Mexican GP 2016: Hamilton reigns supreme in Mexico

Mexican GP 2016: Hamilton reigns supreme in Mexico

Lewis Hamilton took his second victory in a row to close the gap to Nico Rosberg by a further seven points, with Sebastian Vettel taking a controversial third after an interjection from the stewards post race.

James Eagles

If he is to win his fourth World Championship, Lewis Hamilton is certainly going about it in the right way. Faced with a mountain to climb, Hamilton controlled a Mexican Grand Prix that simmered and then boiled over in the closing stages.

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has seen plenty of unforgettable moments through the years. Think about Gerhard Berger claiming Benetton's maiden win in 1986, Nigel Mansell's daring move on Berger at the fearsome old Peraltada in 1990 and the stunning podium ceremony on its return in 2015. But there's been nothing quite like Sebastian Vettel's last lap tirade.

Vettel eventually lost the podium spot he was orginially awarded, but only after a blue-mouthed, blunt rant - mostly consisting of stinging four letter words - over an altercation with Max Verstappen, that was aimed partly at Race Director Charlie Whiting. It's safe to say that the hot, thin air in Mexico City not only aided straight-line speed, but also caused several drivers to lose their cool in the heat of the moment.

Hamilton keeps title hopes alive 

One thing you have to say is, Vettel crossed the line. Even going so far to tell Whiting where to go; in not the most civil of manners.

As for Hamilton, he keeps his slimming title hopes alive. Just. Keen to emphasise that anything can happen in a title run-in, something he knows only too well. Frequently through the weekend, he reminded devilish journalists that he won his first World Championship in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

Fastest in Practice 1, pole position on Saturday and a commanding lights-to-flag victory with Mercedes team mate and championship leader Rosberg failing to even get a look in. This was the weekend that Hamilton needed, the perfect compliment to his equally impressive victory last time out in America. It marked his 51st career victory, he now pulls level with Alain Prost on the all-time record list. Only another 40 to catch a certain Michael Schumacher.

It may have started out a little rough, Hamilton joked post race that it was a "grass to finish" victory, having snatched his right front brake going into the first corner, forced to cut through the now immaculately cut grass through Turns 2 and 3.

Still, his Malaysia failure haunts him. He talked about vibrations as a result of the lock-up in question, fearing for his suspension's life. But, no car troubles to speak about; one stop enough to get to the end, with the 31-year-old sending out an ominous message to Rosberg: "I didn't even have to push."

However, Rosberg was rather relaxed, despite the convincing loss. And had no issues with Hamilton's different line on the first lap.

"First of all, Lewis did a better job this weekend. He went into the corner first and came out of it first," the German told Sky Sports. "In the end, I have to live with second place. Lewis was quicker, so he deserves the win. Second was the best I could do."

Hardly a resignation of pressure building on his shoulders. One more win, or even two podiums is enough for him to seal his first World Championship; 34 years after his father, Keke's sole title.

Battles back in the field add to excitement in Mexico

Hamilton and  Rosberg aside, the race was scrappy and bitty. Locking of brakes, questionable lines and moves up and down the field, whether the fight was for 3rd or 13th.

After the long run from the line to Turn 1, chaos ensued. Hamilton ran wide, with Rosberg nudged by the bold Verstappen, having to give the grass another mow as evasive action. Further down the order, Valtteri Bottas clipped Vettel, slitting the Ferrari's left rear tyre, causing Vettel to pit at the end of lap one.

Keen to impress his home crowd, Esteban Gutierrez was locked in a hairy battle with Pascal Wehrlein's Manor and the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson. Given nowhere to turn, Gutierrez tagged Wehrlein, who in turn clattered into the side of Ericsson. Ericsson continued, aided by the deployment of the Safety Car; Wehrlein was not so fortunate, only having three wheels and a badly damaged radiator on his wagon.

Daniel Ricciardo took a gamble and stopped on the first lap for a set of medium tyres, demoting him to the tail of the field. He didn't stay there for long, scything his way through the field with incredible efficiency, soon catching up to the front runners where he belonged as they came in for their first, and for some only set of fresh rubber.

Turn 1 was the Australian's passing place of choice. For Sergio Perez however, it turned out to be the destination of frustration, spending the best part of 50 laps stuck behind the Williams of Felipe Massa. The Mexican was apoplectic with rage due to Force India's decision to pit him later than the majority of the field.

"It felt like the whole race, I was not able to do anything," Perez wailed to the press. "If there was one car we didn't want to be in a fight with, it was the Williams. I wanted to give a better result to my team; to my people."

As the race entered a quiet period after the stops, focus turned onto the battle between the two Red Bulls and the Ferrari of Vettel - who stretched his soft tyres thirty laps into the race - unprecedented and unforeseen by Pirelli.

It helped the German amend his poor pace on the supersoft tyres in Qualifying. Soon enough, he found himself within touching distance of a first podium since the Italian Grand Prix in September.

Vettel and Verstappen endure dramatic final laps

Vettel had to bide his time, with Ricciardo closing in after stopping for a second time. The Australian was the fastest man on track on his fresh soft tyres, Verstappen led the three strong pack on degrading medium tyres, using his prowess to eke every last drop of performance from the compound.

However, it simply wasn't there. Going into Turn 1, Vettel had a look around the outside and Verstappen locked his inside wheel, akin to Hamilton 67 laps prior. He also missed Turns 2 and 3, visually gaining an advantage on Vettel.

This angered the four-times World Champion, bellowing down the radio: "MOVE! MOVE! He's a little [insert word of choice here]." Vettel offered no explanation in the press conference, looking around sheepishly; before joking "beaver". A nervous laugh followed.

Although that was nothing compared to his next broadcast message. There was no doubt about what he said this time.

Verstappen felt he had no reason to cede third place, with Vettel bubbling over and Ricciardo closing. The Australian tried a move at Turn 4, but was blocked by Vettel under braking - a topic that has been hotly contested in recent weeks and months. They stayed in the aforementioned order all the way until the flag. Hamilton had been and gone, Rosberg too. But this was going to go beyond the line.

Maurizio Arrivabene informed Vettel that Verstappen would not have to give the place to Vettel, Whiting had decided to take no action as of yet. It was all too much for the incandescent Ferrari driver: "This is my message to Charlie. "F**k off! Honestly. F**k off!"

It was certainly more aggressive than his usual rambling of "Blue flag".

As Verstappen and Vettel crossed the line, Verstappen punched the air. His adversary looked as if he wanted to punch something a bit harder than clear space. He pulled alongside the teenager and wagged his finger like a parent to a rebellious child for a good 200 metres. Verstappen tore into the Ferrari driver post race.

"I've seen the footage. At least I can [move under braking] in a good way," he taunted. "I don't know how many times he used very bad language in general, so I think he has to go back to school."

Imagine being told that by a 19-year old.

Ricciardo was equally unimpressed by the German's behaviour on and off the track. "He's smiling now. He doesn't deserve to be up there with that move," the unusually serious Australian moaned. "I've seen him and he doesn't look too pleased with me. You commit early and make your bed. You don't move over once you've been outfoxed."

Verstappen was hauled out of the cool-down room, due to a five second penalty awarded after the race due to the incident. He dropped to fifth. With the FIA deeply unhappy with the apologetic Vettel, the Dutchman was eventually handed fourth spot, after a ten second penalty dropped Vettel down to fifth hours after the race once the steward's had poured over footage. 

And seemingly, neither is the championship. Two rounds to go, all to play for. Hamilton is doing all he has to do, but so is Rosberg. Having never won in Brazil, this year would be the greatest time for Hamilton to change that. He has accepted that he can only do so much. Will that be enough? The buoyant Rosberg would like to have his say in that.