All eyes were on the race in Mexico City, which was Lewis Hamilton’s to lose, especially considering the odds stacked against Sebastian Vettel holding him back.
Vettel looked like he had a challenge on with his blistering pole position pace, but a charging Max Verstappen in his Red Bull put the challenge on right from the beginning. However it was the physical contact between the two championship rivals that upset the order. Verstappen first brushed against Vettel’s front wing on turn two, giving the Dutchman the advantage and slowing Vettel enough to have Hamilton try to get ahead on turn 3. It was here that Vettel damaged the wing further against the rear wheel of the Mercedes. Both the cars the had to pit, with Hamilton addressing his puncture and Vettel changing the wing. Both cars took on softs to last the whole race.
While the race continued going Verstappen’s way, Vettel manages to weave his way back to eighth, while Hamilton was held up further behind. But a virtual safety car period on the 31st lap saw both challengers take on ultra softs and that changed their positions.
The race ended with Verstappen joined by Valtteri Bottas and the other Ferrari driver on the podium, with Vettel managing a respectable fourth. But Hamilton’s ninth place was enough to bring him up to 333 points against Vettel’s 277, effectively giving him the championship irrespective of the outcome of the last two races on the calendar.
Post race Hamilton said, “To be honest, this fourth world title is not even registering right now. There is all this energy from the people around you, but it takes a while for it to really sink in. I am incredibly grateful when I think about everything that was going on this year and everything that had to be in place to produce this result. I didn’t do this on my own, there are over a thousand people back in Brackley and Brixworth who have created this beast that has given me the opportunity to exploit my abilities. I have received such great support from around the world, and I want to thank all of you that believed in me. To do this on Mexican soil, to shine a positive light on a country that has been through such a difficult time over the past few months, makes this really special. It doesn’t matter what happened in the race today. I carry ‘Still I Rise’ on the back of my helmet – it means when you get knocked down, you get back up again and keep pushing as hard as you can. I never gave up, and I kept pushing. Four is a great number – but I want number five now!”
The championship now moves to Brazil and Abu Dhabi, with the titles stitched up.