Hamilton edges closer to title following Mexico victory

Lewis Hamilton is one step closer to winning title number six after recovering from a first-lap off to win the Mexican Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver had a trip across the grass at the start and fell down to fifth position. But the defending champion did a solid job in managing the tyres to overhaul the Ferraris and score his tenth victory of the season.

Sebastian Vettel was unable to attack Hamilton after losing track position through race strategy and had to settle for second, with Valtteri Bottas third.

Poleman and early race leader Charles Leclerc fell down to fourth as a two-stop strategy cost him dearly.

Ferrari had control of the Mexican Grand Prix in the early stages despite Leclerc getting a small touch by Vettel after running wide under braking for the Turn 4 left-hander and slowing right down through the tight right-hand turn that followed.

Behind, though, Hamilton had already suffered an early setback as Max Verstappen challenged him on the inside into the first corner.

Hamilton had already been crowded out by Vettel on the run down to Turn 1, a move he branded “dangerous” but one that was not investigated by the race officials.

At the first corner, Hamilton ran wide and had a big snap of oversteer on the outside kerb, which lurched his car to the right and put him and Verstappen on the grass between the Turns 2 and 3 section.

The incident dropped Hamilton to fifth position behind Alex Albon’s Red Bull and the McLaren of Carlos Sainz, while Verstappen fell to eighth, behind Lando Norris and Bottas.

Hamilton passed Sainz into Turn 1 on lap four then ran fourth through the rest of his opening stint, which he extended to lap 23 – eight more than race leader Leclerc and nine more than Albon, both of whom committed to a two-stop strategy.

However, Vettel – who assumed the race lead when Leclerc stopped – and Bottas extended their first stints 13 and 14 laps longer than Hamilton respectively.

Hamilton’s early stop allowed him to jump Vettel for track position, although the major tyre offset meant the five-time world champion was fearful he would not be able to defend once Vettel pitted.

However, by the time Leclerc and Albon had made their second stops and left Hamilton leading the race from Vettel, Hamilton kept his pursuer more than two seconds behind for the next 20 laps.

During that time, Bottas closed right up onto the back of Vettel, while Leclerc used his fresher tyres after his second stop to hack into the gap to the one-stopping trio ahead.

With 12 laps to go Leclerc had almost hauled himself within DRS range of Bottas but locked his front-left tyre into Turn 4 and ran wide, which doubled his deficit.

Ahead, Vettel closed to within two seconds of Hamilton for the first time with eight laps remaining, but Hamilton hit back immediately and continued to keep the Ferrari out of range.

Hamilton’s win, with Bottas third, extended his championship by 10 points but he needed to add 14 points over Bottas to clinch his sixth title.

That means Hamilton, who now has a 74-point lead with 78 available in the final three races.

Behind the top four, Albon was fifth after arguably his strongest performance for Red Bull, with teammate Verstappen fighting back to sixth after a mammoth 66-lap stint on hard tyres.

Verstappen’s race was wrecked early on when, after being forced off by Hamilton, he suffered a right-rear puncture shortly after lunging Bottas for seventh into the stadium section.

Max made it back to the pits with the tyre stripped from the rim of his Red Bull and dropped to last, before gradually rising back up the order with no further pitstops and supreme tyre management.

Home favourite Sergio Perez resisted a charging Daniel Ricciardo to secure best-of-the-rest honours in seventh position.

Nico Hulkenberg was poised to finish ninth in the Renault, but was hit into a spin by Daniil Kvyat on the final lap and rear-ended the barriers.

Kvyat claimed ninth ahead of teammate Pierre Gasly but was handed a 10-second penalty after the race, dropping to P11 behind Hulkenberg.

McLaren looked on course for another best-of-the-rest victory early on but Sainz faded badly after switching to hard tyres, to the point he stopped again to switch to mediums and wound up P13.

Teammate Lando Norris retired following a bad pitstop in which a wheel was improperly attached.

So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes with this Mexican success. This was Hamilton’s 100 podium result and the team’s 100th victory. Impressive form by the Silver Arrows.

Mexican Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36:48.904
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +1.766
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +3.553
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +6.368
5 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda +21.399
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda +68.807s
7 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes +73.819s
8 Daniel Ricciardo Renault +74.924s
9 Federation Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda +1 lap
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda +1 lap
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault +1 lap
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault +1 lap
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
16 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +2 laps
17 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
18 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes +2 laps
– Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari DNF
– Lando Norris McLaren-Renault DNF

Verstappen scores Mexican Grand Prix pole as Bottas crashes

Max Verstappen scored an important pole position for Red Bull Racing as the Mexican Grand Prix qualifying session was red-flagged after Valtteri Bottas crashed hard at the final corner.

Verstappen set the fastest time on the first runs in Q3, 0.114 seconds quicker than Charles Leclerc.

He then improved to a one minute, 14.758 seconds on his final attempt to land pole position – although his first lap would have been good enough to secure P1 – completing his lap after Valtteri Bottas had a big crash and brought out double waved yellow flags.

Leclerc held onto second position despite not improving, with teammate Sebastian Vettel also using his first-run time to take third on the starting grid after having to back off for yellow flags.

Lewis Hamilton made a small improvement on his second Q3 run to make sure of fourth position, 0.504 seconds off the pace.

Alex Albon was fifth fastest and 0.580 seconds slower than his Red Bull teammate.

This put him just 0.002 seconds quicker than Bottas, who was on course to improve on his time when he hit the outside wall in the final left hander on his final attempt.

The rear stepped out on Bottas and sent him into the wall, which he slid along before coming to rest against the leading edge of the Tecpro barrier closer to the exit of the corner.

Although the medical car was deployed due to the size of impact, Bottas reported he was okay.

McLaren dominated the battle for ‘best of the rest’, with Carlos Sainz Jr outpacing Lando Norris by three-tenths in the battle for seventh position.

Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly claimed ninth and tenth for Toro Rosso, separated by just over a tenth-of-a-second.

The Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes drivers will all start the race using medium-compound Pirellis having used that tyre to set their Q2 times, with the rest of the top ten are on softs.

Kvyat will be investigated after the qualifyingsession for an unsafe release when the Scuderia Toro Rosso sent him out of the garage as Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault was driving past in Q1.

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez ensured he was the best-placed driver with free tyre choice for the race by grabbing P11 at the end of Q2, missing out on Q3 by just 0.008 seconds.

That put him two-tenths ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, with Daniel Ricciardo behind in P13.

Kimi Raikkonen won the battle of the Alfa Romeo drivers for P14 position, outpacing Antonio Giovinazzi by three-tenths.

Lance Stroll was the quickest of those eliminated in Q1 in P16 after only making a small improvement on the time set on his first run – complaining over the team radio of “no grip”.

A slow run through the middle sector cost him and left him 0.271 seconds away from Giovinazzi, the slowest of those to escape Q1.

The Haas drivers both squeezed in three runs during the session, with Kevin Magnussen the faster of the duo in P17, 0.163 seconds quicker than Romain Grosjean.

Grosjean’s first attempt was ruined by the rear stepping out at the entry to Turn 1, as although he caught the moment it flicked the car into a spin in the other direction as he took to the grass.

Williams driver George Russell was just 0.224 seconds off Grosjean’s pace as he took P19, again winning the intra-Williams battle with teammate Robert Kubica 1.356 seconds slower.

So congratulations to Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen with this Mexican Grand Prix qualifying form. This result has halted Ferrari’s run on pole positions. Can Max score a hat-trick of victories on race day? Well, starting on pole will be advantage and he is looking good for the race. Best of luck Max.

Mexican Grand Prix, qualifying result:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 01:14.758
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 01:15.024
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 01:15.170
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 01:15.262
5 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 01:15.336
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 01:15.338
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 01:16.014
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 01:16.322
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 01:16.469
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 01:16.586
11 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 01:16.687
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 01:16.885
13 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 01:16.933
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 01:16.967
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 01:17.794
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 01:18.065
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 01:18.436
18 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 01:18.599
19 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 01:18.823
20 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 01:20.179

Bottas victorious at Suzuka as Mercedes secures constructors’ title

Valtteri Bottas took his first Formula 1 win since Baku to help Mercedes clinch a sixth consecutive constructors’ championship as a jump start and first-corner clash from Ferrari ended the chance of a strong result at Suzuka.

Bottas launched from third to first on the run to the first corner, passing both Ferraris as Leclerc got away slowly while poleman Vettel lost momentum by moving slightly before the five red lights went out.

That put Bottas into a lead, while Vettel avoided a jump-start penalty – despite television replays clearly showing he moved before the red lights went out – to finish in second position but could not stop Mercedes taking the teams’ title.

After Vettel immediately dropped to second, Leclerc’s race was massively compromised moments later at the first corner.

Max Verstappen swept around the outside of Lewis Hamilton and Leclerc after a superior start in his Red Bull, but Leclerc then ran deep into Turn 2 as the corner tightened.

He went wide and made contact with Verstappen, throwing the Red Bull driver off-track and breaking his own front wing.

Leclerc continued for two laps in third position, irritating Hamilton as the Ferrari’s damaged wing showered the chasing Mercedes with sparks and then debris – which broke Hamilton’s right-side wing mirror.

On lap three, Leclerc pit, dropping to the back of the field and behind Verstappen, as race control communicated their first-lap incident would be investigated after all, having initially said it was not necessary.

As Leclerc charged back to sixth, Verstappen struggled with an oddly-handling, damaged car and retired on lap 15, with the clash investigation moving to after the race.

Vettel’s fortune with the race officials allowed him to stay in the lead fight and hold up Hamilton, allowing Bottas to take control and he stretched his lead.

Ferrari moved first in the strategy fight, pitting Vettel on lap 16 with Bottas following suit one lap later and Hamilton stopping on lap 18.

In that time, Bottas’s advantage over Vettel rose while Hamilton fell more than 20 seconds adrift, a move that left him feeling frustrated over the radio.

All three committed to a two-stop strategy, but used it differently: Vettel pit on lap 31 of 53 and ditched his softs for mediums, while the Mercedes ran longer and opted for softs.

Bottas stopped on lap 36, at which point he was 14 seconds clear of Hamilton, and Hamilton ran an extra seven laps before making his final visit to the pits.

That left Bottas leading Vettel by under 10 seconds, with Hamilton within five seconds behind the Ferrari and armed with fresher, softer tyres.

With five laps to go Hamilton moved into DRS range and had half a look into Turn 2 but Vettel didn’t budge and Hamilton ran slightly wide.

Hamilton had a better chance with three laps to go when Vettel got stuck at the final chicane trying to lap a Toro Rosso, backing Vettel into Hamilton and giving Hamilton a great run.

However, Hamilton closed too late on the straight to attack, and Vettel retained the place to the end.

Bottas’s win, his first since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, reduced Hamilton’s championship lead to 66 points with 104 still on offer.

Alex Albon scored his best Formula 1 result with fourth position for Red Bull, despite falling behind both McLarens at the start.

He made one of those places back early on with a lunge on Lando Norris that resulted in wheel-to-wheel contact into the final chicane.

Albon got ahead of Carlos Sainz by stopping twice as Sainz implemented a one-stop strategy to finish a fine fifth.

McLaren should have had a double points finish but, after being hit by Albon, Norris had to make an early pitstop because debris from Leclerc’s broken wing got caught in his brake ducts. He eventually finished P13.

Daniel Ricciardo charged to seventh position, executing a very long first stint on medium tyres then switching to softs at the end and picking off several cars with just a few laps remaining

He passed teammate Nico Hulkenberg for ninth and promised his Renault team “I’ll get them” as he pursued Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly, who he then picked off on successive laps.

Stroll faded from the top ten late on, with Hulkenberg nicking ninth and Sergio Perez set to steal the final point from Racing Point teammate Stroll on his penultimate lap.

However, having also passed Hulkenberg, Perez crashed out on the final lap after contact with Gasly, promoting Stroll to P10.

So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas in winning the Japanese Grand Prix. His first since Baku earlier this season. As for Mercedes, an incredible achievement in winning the constructors’ title for the sixth successive time. All that hard work has paid off with this fine result as champions.

Japanese Grand Prix race results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes  1:21:46.755
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +13.343s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +13.858s
4 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda +59.537s
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault +69.101s
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1 lap
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault +1 lap
8 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda +1 lap
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault +1 lap
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes +1 lap
11 Federation Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda +1 lap
12 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault +1 lap
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
14 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
17 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes +1 lap
18 George Russell Williams-Mercedes DNF
19 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes +2 laps
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda DNF

Super Sebastian on pole at Suzuka

Sebastian Vettel achieve a commanding pole position at Suzuka as Ferrari overturned rival Mercedes practice pace advantage to lock out the front row.

Vettel led the way throughout Q3 at Suzuka, setting a one minute, 27.2 seconds lap on his first run and improving to a one minute, 27.0 seconds best on his final run to claim his first P1 since the Canadian Grand Prix.

Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc found three tenths of a second between his two Q3 runs, but missed out on making it five poles in succession and saw his streak of nine straight qualifying victories over Vettel come to an end.

Having dominated Friday practice, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton both had disappointing first runs in Q3 to only get third and fourth, behind the Ferraris.

Bottas, who led the way in both sessions, improved to one minute, 27.2 seconds on his final run but still missed out on the front row by 0.040 seconds.

Championship leader Hamilton was less than one hundredth of a second behind in fourth position.

Max Verstappen, who suffered a power loss on his Red Bull-Honda in Q2, and teammate Alex Albon set identical times in locking out row three of the grid. Verstappen claimed fifth by setting his one minute, 27.851 seconds lap before Albon did.

Carlos Sainz continued his strong form by again qualifying best of the rest for McLaren, 0.160 seconds clear of teammate Lando Norris.

Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso-Honda and Romain Grosjean’s Haas rounded out the top ten, Gasly almost four tenths down on Norris and Grosjean over half a second adrift of Gasly.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Lance Stroll and Kimi Raikkonen narrowly missed out on the top ten during the late rush of improvements at the end of Q2.

Giovinazzi was just over a tenth adrift of Grosjean, while Stroll and Raikkonen missed the cut by just over two tenths.

Daniil Kvyat was two tenths further back after making only a small gain on his final run, while Nico Hulkenberg was cut well adrift in P15.

Hulkenberg was unable to complete the Q2 session after suffering a “major problem” on his Renault. He complained of feeling something “funny” with the power steering and gear shift on his out-lap.

Daniel Ricciardo missed out too by just under a tenth of a second in the other Renault, despite finding six tenths of a second between his first and second runs in Q1.

Sergio Perez’s Racing Point was P17, half a second down on Ricciardo and only 0.020 seconds faster than George Russell’s improved Williams.

The lack of grip and windy conditions early on in qualifying appeared to catch out Kevin Magnussen and Robert Kubica, who both crashed out at the turn just before the start/finish line before setting a lap time.

Kubica struck the barrier at the end of his out-lap, wrecking his Williams and causing the qualifying session to be red-flagged.

Television replays showed Kubica understeering off the circuit onto the grass on the outside as he tried to negotiate the kink. He described it as a “f***ing joke” before returning back to the pits.

Magnussen then hit the barrier after going off at the same place shortly after the session resumed, causing a second red flag period.

The Haas driver lost control of the rear of his car, and managed to limp back to the pits with front and rear wing damage after spinning into the barrier, but he did not re-emerge from the garage.

Despite the red flags in the early part of qualifying, the end result was the red cars finishing first and second on the grid. Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel with pole position with his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc alongside. Bring on the race!

Japanese Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:27.064
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:27.253
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:27.293
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:27.302
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:27.851
6 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:27.851
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1:28.304
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1:28.464
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1:28.836
10 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1:29.341
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:29.254
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point=Mercedes 1:29.345
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo=Ferrari 1:29.358
14 Federation Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1:29.563
15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:30.112
16 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:29.822
17 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:30.344
18 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:30.364
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari –
20 Robert Kubica Williams- Mercedes –