Max Verstappen claimed a stunning victory in an action-packed and unpredictable Mexican GP as Lewis Hamilton sealed a fourth world championship despite finishing ninth.
The Red Bull driver started on the front row behind race leader Sebastian Vettel but quickly made his move into Turn One, with the Ferrari then clattering into the back of Hamilton’s Mercedes in contact that sent both title rivals to the back of the field after forced early pit-stops.
Hamiton wins fourth Formula 1 title
WATCH: Vettel and Hamilton collide
Hamilton could only recover for two points from 20th after his puncture but the pressure was always on Vettel due to his 66-point deficit before round 17 of the season, and a dogged comeback drive to fourth was not enough to stop Hamilton being crowned world champion for a fourth time.
Having suffered front wing damage in the opening lap of the Mexican GP, Sebastian Vettel then punctured the rear-right tyre of Lewis Hamilton leaving both drivers needing an early pit-stop
But while Hamilton has made British history by becoming a four-time title-winner, Verstappen was certainly the star of the Mexican GP with another performance that hints at future championships of his own.
It was the Dutchman’s second victory of the year and he led from Turn One onwards, quickly and comfortably extending his advantage over Valtteri Bottas, eventually winning by nearly 20 seconds.
Kimi Raikkonen took the final podium spot for Ferrari, but was a further half a minute off the pace.
Verstappen even managed to lap Hamilton during a sublime afternoon, and was told to slow down by his Red Bull team – such was his pace at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
“The start was very crucial,” said the 20-year-old, who is the top points scorer from the last four races. “I went around the outside and that worked out well.
“After last week this is the perfect race. I was cruising. It was good to see [Lewis and Seb touching] and after that I just pulled away.”
Title rivals collide
Vettel and Hamilton hadn’t made on-track contact since a controversial Azerbaijan GP in June – but that all changed within three corners in Mexico City.
The Scuderia driver initially appeared to cover both Verstappen and Hamilton’s movements from pole with a decent start, but was caught out by the significant slipstream and had lost two positions as he exited Turn Two.
And Vettel’s vision was soon clouded by his own carbon fibre as he shunted into the Mercedes – causing a right-rear puncture for the Englishman in the process.
“Did he hit me deliberately?”, asked Hamilton over team radio. But the race stewards decided that no investigation was necessary.
Following their opening lap collision, Lewis Hamilton questioned over team radio whether Sebastian Vettel had deliberately hit him
Hamilton dropping back to 20th was the ideal start for both Ferrari and Vettel, but he too had to pit for repairs and only emerged two places ahead of his championship rival. Needing to outscore Hamilton by 16 points, taking the title fight to Brazil always looked unlikely.
But that’s not to say the German didn’t give it his all, making up 14 places and pulling off some superb and brave overtakes along the way.
Hamilton, too, wasn’t exactly playing it safe despite having a lack of pace compared to Vettel all afternoon, with his late pass on Fernando Alonso’s McLaren for ninth the pick of the bunch.
Though Verstappen sealed Red Bull’s third victory of the season – their best haul since 2014 – it wasn’t all good news for the team, nor for Renault-powered cars in general.
Daniel Ricciardo had made his way up to seventh after starting 17th thanks to the first-lap carnage, but his engine gave up within six laps. It was his first back-to-back DNF since 2013 and his first in a Red Bull.
Nico Hulkenberg suffered an ERS failure on his Renault – his third successive race retirement – while Brendon Hartley’s second ever F1 Grand Prix was ended after another engine went boom as he ran 11th for Toro Rosso
And Carlos Sainz made it four Renault power unit DNFs after retiring to the pits with 10 laps remaining.
Mexican GP Race Result Driver Team Race time 1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:36:26.550 2) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes + 19.678 3) Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari + 54.007 4) Sebastian Vettel Ferrari + 70.078 5) Esteban Ocon Force India + 1 LAP 6) Lance Stroll Williams + 1 LAP 7) .Sergio Perez Force India + 1 LAP 8) Kevin Magnussen Haas + 1 LAP 9) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 1 LAP 10) Fernando Alonso McLaren + 1 LAP 11) Felipe Massa Williams + 1 LAP 12) Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren + 1 LAP 13) Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso + 1 LAP 14) Pascal Wehrlein Sauber + 1 LAP 15)Romain Grosjean Haas + 1 LAP Did Not Finish Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Nico Hulkenberg Renault Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Marcus Ericsson Sauber Carlos Sainz Renault
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