The 2019 Grand Prix of Mexico opened with drama after Max Verstappen was stripped of his pole position after not slowing for the yellow flags following Valtteri Bottas‘ crash in qualifying. The drama was increased with the possibility that Lewis Hamilton could clinch his sixth Formula 1 World Championship, putting him alone in second all-time and a good 2020 away from tying Michael Schumacher’s seven titles. That possibility did not come to fruition, but Hamilton was still able to take advantage of strategy to claim the win at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, his 10th win of the season, 83rd of his career and 62nd since joining Mercedes-AMG Petronas.
At lights out, the Ferraris made a strong start as Charles Leclerc cleared Sebastian Vettel away into turn 1 with slight contact. There was more contact between Hamilton and Verstappen as the Red Bull driver looked to make up from his three-place grid penalty. The two cars knocked into each other and sailed through the grass.
⚠️ VIRTUAL SAFETY CAR (LAP 1/71) ⚠️
We've got lots of debris in Sector 1
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 27, 2019
Verstappen tried to charge after the contact, sliding through the stadium section looking past Bottas on lap 5, but there was not enough room between the two cars. The front wing of Bottas touched Verstappen’s rear right wheel, causing a puncture. After an unscheduled pit stop, Verstappen was at the rear of the field.
The race then settled a bit after the Verstappen drama, Leclerc led Vettel, Albon and Hamilton through the first stint as Bottas took a few laps to pass the McLaren of Sainz before he joined the front runners in conserving their medium tires to allow for a later pitstop.
Hamilton pursued Albon for third but was struggling despite the power advantage in the Mercedes car. Albon was running very strong laps that kept him in tow with the Ferrari leaders and in DRS range for some laps but the name of the game for the leaders through the first 15 and more laps was conserving those used medium tires..
Bad luck came back to strike Lando Norris and McLaren yet again when he came in for his pit stop for hard tires. The left front tire was not tightened properly, forcing the rookie to stop at the end of pit lane. The McLaren crew dashed to the end of the pit lane to push Norris back to retighten the wheel nut. The issue put Norris at the back of the field and a lap down. He would eventually retire on lap 51, saving equipment after not being able to get out of last place.
The first regularly scheduled pit stops came on lap 15 as Albon came in for tires which led to Ferrari pitting Leclerc on lap 16 for medium tires. Leclerc and Albon had committed to a two-stop strategy as both pitted for medium tires. Vettel stayed out ahead of Hamilton, who was on a one-stop strategy. Ferrari wanted to cover Hamilton’s strategy off, so they stretched Vettel’s stint to also keep the German Ferrari driver on a one-stop as well.
Hamilton eventually pitted on lap 24 for his one and only stop. Vettel was supposed to stop around that time as well, but he pleaded with the team to allow Hamilton to get the undercut and take the lead, but allow Vettel to come in much later, pit for fresher tires and use the power advantage to come back at Hamilton later on. That strategy would ultimately be coupled with Leclerc’s speed at the end of his two stop strategy who would take the lead after Vettel and Bottas’ stop.
Vettel finally stopped a lap after Bottas on lap 37 for the hard tire, coming out behind Hamilton and Albon, Leclerc was in the lead again but came in on lap 43 for his second stop, giving Hamilton the lead. A jam up with the rear tires resulted in a terrible stop for Leclerc, costing him enough time to take him out of the hunt for victory.
Vettel got past Albon on lap 38 when the Red Bull stopped, and was about three seconds behind Hamilton for the lead with still a quarter of the race to complete. Leclerc had to make up 16 seconds within that time, therefore it was a waiting game for the next 20 laps to see if the Ferrari’s would catch Hamilton.
After laps and laps of stalking, Vettel was not able to close in on Hamilton as much as he would have liked. Meanwhile, Bottas picked up his pace with Leclerc closing behind him and was consistently within a second of Vettel. Hamilton was able to make his hard tires last for the final 47 laps to win.
Vettel could not take advantage of having fresher tires than Hamilton and came home in second. Bottas finished out the podium and was able to keep his title fight going for another week in third. Leclerc could not make his two-stop strategy work for a podium and finished in fourth. Albon was at one point in position for a podium, but could only muster up fifth.
Nico Hulkenberg was going to finish ninth ahead of Daniil Kvyat, but the Toro Rosso closed in on the Renault in the final corner and tapped the rear of Hulkenberg, sending him into the wall and knocking him out of the points finish as Gasly crossed the line for tenth.
Drama as Hamilton crossed the line!
Kvyat and Hulkenberg made contact at the final corner
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 27, 2019
There will definitely be an investigation of that final two points places as the results below are not official.
Hamilton will go into next weekend’s United States Grand Prix with a 74-point advantage over Bottas. Hamilton will clinch the World Championship if he scores three or more points, regardless of what Bottas does.