2017: Round 18/20, Mexican GP, Mexico City

MAX’S RACE, LEWIS’S TITLE

First lap clash sidelines championship rivals

1st     MAX VERSTAPPEN      Red Bull-TAG Heuer
2nd    VALTTERI BOTTAS       Mercedes
3rd     KIMI RAIKKONEN         Ferrari

A gutsy pole – his 50th – plus Hamilton P3 behind Verstappen gave Vettel just a glimmer to keep his flimsy title hopes alive. Seb had to finish P1 or P2 with Lewis P10 or lower. Launching from the grid as one, the top three entered turn 1 virtually abreast. By turn 3 Verstappen led – “Simply, simply lovely” – while Vettel and Hamilton headed for the pits for repairs, resuming 19th and 20th. In those frenetic opening moments Vettel made contact first with Verstappen, luckily unscathed, then with Hamilton, his right-rear punctured by the Ferrari front wing. “Was that deliberate?” Lewis asked. The verdict must be no, as in that moment Vettel’s title challenge was effectively over despite a spirited recovery drive to P4. With a damaged diffuser Hamilton made more laboured progress, finally reaching a lapped P9, a bizarre way to clinch a title. Up front Verstappen had no difficulty seeing off Bottas and Räikkönen, beating them by 19.6s and 54.0s over the distance. Red Bull’s only anxiety was whether Verstappen’s engine would last, the pit-wall pleading with Max to ease back as three of six Renault-powered cars were out by lap 30, including Ricciardo. In the closing laps the risk of a Verstappen DNF kept tension high as it could change things for Vettel, assuming Kimi let Seb by into P2 and Lewis failed to pass Alonso in their fight for P9. Ocon (P5), Stroll (P6) and Magnussen (P8) each finished strongly, albeit one lap behind.
Incidentally…
At an altitude of 2,285m above sea level, the thin air of Mexico City influenced the outcome, negating Mercedes’ engine power advantage while emphasizing Red Bull’s aero efficiency. But Verstappen did the rest to perfection, if inwardly ruing his failure to win a first pole. With a fourth World Championship, Hamilton eclipsed Stewart as the most successful British champion, an accolade Sir Jackie has held since 1973.

The Championship Chase
Hamilton 333, Vettel 277, Bottas 262, Ricciardo 192, Räikkönen 178
Mercedes 595, Ferrari 455, Red Bull 340, Force India 175, Williams 76

RS
Formula 1 All the Races