Lewis Hamilton cruised to the checkered flag at the Mexican Grand Prix finishing 8.354 seconds ahead of title rival Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton strolled in for another comfortable victory – after easily winning the US Grand Prix a week prior – closing to within 19 points of Rosberg in the championship.
Much of the action took place behind the Mercedes drivers with a scrap between Verstappen, Vettel and Ricciardo turning sour in the closing laps. All three drivers were at one point awarded third place but in the end it was officially awarded to Ricciardo despite him crossing the line in fifth.
Further behind, Force India’s Niko Hulkenberg took seventh place ahead of the Williams drivers of Bottas and Massa. The favorite among the crowd, Sergio Perez, could only manage tenth after being stuck behind Massa for most of the race.
What Happened Between Vettel, Verstappen and Ricciardo?
Behind the easy one-two finish for Mercedes was a tussle featuring Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and both Red Bull drivers that ended in remarkable scenes.
The stage was set early when Ricciardo capitalized on an opening lap safety car – following Pascal Wehrlein’s early crash – to pit for medium tires. The Australian returned to the track towards the back of the field and he worked his way through the pack aided by a late stop for faster soft tires to run in fifth behind Vettel.
In the meantime, Vettel was having his own contest with Verstappen who was running in third. It boiled over on Lap 68 when the Dutchman ran wide in Turn 1 and then over the grass in Turn 2 to stay ahead of the Ferrari. Verstappen’s engineers told him to give up the place but he refused and the wayward driving let Ricciardo close quickly on Vettel.
With just a lap remaining, Ricciardo spotted an opportunity on the inside at Turn 4 only for Vettel to edge into the Red Bull before the Ferrari eventually emerged to cross the line in fourth.
In unprecedented scenes, Verstappen learned that he was penalized 5 seconds for leaving the track and gaining an advantage only when he was in the pre-podium room preparing to accept his third place trophy. Remarkably, Lewis Hamilton performed almost the exact same move on the opening lap and was not penalized – something that many noted afterwards.
Said Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg: “I am actually very surprised about that. Massive advantage; he was going well of the track. He was far, far from making Turns One and Two. That is not even looked at is very surprising for me.”
Then, to add to a climatic afternoon, Vettel was told several hours after taking to the podium that he was penalized 10 seconds for moving under braking when defending against Ricciardo.
Ironically, the rule outlawing moving under braking was only introduced last week after complaints, most of which came from Vettel, about Verstappen’s driving.
Where Does The Win Leave Hamilton?
Lewis Hamilton’s dominance ahead of the chaos for third helped the Englishman to narrow the gap to Rosberg but his title challenge is still precarious.
Rosberg still only needs to finish second and third in the remaining two races to take the championship. And a win in Brazil for Rosberg will give him the title regardless of where Hamilton finishes.
“I am fighting for something I don’t know if I’ll be able to make. It is an unusual scenario to be in. But I just have to push all the way to the end,” said Lewis Hamilton.
“In one way it could be painful and in one way it could be a great thing. But all I know from the beginning of my career is that, in F1, up to the last minute, it could change and that’s why I can’t give up.”