Max Verstappen won the opening lap battle against Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton to set up the victory in Mexico while Hamilton wrapped up the title despite his P9 on the day.
Vettel lined up for what could be his last stand in the championship on pole position while Hamilton, champagne on ice to celebrate his fourth World title, was third.
Verstappen separated the protagonists on the grid – and the Dutchman was the only one of the three to come through the opening lap scrap unscathed.
Vettel got a great start but Verstappen pulled alongside him to have the better line. As the two tussled, Hamilton tried to take advantage only to get caught out in it all. Bits of Vettel’s bodywork saw him pit for a new nose while Hamilton had to come in for new rubber as his W08 suffered a puncture. They were P19 and P20 after the first lap.
Hamilton asked Mercedes if they believed Vettel “hit me deliberately?” The stewards looked at the two drivers, and Verstappen, and ruled “no investigation necessary.”
After his lap 1 antics Verstappen had a rather quiet afternoon in Mexico as he built up an eight-second lead over Valtteri Bottas – and lapped Hamilton on lap 22 of the 71-lap grand prix – before his one and only pit stop.
The Red Bull racer continued on unchallenge as he stormed to his third Formula 1 race win, beating Bottas to the chequered flag by 20 seconds and lapping everyone up to and including fifth place.
Kimi Raikkonen, who dropped to seventh on the opening lap, recovered to finish third with his final pass of the day being a leapfrog of Esteban Ocon in the pits.
As for Vettel and Hamilton, the Ferrari driver had an easier time working his way through the traffic and was running fourth with 12 laps reamining while Hamilton had only just made it inside the points in tenth place.
Mercedes put the Brit’s concerns to rest as they informed him that Vettel had to finish second in order to stand any chance of keeping the championship alive. Asked if P2 was possible for the Ferrari driver, Mercedes replied: “Negative.”
With 23 seconds separating Vettel and Raikkonen, the German said: “Mamma mia! That’s a little bit too much.” Vettel finished in fourth place while Hamilton was ninth after a late battle – and contact – with Fernando Alonso.
Esteban Ocon was fifth ahead of Lance Stroll as F1’s youngsters shone in Mexico City. They finished ahead of Sergio Perez, Kevin Magnussen and Hamilton.
Alonso, who had an early battle with Romain Grosjean that resulted in a five-second time penalty for the Haas driver and also contact between the two drivers, was tenth.
Five drivers did not reach the chequered flag. Daniel Ricciardo, who started P16 due to engine penalties, had a great start as he climbed to seventh only to retire the car on lap 6. Nico Hulkenberg retired on lap 25 with an ERS issue. Renault told the driver: “Stop the car Nico. The car is not safe. Not safe. Get out quickly.”
Complaining that he was “losing a lot of power”, Brendon Hartley added his name to the list of retirements on lap 32, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car, while Marcus Ericsson pulled into the pits with his Sauber on fire on lap 57. Carlos Sainz parked his Renault with nine laps remaining.
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:36.26.550
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +19.6
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 54.0
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 70.0
5 Esteban Ocon Force India 1 lap
6 Lance Stroll Williams 1 lap
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1 lap
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1 lap
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1 lap
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1 lap
11 Felipe Massa Williams 1 lap
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1 lap
13 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1 lap
14 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 2 laps
15 Romain Grosjean Haas 2 laps
Did not finish
Ericsson Sauber engine
Hartley Toro Rosso engine
Hulkenberg Renault ERS
Ricciardo Red Bull MGU-H