Formula 1

Championship battle overshadowed by third place drama in Mexico

Lewis Hamilton took his fifty first career win at Mexico this weekend, beating teammate Nico Rosberg to the line and keeping his championship hopes alive going into the final two rounds of the championship. Who would join them on the podium was the result of a controversial battle, and wouldn’t be the third place driver the classification will reflect.

Hamilton sped away from pole position whilst Rosberg battled with third place started Max Verstappen. It wouldn’t be the perfect get away, though, as a lock up sent him wide and it looked for a moment as if the reigning champion might be trying to return to Austin. Luckily for the Mercedes driver, he managed to keep the lead of the race, albeit with tyres resembling a fifty pence piece more than a circle, and the stewards deemed he hadn’t gained an advantage from the move.

The battle between Rosberg and Verstappen saw Rosberg pushed onto the grass, but neither driver would be penalised for the move.

Any advantage either Mercedes driver might have taken was almost immediately wiped out when the safety car was brought out. Further back in the pack, Pascal Wehrlein had been squeezed between Esteban Gutierrez and Marcus Ericsson, leaving Wehrlein stranded on the track.

On the restart, Hamilton immedietly began to pull away from the rest of the field, whilst Verstappen and Rosberg continued their battle for second.

Further back in the pack, the “frustrated man” Sebastian Vettel was on the radio to his team. The German was stuck behind Felipe Massa and, though the Williams was slower than the Ferrari – or so Vettel thought – Vettel couldn’t find a way past. The Ferrari driver called Massa “stupid” for not letting him past, as he was slowing himself down to defend against Vettel. The German apparently didn’t get the memo that Massa no longer moves aside for Ferrari drivers…

Vettel was eventually released when Massa pitted for fresh tyres.

The race settled down for most of the majority of the race, until the final few laps, when things began to heat up again.

Vettel had closed in on Verstappen, battling for third position. At one point, the teenager locked up, allowing Vettel to get close, but Verstappen cut across the corner and kept the third place position. Red Bull radioed for Verstappen to give the place to Vettel but, with three laps until the end of the race, Verstappen chose to wait for official confirmation.

This didn’t please Vettel, who came over the radio swearing about Verstappen and his decision to keep the place. He also believed that the teenager was backing him into Daniel Ricciardo, who was waiting to pounce on his former teammate. Ricciardo tried an overtake on Vettel, but the German moved under breaking, keeping the position. It was a dangerous move, recently outlawed after Verstappen’s frequent use of it, and the two almost came together.

The cars crossed the line Hamilton, Rosberg, Verstappen, Vettel, and Ricciardo, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Before the podium took place, Verstappen was handed a five second penalty, which would drop him back into fifth. It pleased Vettel, who was promoted to the podium paying position and took the third place trophy.

He wouldn’t have the trophy for long. After the podium, Vettel and Ricciardo were called to the stewards to talk about the last moment incident that kept Vettel ahead of Ricciardo. Whether it was because of the move or because Vettel told Charlie Whiting to “f**k off” will never really be clear (though officially it’s because of the dangerous move), but Vettel was handed a ten second penalty, dropping him to fifth and promoting Ricciardo to the podium.

In all the drama, the championship battle was somewhat overshadowed, but Hamilton goes to the penultimate round of the championship nineteen points behind Rosberg and tied on all time race wins with Alain Prost. Rosberg only needs to finish second in the final two races to take the championship.

Feature image credit: Lala_77

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