch first position at Turn 1.

From that point on, Verstappen never looked back. He won the race by 17.3s over Vettel, who secured second place in the final 10 laps, when Ricciardo retired with a mechanical issue in front of him. Kimi Raikkonen, who was one of the few drivers to adopt a one-stop strategy, took third place ahead of Hamilton in fourth.

Although Verstappen's Red Bull looked unstoppable at the front, Hamilton tried to stay in touch with him in the opening stint of the race. That clearly took a toll on his tyres, and on lap 11 he pitted from second place just as Ricciardo, running in third place behind him, looked as though he might try an overtaking move.

That Mercedes tyre change triggered a flurry of activity in the pits, with Valtteri Bottas, Ricciardo and Verstappen all pitting within a couple of laps. Ferrari kept Vettel and Raikkonen out five laps longer and held position in four of sixth when they returned to the track. The fresher rubber on the two Ferraris proved useful over the coming stint, and Vettel moved up to third with a passing move on Ricciardo on lap 34 before passing Hamilton for second on lap 39.

A second round of pit stops was triggered on lap 47, after Hamilton locked up defending third place from Ricciardo and ran wide. He had been struggling with his front left for more than 20 laps, and the lock up was the last straw for the Mercedes pit wall, who were now firmly in damage limitation mode. Vettel, Bottas and Verstappen all reacted to Hamilton by pitting for a second time, while Ricciardo and Raikkonen remained on track, moving them up to second and fourth, respectively.

Mercedes continued to struggle with tyres in the third and final stint of the race, which meant Hamilton had to settle for fifth place ahead of his teammate and rear-gunner Bottas. Vettel, on fresh rubber, was challenging Ricciardo for second when the Red Bull driver retired with 10 laps remaining.

Although Vettel was lapping competitively at the time, he was never going to catch Verstappen, who was more than 13 seconds up the road. Just as Hamilton had to settle for fifth, Vettel had to settle for second and, with that, admit defeat in the championship.

Outside the top five, Nico Hulkenberg finished two laps down in sixth place ahead of Charles Leclerc in seventh, Stoffel Vandoorne in eighth and Marcus Ericsson in ninth. Pierre Gasly took the final point on offer, having started the race in last position.

The final two rounds of the season will take place in Brazil and Abu Dhabi and will see Ferrari and Mercedes fight it out for the constructors' title. Mercedes currently leads Ferrari by 55 points with 86 left to play for.

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