Update: Vettel was handed a 10s penalty for moving under braking while defending his position from Ricciardo. This dropped him from third to fifth, elevating Ricciardo into the podium and Verstappen into fourth.

Hamilton has won the Mexican GP 2016 after leading from start to finish, the world champion has now reduced Rosberg’s lead from 26 to 19 points with two races to go. Rosberg scored a 1-2 hattrick for Mercedes by finishing second while Verstappen crossed the finish line third albeit under investigation for illegally undercutting Vettel.

The stewards handed Verstappen a 5-seconds penalty dropping him to P5 and handing P3 to Vettel who was still very mad. He was escorted by the Ferrari team to the podium as he instantly changed his frown to a smile. This was his first podium since Italy and only the second in as many as 12 races.

Mexican Grand Prix 2016 Results

1. Hamilton – Mercedes
2. Rosberg – Mercedes
3. Ricciardo – Red Bull
4. Verstappen – Red Bull
5. Vettel – Ferrari
6. Raikkonen – Ferrari
7. Hulkenberg – Force India
8. Bottas – Williams
9. Massa – Williams
10. Perez – Force India

The Mexican Grand Prix has had an off and on relationship with the Formula 1 calendar. Appearing first from 1963 to 1970, then again between 1986 and 1992 before returning on the calendar in 2015 after a long hiatus. Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost have the most wins here, each with two victories while Lotus, McLaren and Williams tie at three wins each in the manufacturer category.

Nico Rosberg came to the Mexican Grand Prix 2016 with the biggest advantage, 26 points ahead of Hamilton. In order to be crowned champion, Rosberg needed a P1 finish and a P10 or lower finish by Hamilton.

As a reminder, the Mercedes cars started on soft tires from the front row while the Red Bulls were on supersofts in the second row. Ferrari was the only other team in the top ten to start on soft tires besides Mercedes. The starting softs and supersofts had a life span of 22 laps and 18 laps respectively.

The top ten in the starting grid comprised of Hamilton and Rosberg in the front row, Verstappen and Ricciardo in the second row leading Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Vettel, Bottas, Massa and Sainz.

The formation lap got underway and it was Hamilton who stormed away after lights out to hold the lead. The world champion however locked up before going wide at Turn 1, he managed to get back on track while still in the lead. Wehrlein and Ericsson tangled in the first lap forcing the safety car to take charge.

While Wehrlein walked away from his wreck, Ericsson dashed into the pits to make a second attempt into the race. Ricciardo ditched his supersofts and rejoined with fresh mediums. A replay later showed that Verstappen forced Rosberg out of the way by diving inside him, the Mercedes locked up but managed to hold P2 despite having had to go through the grass. The incident was placed under investigation.

After restart, Hamilton led the race away from Rosberg, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Massa and Vettel. Ricciardo fell back to 16th place after his early stop. In the meantime, Hamilton complained about his flat-spotted tires, even though he was setting new fastest times on them.

“The Toro Rosso pushed me onto the grass. Unbelievable! We could be three positions up,” said Alonso who was involved in a battle with Sainz, who on the other hand was complaining about a failing gearbox. There was no further action taken regarding the Verstappen/Rosberg incident.

Grosjean was among the first to pit on lap 12, he was followed by Verstappen who swapped his supersofts for mediums. Sainz and Magnussen also made their stops and swapped into mediums just like the early stoppers.

Medium was the tire of choice for the first stops, Hulkenberg pitted from fourth on lap 15 followed by Massa and they all picked the same medium compound. The top four were now on soft tires. Sainz was then handed a 5-seconds penalty for pushing Alonso off the track at turn 3.

Hamilton pitted on lap 18 for fresh mediums to take him to the end, he rejoined in fourth behind Rosberg, Raikkonen and Vettel.

Hamilton meanwhile set a new fastest lap on 1m22.993s. Rosberg and Raikkonen made their first stops on lap 21 taking up mediums just like the rest of the field. The German rejoined comfortably in P3 ahead of Ricciardo, Vettel was in P1 and but yet to stop. Verstappen and Ricciardo were now in a team battle but the Aussie let his teammate pass through, so after lap 22 Verstappen had taken P4. His tires were 11 laps fresher than those of Ricciardo.

Mercedes then radioed Rosberg on lap 25 tipping him off about Verstappen’s hard pushing strategy. At this point it was not clear if teams were planning to go all the way with the medium compound or make an extra stop before the end of the race.

“Fernando we won’t use this engine again, so nothing to save.” McLaren told Alonso, he was in P15 right behind Sainz. Vettel was called in on lap 29 but the Ferrari man did not pit immediately, he stayed out for one more lap. He finally made his first stop on lap 32 and swapped into medium tires before rejoining in P6 behind Raikkonen.

After 34 laps, Hamilton led the field away from Rosberg, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Massa and Perez.

“Keep it clean behind Rosberg, Max, you never know what’s going to happen,” Verstappen was told as the race marked its halfway point.

More drama from the Sauber boys, Nasr was requested to move over and allow Ericsson to pass but he resisted. “He’s not even close to me!” said Nasr. Ericsson replied, “He doesn’t give a sh**,” and was finally let through but not without Nasr crying out, “If he doesn’t pull away I want my position back!”

Ferrari was the first team to make the call for a second stop, Raikkonen pitted on lap 46 for a fresh set of mediums. Several drivers had already complained about the lack of grip on the medium tires. Raikkonen rejoined in seventh behind Hulkenberg. Alonso also stopped but picked up soft tires instead before rejoining in 19th. Ricciardo also made his second stop after using his mediums for 48 laps. The Red Bull was now on soft tires and rejoined in P6 before moving up to P5 after passing Hulkenberg.

On lap 63/71, Hamilton looked comfortable with a 8.7s lead over Rosberg, Verstappen was 3s behind leading Vettel, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Raikkonen. Verstappen locked up and went on the grass before cutting corners and rejoining ahead of Vettel. Normally, Verstappen was supposed to give the position back but Horner asked him to keep it.

“He has to let me go!” said Vettel who was then asked to calm down. What followed was massive swearing by Vettel over the radio, and in the process he made contact with Ricciardo but his position remained intact.

Hamilton would then cross the finish line first to win the Mexican GP comfortably ahead of Rosberg, Verstappen and Vettel.

Vettel ended the race while still cursing, “Here is a message for Charlie: F*** off! F*** off!”

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Sam Bloxham, Glenn Dunbar, Andrew Hone, Steven Tee
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  1. Max was never asked to give position back during the race, the team thought that he would-be asked, even he did not even gain a position.


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