alexa Lewis Hamilton now on the cusp of sixth title - Daily Nation

Lewis Hamilton now on the cusp of sixth title

Wednesday October 30 2019

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton powers his car during the F1 Mexico Grand Prix at the Hermanos Rodriguez racetrack in Mexico City on October 27, 2019. Lewis Hamilton won the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, but will have to wait for his sixth world title after Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas came home in third. PHOTO | ALFREDO ESTRELLA |

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton powers his car during the F1 Mexico Grand Prix at the Hermanos Rodriguez racetrack in Mexico City on October 27, 2019. Lewis Hamilton won the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, but will have to wait for his sixth world title after Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas came home in third. PHOTO | ALFREDO ESTRELLA |  AFP

ALEX MWANGI
By ALEX MWANGI
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Mercedes' driver Lewis Hamilton showed his unwavering resolve to win by nursing his hard tyres for 48 laps to take the chequered flag at the Mexican Grand Prix in a race in which he himself had at some point doubted he could conquer.

The general consensus among the teams was that a two-stop strategy was the fastest way to make it through the 71 laps of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez Circuit.

Those who dare to be different, however, have the chance to chart a new path to the goal and so it was that Mercedes' gamble to pit Hamilton early paid handsome dividends.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen had found form in the right window to secure pole position by more than two-tenths of a second. Such was his form that he out-qualified his teammate, Alexander Albon, by more than half a second. Ferrari's Charles Leclerc yet again out-qualified his teammate, four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton was fourth, Albon fifth, while Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, who crashed during qualifying, was sixth. For ignoring yellow flags as soon as Bottas crashed, Verstappen, who was on his flying lap, was given a three-place grid penalty.

Hamilton made a great start and hoped to get into the slipstream of Leclerc, but Vettel would have none of it, squeezing the Brit to the left to the extent that he took evasive action and had two wheels off the track. Leclerc, realising that he could inadvertently give those behind him the advantage, switched sides and went right, effectively preventing Vettel from gaining extra speed.

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SIDE BY SIDE

Hamilton and Verstappen were side by side going into Turn One, with the Brit sweeping the outside. Verstappen attempted to muscle his way through by squeezing Hamilton but the five-time world champion held firm.

The result was that Hamilton skidded and could not take Turn Two, getting onto the grass with Verstappen following suit. The two lost positions with Hamilton dropping to fifth from third while Verstappen got to eighth from fourth. Ahead of them, Vettel also bumped Leclerc still within the first lap.

On the fourth lap, Verstappen attempted a brave move on Bottas at Turn 13. It worked, momentarily, but then the Dutchman had had his rear right tyre clipped by the front wing of Bottas and he soon got a puncture.

He bravely limped to the pit stop and when he re-joined the race, he was last. The chance to emulate his victory here last year had evaporated.

As the race settled in, the key question became whether teams would deploy a one-stop or two-stop strategy. When Albon pitted on the 14th lap from third, Ferrari reacted by pitting Leclerc soon after. Hamilton was brought in on the 23rd lap and given the hard compound.

He was on the radio soon afterwards questioning the rationale behind pitting him so early.

None other than Mercedes Chief Strategist, James Vowles, came 'online' to tell him that he could make it. Both Vettel, the race leader and Bottas were kept out longer.

The Finn came in on the 36th lap, the German, a lap later. Hamilton inherited the lead as a result of the pit stops. Ferrari believed that Mercedes had erred in pitting Hamilton early.

With tyres 14 laps fresher than Hamilton's, it was thought that Vettel would catch his rival towards the end of the race. Leclerc, then Albon made their second stops in the 43rd and 44th laps respectively.

While Albon spent only 1.9 seconds stationary, Leclerc was still for 6.2 seconds, crippling his quest for a podium finish.

As teams were wondering how well the hard tyres would perform during the race, Renault's Daniel Ricciardo was the sole point of reference with the Australian stretching the tyres to the maximum by pitting on the 50th lap.

Vettel kept the pressure on Hamilton. Behind the German, Bottas was lurking and behind the Finn, a charging Leclerc. The Monegasque, however, had a nasty lock-up that saw him go off track and recover but from then on, his threat had been stymied.

Nine laps to the end, Ricciardo caught up with SportPesa Racing Point's Sergio Perez. The Australian fancied his trademark move of late braking to overtake the local hero.

His attempt to disappoint the legion of Mexican fans spectacularly failed as he locked up and went off the track allowing Perez back in front. That put paid his ambitions leaving the Mexican to earn a well deserved seventh place finish to win the 'best of the rest' title.

Hamilton was able to keep Vettel at bay to take his 83rd race win and 100th podium with Mercedes, dedicating the win to his race engineer, Pete Bonnington, who was missing in action courtesy of a medical procedure.

He now needs only four points from the three remaining races to secure a sixth championship. Leclerc, meanwhile, leads Vettel by six points and is ahead of Verstappen by sixteen points. For the three, the battle still rages.

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