It’s a case of job done, for both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who both did what they needed to do to keep their title challenges alive following a slow-burning Mexican Grand Prix. It began in somewhat controversial fashion, and ended with considerably more controversy.
In the run down to turn 1 Hamilton misjudged his braking and shot wide, cutting across the grass to retain the lead he had kept in the run toward the corner. Some fans have argued Hamilton should have taken a penalty for gaining an advantage – I’ll stick to my view that he backed off, allowing the gap to close up again – and an early safety car completely negated any perceived advantage Hamilton had. It was to be the only hairy moment for Hamilton, who went on to comfortably control the race.
Rosberg too was largely untroubled, save for a spell where Max Verstappen lurked close by, keeping Rosberg honest and on his toes. At one point Verstappen tried a lunge down the inside of turn 4, trying to exploit a lock-up from Rosberg, but he couldn’t make the move stick and ended up falling back – into the clutches of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
Late on, Vettel (who by this point had the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo pressing him) was on Verstappen’s tail as they approached turn 1. Vettel wasn’t actively trying to pass but Verstappen locked up anyway, shooting wide in a manner similar to Hamilton on the first lap. Vettel believed Verstappen had to give up third place, but the teenager was unrepentant, and as the pair squabbled, Ricciardo tried to slip by Vettel at turn 4. Vettel moved under braking, a move that would prove to have consequences.
Hamilton and Rosberg saw out a 1-2 finish, the second consecutive 1-2 and Hamilton’s 51st career win (equalling Alain Prost’s record). The question of who finished third saw Verstappen lose out to Vettel, only for Vettel to lose out to Ricciardo after the podium once the stewards had taken a closer look at Vettel’s defence against the Australian.
Vettel got sweary over the radio as his battles with the Red Bulls unfolded, and it won’t be the first time his temperment has been called into question this season. Might he need to take a breather?
In championship terms, the gap is down to 19 points with two races to go, so the circumstances remain the same – Hamilton needs to keep winning, Rosberg needs only to avoid making any errors and finish second and the title is his. There might be the temptation to push in Brazil – if Rosberg is victorious in a couple of weeks time, the championship will be his with a race to spare.