Lewis Hamilton claims brilliant Mexican Grand Prix victory but must wait to confirm his sixth title

Oliver Brown
The Telegraph
Lewis Hamilton is expected to win his sixth title in Texas next weekend - Getty Images South America
Lewis Hamilton is expected to win his sixth title in Texas next weekend - Getty Images South America

At a track of extreme elevation, Lewis Hamilton proved again that he belonged in his own racing stratosphere.

Amid the technicolour chaos of Mexico City, 7,500 feet above sea level, he produced a tactically faultless victory that took him within a hair’s breadth of a sixth Formula One world title.

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With only 78 points available, he heads to Texas next weekend leading his solitary rival Valtteri Bottas by 74 with three races left, bearing down on history with remorseless intent. In just a few days’ time, only Michael Schumacher will stand ahead of him on the all-time list. It is the rarest distinction, and one that could not be more richly deserved.

For all the temptation to take Hamilton’s wins for granted, this 83rd career triumph was hardly a fate foretold. In recent years, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has been by far Mercedes’ weakest circuit, with their cars’ downforce compromised by the rarefied air. Add to this the handicap of starting only third, behind two Ferraris blessed with superior straight-line speed, and it required a masterclass even to entertain the thought of winning. Hamilton, sensing the championship in sight, delivered it.

“It’s an incredible result,” he said, in the bearpit of the track’s stadium section, where 100,000 had assembled to salute home hero Sergio Perez. “We came here thinking we were on the back foot, but we pulled through. The race was quite a struggle, but I kept my head down.”

<span>Lewis Hamilton celebrates his Mexican Grand Prix victory</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Lewis Hamilton celebrates his Mexican Grand Prix victory Credit: Getty Images

It was in this febrile setting that he had been anointed champion in each of the past two years. Paradoxically, he had done so despite finishing only ninth and fourth. In the glow of a first Mexican win for three years, he could happily wait for the greater glory of title No 6. “I don’t mind,” he smiled. “I love racing, man.”

Bottas, third behind Sebastian Vettel, did not look too crestfallen. The Finn’s hopes of reeling in Hamilton in the championship disappeared over the horizon long ago. Indeed, it was a near miracle that he managed a podium place at all, given that Mercedes had rebuilt his entire car just to ensure that he lined up sixth on the grid.

Such was the severity of his crash in qualifying, his mechanics had toiled for hours to put the machine back together. It was testament to their precision that they did so without incurring any penalty. As Bottas put it here: “I don’t think we could have done much more. I’m feeling good, and a lot better than this time last year.”

Hamilton’s coronation next Sunday in Austin, a place where he has won four of the past five years, is all but an inevitability. Even if he finds himself outside the points – and he has not done so in 18 races to date – Bottas needs to win to stand any hope of deferring the moment. Realistically, he can start issuing the invitations to friends and family now, in anticipation of a grand old Texas hoedown.

As ever in Mexico, it was a frantic opening lap, with the long run-down to the first corner creating a plethora of skirmishes. First Vettel put the squeeze on a charging Hamilton, almost running him off the road, before the champion-elect had a weaving wheel-to-wheel battle with Max Verstappen that pushed both cars on to the grass.

Verstappen, not unexpectedly, was driving like a dervish. He had been furious to receive a three-place grid penalty, imposed for failing to slow down under waved yellow flags, and responded as only he knew, swarming over every obstacle in his way. Alas, he bit off more than he could chew with his pass on Bottas, his right rear tyre touching the Finn’s front wing and rapidly delaminating. An unscheduled pit stop to repair the damage killed off any hope he harboured of a third straight Mexican triumph.

<span>Vettel finished second, while Bottas was third</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Vettel finished second, while Bottas was third Credit: AP

The top five were in a holding pattern, waiting to see who would blink first. Mercedes, for their part, had a clear plan, bringing in Hamilton for fresh tyres and asking him to make the same rubber last for 48 laps. The man himself was far from convinced, complaining over the radio: “It feels like we stopped far too early.” Marcus Dudley, standing in for Hamiton’s usual race engineer Pete Bonnington – who was back in the UK for a medical procedure – sought to be the voice of calm.

“It is going to be difficult, but we are on for a win,” he said. James Vowles, Mercedes’ strategy chief, added: “Lewis, you can do this.” Hamilton did not need to be told twice, switching to all-out attack mode while Bottas toiled to stay in touch. The Ferraris, having started on the front row, were soon floundering, with a slow stop for pole-sitter Charles Leclerc bringing him back out only fourth. Vettel, likewise, was having a torrid time, almost colliding with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.

On a track where he has always struggled for grip, Hamilton moved ominously into the lead. Mercedes’ gamble on a one-stop strategy – one that team principal Toto Wolff described as an “experiment” – meant, though, that he was being caught, and fast. Vettel sat primed, just a couple of seconds back, waiting for his old nemesis to lose performance. But a key aspect of Hamilton’s racing genius is his ability to manage tyre degradation. With the deftest touch, avoiding too much violence on the brakes, he kept his pursuers at bay.

The combination of Hamilton’s control and Mercedes’ supreme tactical nous won the day once more. Not since 2016 had he taken victory here in Mexico, a place where the Silver Arrows’ had expected to be beaten comfortably. Three years ago, he had led from start to finish. This time, he played a game of patience, outsmarting the Ferraris at every turn. “Our strategy could have been a bit sharper,” Vettel lamented afterwards. Hamilton, in the end, simply would not be defied. This time next weekend, he will in all likelihood be a statistically greater driver than even Juan Manuel Fangio. One more push will do it.

9:15PM

Updated constructor standings - Mercedes increase their lead

9:15PM

I think there are a few lessons for Max Verstappen to learn from Lewis Hamilton this weekend

He should have started on pole and would have been in with a good shout to win the race. But it all fell away quickly in the race and he did reasonably well to get back into P6. 

9:14PM

Updated driver standings

Hamilton needs just four points (or eighth place) to claim his sixth world drivers' title. He can do that next week, the week after or the week after that. Most likely it'll be next week. 

9:11PM

Again, questions to be asked of Ferrari

A 1-2 became 2-4. I don't think they had a shocker but perhaps when Mercedes made the marginal calls correctly, they did not. But part of the problem was that it was difficult to follow cars closely as we saw at the end of the race. 

9:10PM

Toto Wolff reacts to his team's victoruy

It was a little bit of an experiment. We saw that Ricciardo was going strong. In the car it feels bizarre to make 47 laps on the tyre. Who would have expected that starting from P3 and P6. It shows that it's difficult at the front not to throw away a race win. 

9:09PM

Is this the best podium in sport?

9:07PM

Again, that race sums up the brilliance of Mercedes and Hamilton

Nailed it strategically. Hamilton drove brilliantly. It is, objectively, quite dull to have the same team and driver winning year and year after year but you cannot say that they do not deserve it. What a fantastic combination they are. The one thing you should never believe, though, is when they say "I think that it's going to be a difficult weekend for us". A lot of the time, as here, it is hogwash...

<span>Hamilton celebrates another win</span> <span>Credit: REUTERS </span>
Hamilton celebrates another win Credit: REUTERS

9:04PM

The damage to Hamilton's floor...

 I think we can say that is "not insubstantial"...

9:00PM

Quick decision from the stewards on the KVY/HUL incident

Kvyat given a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision. Hulkenberg was able to cross the line - with no rear wing - in P11 so he is promoted back to P10 and Gasly moves to P9. Fair. 

8:59PM

Bottas reacts to a fighting third

I enjoyed it. Considering yesterday it was a good result. Very happy about the pace. The start was quite tricky, I don't think we could have done much more from where we started. Feeling good. Definitely a lot better than the same time last year. 

8:58PM

Vettel reacts to a decent second place

I think surprisingly the hard tyres worked well. It was a very intense race. I think Lewis was just cruising for most of the second stint up until the pack was arriving and then I guess he had enough tyres left. I think with strategy we could have been a bit sharper. 

8:56PM

Hamilton reacts to an unlikely win

Firstly we have to applaud this incredible crowd. This is the best crowd I think I have ever seen. Today is an incredible result. I have to say a huge thanks to my team. We came here thinking we were on the back foot. I had quite a bit of damage on my car, the race was a struggle. I am so grateful for today. 

8:55PM

Kvyat plays bumper cars

8:54PM

Top 10

  1. HAM

  2. VET

  3. BOT

  4. LEC

  5. ALB

  6. VER

  7. PER

  8. RIC

  9. KVY

  10. GAS

Stewards investigating the incident between Kvyat and Hulkenberg at the end. Sergio Perez gets the best-of-the-rest position to delight the Mexican fans. Hamilton has lost a big chunk of his floor after that collision with Verstappen at the start. 

8:51PM

LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE 2019 MEXICAN GRAND PRIX

Superb, that's all there is to say. He was worried about his tyres lasting towards the end but there was never really any doubt. Ferrari, again in a winning position, do not win. 

Hamilton will have to wait another week to secure his sixth title...

And Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault has lost his rear wing? Where? Kvyat nudged him into the barriers towards the end of the lap and compounds a bad week for Renault...

8:49PM

FINAL LAP

We've had some brilliant races this year but the state of this race does sum up the problems with modern F1. The cars can't follow each other...

Anyway, Hamilton has been brilliant today, as have Mercedes. The third quickest team on raw pace, they are going to win the race with Bottas a creditable third as well. 

8:48PM

PENULTIMATE LAP

Hamilton is not going to win the title today as it stands. But, you know, Bottas's engine could eat itself and that'd be enough. Leclerc currently holds the point for fastest lap.

8:47PM

Lap 69 of 71 - Hamilton leads Vettel by 2.1s

That said it has been interesting. It hasn't been boring. It just hasn't been exciting. 

8:46PM

Lap 68 of 71 - This has been a frustrating race from a viewer and fan's POV

Much promised. Little delivered. Apart from intrigue. And that alone is not enough. 

8:45PM

Lap 67 of 71 - No way Hamilton is losing this

He won't take the title with this but it'll be a very, very satisfying win for him. 

Top 10:

  1. HAM

  2. VET

  3. NOT

  4. LEC

  5. ALB

  6. VER

  7. PER

  8. RIC

  9. HUL

  10. KVY

8:44PM

Lap 66 of 71 - Hamilton has this in the bag now, surely

Leclerc has dropped back. I can't think of a race this year where the top three teams have been so close in race performance. They have lapped within a few tenths of each other seemingly the entire race. And, to be honest, the threat of something interesting happening hasn't come. 

8:43PM

Lap 65 of 71 - Verstappen now up into P6

As he has been for a while. That car had the pace to win. They're saying it's a brilliant recovery drive from him but I am not sure how much we should praise it. He's in the quickest car...

8:41PM

Lap 64 of 71 - As close as it got, nobody was within striking distance of making a move

This is looking likely to be an unlikely Mercedes win. I can't see his tyre performance falling off enough for him to lose this now. It's been a brilliant performance from him. Kind of typical Hamilton, really, questioning his team's strategy whilst all the time delivering for them. 

8:40PM

Lap 63 of 71 - Well, the drivers did converge for a while...

...but the grand finale that looked likely has not yet materialised. Will it? There's still a chance and time. Hamilton gets a bit held up by lapping Hulkenberg, though...

8:38PM

Lap 62 of 71 - No sign of Hamilton's tyres dropping off

He stopped on lap 23, so has gone 40 laps on these. 

8:37PM

Lap 61 of 71 - Hamilton the strong favourite now

I think he has everything in his pocket that he needs. Meanwhile, Ricciardo attempts an overtake on Perez but goes straight on at turn one, taking the rallycross route...needless to say he doesn't quite make it stick. 

8:36PM

Lap 60 of 71 - Top 10

  1. HAM

  2. VET

  3. BOT

  4. LEC

  5. ALB

  6. VER

  7. PER

  8. RIC

  9. HUL

  10. STR

Bottas has fallen back, he's 1.5s behind Vettel now. Leclerc has also fallen back, he's three seconds behind Bottas. Not sure if that's traffic but this is all helping Hamilton out. Hamilton has very decent pace at the moment. No sign, really, that those tyres are as old as they are. Brilliant stint from him so far. 

8:34PM

Lap 59 of 71 - Bottas now closer to Vettel then ever

Leclerc only 1.5s further behind...but he goes deep into turn four and that has cost him a second or two! How costly will that be? He will be able to make that time back fairly quickly I think but that eases the pressure on Bottas, who has lost time in the middle sector. 

I am going to say it now, this is Hamilton's race. 

8:33PM

Lap 58 of 71 - This squabbling among the backmarkers is helping Leclerc

And Hamilton. Can Hamilton hang on with his hard tyres? He's been on them for a very long time but his pace is still good, relatively. 

8:32PM

Lap 57 of 71 - Bottas told to get out of Vettel's slipstream

Temperatures criticial. Hamilton's lead has been cut a little...but he's still 2.5s ahead of Vettel. 

8:30PM

Lap 56 of 71 - Vettel and Bottas approaching a gaggle of backmarkers

Which will make things interesting. Hamilton leads by 2.5. Bottas gets DRS on the pit straight but is surely too far back to try anything. The backmarkers will be his best shot. Leclerc closing up on them all now and this is helping Hamilton greatly. 

8:28PM

Lap 55 of 71 - Top four and gaps

  1. HAM

  2. VET +2.9

  3. BOT +3.6

  4. LEC +7.2

That gap is coming down very quickly. 

8:27PM

Lap 54 of 71 - Bottas within DRS range of Vettel now

Will he have the power to get past on the straight? Remember, it's not just about engine power, the exit from the final turn is crucial as well. Could Bottas be favourite now?

8:26PM

Lap 53 of 71 - Bottas edging ever closer to Vettel

Leclerc now within 5.3s of Bottas. He sets a new fastest lap. Hamilton still hanging on. Again, who is the favourite? I am not sure...it's hard to call. Too hard at the moment. 

8:25PM

Lap 52 of 71 - Top 10 

  1. HAM

  2. VET

  3. BOT

  4. LEC

  5. ALB

  6. VER

  7. PER

  8. RIC

  9. HUL

  10. STR

8:24PM

Lap 51 of 71 - Norris retires

Another race filled with bad luck. So irritating for him. Just 10.8s separating the top four now. Hamilton's pace is...okay, as is Vettel's. Leclerc and Albon's times have dropped back a little. Everyone in the top five lapping within three or four tenths of one another but Bottas is now VERY close to Vettel...

8:22PM

Lap 50 of 71 -  Still waiting for this race to truly explode into action

But the signs are promising at the moment. Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, has put in 50 laps on these hard tyres. He'd come out in P9 were he to pit but he'd surely go onto the soft tyres? No, it's the mediums for him as he finally pulls in to the pit lane. 

8:20PM

Lap 49 of 71 - Hamilton not doing enough to win the title at the moment

Here, today, in this place, anyway. Is Vettel still the favourite for this race? I think so, but Bottas is closing him down quite quickly. 

8:20PM

Lap 48 of 71 - Albon the quickest man on the track

A few tenths quicker than Leclerc. These two have a tyre advantage over Vettel and Bottas which is slight but a huge one over Hamilton. Hamilton is going to have to hang on here...

8:18PM

Lap 47 of 71 - Top 10 five and gaps

  1. HAM

  2. VER +2.4

  3. BOT +3.9

  4. LEC +12.8

  5. ALB +22.4

Albon probably out of this and will comfortably finish fifth. But if he can advance at the same rate as Leclerc it'll be interesting. Bottas the quickest man on the track and took half a second out of Vettel last time round. 

8:17PM

Lap 46 of 71 - This is going to be a very interesting final 25 laps

Top four all within 14 seconds. Some on fresher tyres than others. Some with overheating issues. 

8:15PM

Lap 45 of 71 - Well, this is going to get interesting

Albon has stopped for a second time, by the way, and is in sixth, but 9.4s behind Leclerc. 

8:15PM

Lap 44 of 71 - Top 10

  1. HAM

  2. VET

  3. BOT

  4. LEC

  5. ALB

  6. RIC*

  7. VER

  8. PER

  9. HUL

  10. STR

*yet to stop.  

8:14PM

Lap 43 of 71 - Ferrari pit Leclerc and go on the hards

But it's a very, very slow stop. That has cost him four seconds there and that, I think, is the end of his chances. He couldn't extend his stint long enough to go medium-medium-soft so he has to go medium-medium-hard. I am not sure this is going to be anything more than fourth for him now. He comes out in P5, 11 seconds behind Bottas. Bottas only stopped six or seven laps ago, so Leclerc does not have a very big tyre advantage at all...

8:12PM

Lap 42 of 71 - Bottas the quickest man at the moment

It's been a very strategical race so far with not too much on-track action. It will, likely, all converge on the black stuff in the final 10 or 15 laps. Leclerc complains about his front tyres being dead. Who's favourite now? Vettel, as it stands. 

8:10PM

Lap 41 of 71 - Vettel closing up on Albon

How much this costs him will be crucial to his chances of winning the race. But it looks like he will have track position over his team-mate. Hamilton is the net leader, as he doesn't have to stop again, but has 5.1s over Vettel but Vettel has much fresher tyres, so that will be a struggle for him to hold onto the place ahead of Vettel. 

8:08PM

Lap 40 of 71 - Top 10

  1. LEC

  2. HAM

  3. ALB

  4. VET

  5. BOT

  6. RIC*

  7. PER

  8. VER

  9. KVY

  10. HUL

*yet to stop

8:08PM

Lap 39 of 71 - Leclerc leads Hamilton by 8.3

Leclerc needs to stop again, as does Albon in P3. Vettel is 14 seconds behind Leclerc, so Leclerc - if he is to win this race - will need to overtake Hamilton, probably Bottas and Vettel to win the race. As it stands, Hamilton will not win the championship. 

8:05PM

Lap 38 of 71 - Vettel comes out in P4

Behind Hamilton and Albon but 3.5s ahead of Bottas. Pitting earlier didn't really work out for Bottas, there as he also had to deal with traffic on his out lap. But he's not too far behind the German. Leclerc retakes the lead of the race with Hamilton in second, 7.9s behind. 

8:04PM

Lap 37 of 71 - Bottas pits for the hards

And he will go to the end of the race on those. He comes out in P5 but with Giovinazzi and Sainz as backmarkers in front of him. Ferrari are, naturally, going to pit Vettel at the earliest possible opportunity here but his last lap cost him at least two seconds...this could be close but Vettel should just have it. 

8:03PM

Lap 36 of 71 - Vettel approaching a very feisty battle 

And Vettel nearly collides with Carlos Sainz, who was fighting with Gasly. That was close...but it cost him a second or two. His lead over Bottas is down to 3.4s and Mercedes are out in the pit lane...this could work nicely for him...

8:01PM

Lap 35 of 71 - Bottas has closed the gap to Vettel

He's making these mediums work. I wonder if he will wait for Vettel's tyres to go off, bolt and then go for the undercut. Vettel is now approaching traffic...Vettel's lead is starting to be eroded...

7:59PM

Lap 34 of 71 - Approaching half distance

And I don't really have a clear idea of who is going to win here or who, indeed, is favourite. 

7:59PM

Lap 33 of 71 - "We're on for a win if we can manage this well," Hamilton is told

He's in this race, for sure. 

7:58PM

Lap 32 of 71 - It does feel like we are waiting for something to happen now..

...but it's all boiling up nicely, I guess. 

7:57PM

Lap 31 of 71 - Sainz struggling now

As he falls behind Hulkenberg and into P12. He was overtaken by Verstappen the lap before. Hamilton not too happy with the tyres he's on. His lap times are okay-ish. Much of a muchness among the top six, to be honest. Low 1.21s or high 1.20s. 

7:55PM

Lap 30 of 71 - Top 10 and gaps

  1. VET*

  2. BOT* +6.3

  3. LEC +12.4

  4. HAM +18.6

  5. ALB +24.2

  6. RIC* +43.2

  7. STR* +50.4

  8. PER +58.9

  9. KVY +62.3

  10. VER +68.7

*yet to stop 

7:53PM

Lap 29 of 71 - "It feels like we stopped way too early": Hamilton

He sounds worried, as he often does. With the problems they have with overheating, this could be a long and trying stint for Hamilton. It could be a race of attrition. 

7:52PM

Lap 28 of 71 - Bottas's pace in second seems good

And Hamilton's lap times have converged with those ahead of him. Verstappen, fighting from the back of the field today, is now up to P11 with a move on Nico Hulkenberg on the pit straight. 

7:51PM

Lap 27 of 71 - Ferrari tell Leclerc to push

He doesn't have great pace at the moment. As the strategy sits, they are going to need to make up positions on track. Once Vettel stops he will lose track position to Bottas, Leclerc and Hamilton. 

7:49PM

Lap 26 of 71 - Hamilton held up by Robert Kubica under blue flags

But he responds with the quickest lap of the race. Is this race coming back to Hamilton? Have Mercedes aced their strategy here? 

7:48PM

Lap 25 of 71 - Vettel is really struggling on these mediums

He's lapping 1.3s a lap slower than Bottas, who is on the same tyre type. That's not good news. It's starting to look like they should have brought him in...

Meanwhile, Verstappen is getting a bit punchy.

7:47PM

Lap 24 of 71 - Top 10

  1. VET*

  2. BOT*

  3. LEC

  4. HAM

  5. ALB

  6. RIC*

  7. STR*

  8. PER

  9. KVY

  10. SAI

*yet to stop

7:46PM

Lap 23 of 71 - Hamilton pits from P2

What'll it be? He's on the hard tyres so is going for a one-stop race. He's out a couple of seconds ahead of Albon...will Ferrari react? No, he's staying out. They are going to hope for quick pace in the final stint? But on what tyres?

7:44PM

Lap 22 of 71 - Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel all lapping in the low 1.21s...

Giovinazzi has an awful stop, it's a complete mess. Likely a problem with a tyre but that has cost him a lot of time. He pulled away when the left rear tyre wasn't remotely on. 

7:42PM

Lap 21 of 71 - Perez pits from P6

And goes onto the hard compound tyres. He comes out JUST behind Kvyat. Hamilton's car is struggling with overheating, as is usually the problem with Mercedes here. 

7:41PM

Lap 20 of 71 - Everyone holding station out front

Which suggests the top three are going to try for a one-stop strategy, clearly. Leclerc and Albon the two in the top five who are definitely on two stoppers. Which will be faster?

7:39PM

Lap 19 of 71 - Leclerc sets the fastest lap

Responding to the request to push. It was 0.7s quicker than lead man Vettel. 

7:38PM

Lap 18 of 71 - Albon's pace not ripping up any trees

Leclerc is told he needs to push.  

7:37PM

Lap 17 of 71 - Top 10

  1. VET*

  2. HAM*

  3. BOT*

  4. LEC

  5. ALB

  6. PER*

  7. RIC*

  8. HUL*

  9. STR*

  10. GIO*

*yet to stop

7:36PM

Lap 16 of 71 - Sainz stops

And comes out in P14. How is this all going to shake out? We are going to have to wait and see. Could Albon jump Vettel?  He's only a few tenths quicker at the moment, but a few more laps and he might be ahead if Vettel were to two-stop. But I think Ferrari are going to try and one-stop him. 

7:35PM

Lap 15 of 71 - Albon stops from P3

He goes onto the mediums, so will definitely be two stopping. He comes out ahead of Sainz but Sainz quickly gets ahead of him going into turn one and that's not really great news for the Red Bull...he'll lose a fair amount of time fighting the Spaniard as they get VERY close at the start of the lap. Frustrating but he should get past him on the straight with DRS. 

Ferrari mechanics out for leader Leclerc, reacting to Red Bull. Will they split their strategies? Will Vettel be undercut by Albon? Not if the Red Bull continues to lose time to Sainz. 

7:33PM

Lap 14 of 71 - McLaren are rolling the car back to the garage...

He'll get back out there but he's going to lose laps here. I mean, how much bad luck can one driver have in one season. He was on for plenty of points today. They put the front left back on and send him out...in 20th and a lap down already. 

7:32PM

Lap 13 of 71 - Top 10

  1. LEC

  2. VET

  3. ALB

  4. HAM

  5. BOT

  6. SAI

  7. PER

  8. RIC

  9. HUL

  10. STR

7:31PM

Lap 12 of 71 - Leclerc extending his lead to nearly two seconds

But, again, it's a bit of a phoney war at the moment. Nobody wants to commit too much at the moment. Norris pits and goes onto the hard tyres...but his front left tyre isn't on! Oh no, that man does not need any more bad luck. He's right at the end of the pit lane, can they roll him back? Ah man...

7:29PM

Lap 11 of 71 - Leclerc extends his lead a bit

They are pretty much holding station out the front, though. Not much in it. Albon, however, has now moved within DRS range of Vettel as Hamilton has  dropped back quite a bit. Not sure what's happened there but Albon found seven tenths on Hamilton and half a second on Vettel that lap...

7:27PM

Lap 10 of 71 - Perez delights the crowd by passing Kvyat

It was an easy move on the pit straight. Next up for him is Lando Norris's McLaren. 

7:26PM

Lap 9 of 71 - Top four all lapping similarly at the moment

Nobody really going great guns or putting anyone else under immense pressure. That said, Hamilton has just got to within DRS range of Albon for P3. Perez closing down Kvyat for P8, too...

7:25PM

Lap 8 of 71 - Bottas breezes past Sainz on the straight

As he is told to cool his brakes as much as he can. That'll help. Hamilton and Bottas running quite well now, they are the quickest cars on the track at the moment. Or, at least Hamilton is. Excluding Verstappen, who has just posted a 1.20.601...

7:23PM

Lap 7 of 71 - Top 10

  1. LEC

  2. VET

  3. ALB

  4. HAM

  5. SAI

  6. BOT

  7. NOR

  8. KVY

  9. PER

  10. GAS

Ricciardo in P11, Hulkenberg in P12. 

7:22PM

Lap 6 of 71 - Leclerc leads by 1.4s

Verstappen moves onto the hard compound. Albon still hanging to the back of the Ferraris, Hamilton only 1.5s behind him and in fourth. 

7:21PM

Lap 5 of 71 - Bottas takes that place back sharpish

That didn't last long. Verstappen has a puncture! Where did that happen?! He's done for here...he's going to be dead last, he has picked up a puncture at the very start of the lap and he'll have to limp around with three tyres on his wagon. The damage happened when he shoved one down the inside of Bottas into the stadium. Perhaps not so wise...

7:19PM

Lap 4 of 71 - Hamilton takes Sainz for fourth

And Bottas is about to line up Norris for P6. Albon hanging onto the back of the Ferrari, for sure. Great chance of a podium for the Thai driver today. Leclerc leads Vettel by 1.3s at the end of the lap. Verstappen gets past Bottas in the stadium section, that's a very unlikely place to overtake! Caught him sleeping?

7:18PM

Lap 3 of 71 - Vettel/Hamilton incident being investigated

Vettel squeezed Hamilton a bit onto the grass at the start. 

7:17PM

Lap 2 of 71 - VSC deployed

Top 10:

  1. LEC

  2. VET

  3. ALB

  4. SAI

  5. HAM

  6. NOR

  7. BOT

  8. VER

  9. KVY

  10. GAS

Both Ferraris touched on the first lap, Vettel giving Leclerc a bit of a tap under braking in the early part of the lap. VSC ending at the end of this lap... 

7:15PM

THE 2019 MEXICAN GRAND PRIX IS GO!

That is a tidy start from Leclerc! Very quick. He keeps his lead. Hamilton also gets a good start and threatens second but puts a wheel on the grass in doing so. It's very close going into turns one and two. 

Hamilton gets close to Verstappen into turn three and I think they collide! Strange driving from both of them as they fight for third...Verstappen goes across the grass and they both fall back. Absolute carnage out there but everyone is still going, somehow! Albon into P3! Sainz into P4! 

There's a VSC for some reason...Grosjean with an issue somewhere...

7:12PM

We're nearly ready...

It's sunny in Mexico at the moment. Leclerc starts from pole. Will he lead at the end of the first lap?

7:11PM

The formation lap is go!

Everyone away cleanly. 

Top six on used mediums, 7-10 on used softs. 11, 12 and 13-20 on fresh mediums. Daniel Ricciardo on fresh hard tyres. Will he even try to attempt a one-stopper?

7:10PM

Interesting update from Adam Cooper...

7:06PM

Predictions?

For me, I think Ferrari will be too strong. Not sure which one of them will win but I think it'll be one of them. Verstappen could split them. Hamilton? Fourth, I think. I expect to see some bodywork flying in the first lap. Lots of uncertainty. 

6:59PM

Mexico has traditionally been a very poor track for Haas

But this year it has been worse than usual. Williams believe they are in danger of beating them on the track, fair and square, today. 

6:56PM

Strategic options for the race

 If a three-stopper is close to a two-stopper will we see anyone try it? It's nice not to have a straightforward one-stop race. Possibility for a safety car as well. 

6:49PM

Just under 20 minutes until lights out

Can Hamilton claim his sixth world title? I think we'll have to wait. Not that there's any jeopardy in it as he's been strolling to the title for some time now. 

6:42PM

It's time to trot out one of the greatest F1 cliches of all time

"The start will be crucial."

It's a long run down to a heavy braking zone in turn one, so there's the potential for the order to become a bit mixed up. But can anyone compete with Ferrari down there? Have Ferrari devised a pre-race starting strategy as they did in Russia a few weeks ago? Will Max Verstappen get punchy?

Here's what happened last year...

 The strategy and an (outside) threat of showers is likely to make it an interesting race. 

6:37PM

Why are you wearing that snazzy jacket?

<span>Daniel Ricciardo: never one to shy away from a fashion statement</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Daniel Ricciardo: never one to shy away from a fashion statement Credit: Getty Images

 If you think you can upstage Checo, you're very much mistaken. 

6:33PM

McLaren have been in a class of their own in recent weeks

They've been fairly comfortably fourth quickest in raw pace (and in the standings) for most of the year but their performance on Saturday's is heading in the right direction. 

Taking an average of the last four races, these are the teams' raw pace ratings from Singapore to Mexico inclusive. 

  1. Ferrari - 100.089%

  2. Mercedes - 100.394%

  3. Red Bull - 100.567%

  4. McLaren - 101.563%

  5. Toro Rosso - 102.343%

  6. Renault - 102.386%

  7. Racing Point - 102.560%

  8. Alfa Romeo - 102.579%

  9. Haas - 103.563%

  10. Williams - 104.532%

This is done by taking each team's quickest lap in qualifying and expressing it as a percentage of the overall quickest of the day. So, the quickest team will get a rating of 100.000%. As you can see McLaren are fourth out on their own with four teams very close to one another behind. Haas have been awful - their raw pace rating in Mexico is 104.920, which is their worst of the season and the fourth worst overall. Painful. 

6:22PM

The final starting grid for today's race

1. LEC 2. VET
3. HAM 4. VER
5. ALB 6. BOT
7. SAI 8. NOR
9. KVY 10. GAS
11. PER 12. HUL
13. RIC 14. RAI
15. GIO 16. STR
17. MAG 18. GRO
19. RUS 20. KUB








A few notes on qualifying pace coming up...

6:17PM

It is fair to say Sergio Perez is pretty popular around these parts

6:13PM

Bottas kept his engineers and mechanics busy, then

Bit of a "Trigger's broom" of a car.  

6:10PM

Was Max Verstappen right to be given a penalty yesterday?

Yes, absolutely. You cannot let a driver get away with not lifting for yellow flags or saying he didn't lift even when he saw a crash ahead of it. It would set an awful precedent. Verstappen was wrong to not lift but he was wrong to dismiss off-hand the suggestion that he should have lifted and his assertion that he's in F1, he knows what he's doing so, ultimately he's right. He's not, he's wrong. 

Verstappen is an abrasive character. He's not the first and won't be the last in F1 and many, many of the sport's greats share these attributes. Michael Schumacher, anyone? Still, it was his own arrogance and disregard for the rules and safety of the sport that cost him. It wouldn't surprise me if he went out there and won it today, though. It'd be very Max. 

6:01PM

Bottas's crash yesterday in qualifying

It happened on the Finn's final qualifying run and, with Verstappen not lifting off under yellow flags, it had consequences for the grid. It was a fairly heavy impact for the Finn, too, and he was sent to the medical centre for check ups after being recorded breathing heavily on the team radio. In the end he was fine and Mercedes say that his car will be ready for the start. 

5:56PM

What does Lewis Hamilton need to do to win the world championship today?

Read below for a brief explainer. 

If Lewis Hamilton does not get a fastest lap bonus point, he wins the title if:

  • He wins the race and Bottas finishes fifth or lower

  • He finishes second and Bottas finishes eighth or lower

  • He finishes third and Bottas finishes 10th or lower

If Hamilton does take the fastest lap, he wins the title if:

  • He finishes first and Bottas finishes fourth or lower

  • He finishes second and Bottas finishes eighth or lower

  • He finishes third and Bottas finishes ninth or lower

With Bottas starting in sixth and Hamilton in third it seems more likely for it not to happen today but never say never. 

4:51PM

Good afternoon F1 fans

And welcome to our coverage of the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix. Yesterday's qualifying session did not occur without controversy, with quickest man Max Verstappen being stripped of his pole position some hours after qualifying had finished. Why? For not slowing down under yellow flags after Valtteri Bottas wrecked his Mercedes in the wall on the outside of the final turn. There is a little bit more to it than that, though, but questions need to be asked about the FIA's processes - for the second race running they have ended up looking slightly silly. 

In some ways it's a shame that Verstappen won't be starting from pole as it was a brilliant lap, managing to eclipse both Ferraris - who had looked quick all weekend - by a couple of tenths of a second and also his team-mate Alex Albon by an ever greater margin.

But, really, the Dutchman deserved everything he got. The reason he was called to the stewards was because he posted his quickest final sector time (and quickest lap time, in fact) under the yellow flags.

Initially the FIA (somewhat bizarrely) decided not to investigate the incident. It was (seemingly) only after Verstappen's comments in the post-qualifying press conference that an investigation was launched. After saying he was aware of Bottas's crash ahead, he was asked if he backed off by Laurence Edmondson of ESPN.  

"It didn't really look like it did it?" he said. When pressed further, he added:"Do we have to go there? To safety? I think we know what we are doing. Otherwise we wouldn’t be driving an F1 car. It’s qualifying, you go for it, but like I said before if they want to delete the lap then delete the lap."

In the end he was given a three-place grid penalty. The FIA judgement stated: 

The Stewards noted from the on board images of Car 33, that the waved yellow flag was clearly visible and was shown with enough notice. The previous driver (Car 5) [Vettel] reduced the speed significantly as per the regulations.

So there we are. Charles Leclerc ended up taking his seventh pole position of the season, and will start in first alongside team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton will start third and if he is to win the championship this weekend he has to finish at least third. Mercedes were fairly certain that they will be able to get Bottas's car fixed in time for the race start, which happens at 7.10pm GMT. I'll be here to take you through all of it.  It could be another interesting one. 

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