Verstappen dominates in Mexico to stretch title lead

Max Verstappen has dealt a blow to Lewis Hamilton’s title chances with a comfortable 16-second victory in the Mexico City Grand Prix.

This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.

Verstappen qualified third but swept into the lead around the outside of weak-defending polesitter Valtteri Bottas, and from there the pace of this Red Bull Racing car did the rest, catapulting him to a breezy lead.

Bottas’s race was fundamentally finished on the spot. The Finn attempted to claim the first-turn apex from a wide line, forcing contact with Daniel Ricciardo, who was already hurtling towards the same spot on the track hard on the brakes.

The Mercedes spun backwards and the McLaren lost its front wing, sending both to the back of the grid, and neither could recover into the points before the end of the race, though Bottas finished with the fastest lap.

Hamilton slipped into second with Sergio Perez in third, and the trio held station for the first 20 laps, with Verstappen growing his advantage and Perez inching towards the sandwiched Mercedes.

Hamilton was called in for his new tyres first, on lap 29, but by then he was too far behind Verstappen to force him to do the same on the next lap, leaving it another four laps until stopping and retaining a healthy lead. Even Perez felt uncompelled to pit, running another 11 laps until taking fresh rubber to give himself a pace advantage late.

The race came to the Mexican in the final laps, and with 10 laps to go he closed to within a second of Hamilton, who was struggling to keep his tyres cool as the pair tried to manoeuvre around lapped traffic.

The duel came down to the final lap, but Perez couldn’t find a way through, and they crossed the line split by just 1.2 seconds.

It was decent damage limitation for Hamilton, who expected Red Bull Racing to dominate the weekend from start to finish, but the spoils belonged to Verstappen, whose 19-point advantage is beginning to look ominous with four rounds remaining and momentum on his side.

“It’s still a long way to go, but it’s of course looking good,” he said. “But it can turn around very quickly.”

Hamilton will be hoping he can engineer a turnaround sooner rather than later, but the Briton was downcast by his car’s lack of pace.

“Their car was faster through this weekend and there was nothing we really could do about it,” he said. “I gave it absolutely everything.”

Perez was thrilled to make himself the first Mexican to finish on a home podium, though he admitted he thought second was there for the taking.

“An unbelievable day,” he said. “But obviously I wanted more — today I wanted to get the one-two for the team.

“It was pretty close, but I didn’t have a single chance to get through.”

Regardless, Perez’s result brought Red Bull Racing to within one point of Mercedes in the constructors standings thanks to Bottas’s failure to score.

Pierre Gasly was untouchable in fourth for AlphaTauri, bringing the team level in fifth with the Renault-owned Alpine team on the title table.

Ferrari took home a healthy 18 points, Charles Leclerc leading home Carlos Sainz, to take third place in the championship from McLaren with a 13.5-point advantage.

Sebastian Vettel finished seventh for Aston Martin, restricting Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen to eighth.

Fernando Alonso finished ninth, just about keeping at bay Lando Norris, who scored the final point in 10th after a superb recovery from 18th on the grid thanks to the longest opening stint of the field.