Lewis Hamilton has closed the gap to Nico Rosberg in the drivers’ championship by winning the Mexican Grand Prix eight seconds ahead of his Mercedes team mate.
Hamilton enjoyed a troubled-free race after the first lap as he went unchallenged to take his 51st career victory, reducing Rosberg’s championship lead to 19 points with two races remaining.
The battle for the final podium position came alive in the final 10 laps of the race, as Sebastian Vettel hunted down Max Verstappen for third place on tyres which were 20 laps younger than the Dutchman’s.
The Ferrari driver was pressing the Red Bull when Verstappen locked up and ran deep into Turn 1, which led him to cut the corner and gain an advantage as he kept track position. Vettel was clearly unhappy with his move, constantly radioing his team that Verstappen should give him the position.
At this stage, Daniel Ricciardo had joined the battle having made another pit stop on lap 50 to jump on the soft tyre for the final 21 laps.
The Australian gained over two seconds a lap on the leading drivers once he made his stop and when he came across Vettel with two laps remaining, made a lunge into Turn 4 where he locked his brakes and almost ran into the Ferrari.
While no contact was made, both drivers kept their position until the end of the race, where the Stewards found Verstappen guilty of leaving the track and gaining and gaining an advantage, promoting Vettel to third while Verstappen dropped to fifth.
Kimi Raikkonen was gifted sixth position late in the race when Nico Hulkenberg spun in the first sector in the final laps and was forced to settle for seventh position after qualifying in fifth position.
It was a scrappy start for both Mercedes drivers at the beginning of the race as both drivers got away cleanly, however, it was evident the pressure took its toll at Turn 1, when Hamilton locked up and ran over the grass cutting the second corner.
Rosberg also ran into troubles, when Verstappen jumped on the brakes late and dove into Turn 1 as he attempted a pass on the Silver Arrows. His move put him deep into the corner and forced Rosberg off the track, the German driver also having to resort to cutting the corner to not lose track position.
While the coming together between the pair was investigated, the Stewards found it to be a racing incident. The advantage both Hamilton and Rosberg received from their first corner mishaps was soon nulled, as the safety car was brought out thanks to a collision between Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.
Wehrlein was making his way through Turn 1 on the inside of the Sauber when he was clipped from behind by Esteban Gutierrez, who was left with nowhere to go as the tail end of the field all scuffled for position through the chicane.
The tap sent the Manor into the Sauber which ended Wehrlein’s race early, while Ericsson was able to continue and pit for repairs, as well as take a new set of medium tyres.
The safety car lasted three laps while the stricken Manor was removed from the track, once the race resumed, Hamilton eased out to a two second advantage over Rosberg, while Ricciardo was fighting his way back through the field in 15th having pitted under the safety car to take a set of medium tyres.
Hamilton was the first of the Mercedes to pit on lap 18 for mediums while Rosberg stayed out for a further three laps before also pitting for the white-striped mediums.
The two Red Bulls found each other on track after Verstappen had made his pit stop on lap 13, falling behind Ricciardo on track in fifth position. As Ricciardo was on a set of older tyres, he let Verstappen through without a fight so he could then go ahead and challenge Rosberg for second position on track.
The teenager made ground on the Mercedes and got within 1.5 seconds in only a handful of laps. The gap remained between the two drivers until lap 50, when Verstappen forced Rosberg into a mistake as he locked up heading into Turn 3, the Red Bull driver was about to make his way passed until he too locked up and ran deep which ruined his chances of passing Rosberg.
Further back in the grid, home-town hero Sergio Perez had a race to forget, as the Mexican spent almost the entire race battling Felipe Massa’s Williams.
Though he made plenty of attempts the pass the Brazilian, Perez didn’t have the pace to make a move stick, venting his frustration towards his team suggesting they should have pitted his Force India earlier than they did.
Massa’s team mate Valtteri Bottas was further up the road in eighth position after having a quiet race, while Ericsson ran 69 laps on the medium compound tyre after his first lap incident to finish an impressive 11th in the Sauber.
Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas