Lewis Hamilton won the Mexican Grand Prix to close the gap between himself and World Championship leader Nico Rosberg to 19 points with two races remaining, as Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel took third in controversial circumstances.
Following that drama, Hamilton and Rosberg cruised to a routine 1-2. But behind them, there was bedlam.
Vettel caught Verstappen in the closing laps, and attacked him at Turn 1. Verstappen ran straight on across the grass, and despite a suggestion from the team that he should give the place back, he retained P3, leading to Vettel coming under attack from the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
The former teammates banged wheels into Turn 4, with Vettel just managing to escape in front.
Verstappen was given a 5s time penalty straight after the race, which promoted Vettel to the podium, but the Ferrari driver's move under braking is still being investigated.
Story of the race
From pole position, Hamilton led Rosberg into Turn 1, but Lewis locked up and went straight on across the grass.
Hamilton took a huge advantage, as Rosberg had collided with the fast-starting Verstappen at the apex of Turn 1, and Nico also ran over the grass on the inside of Turn 2.
Behind them, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg made a fantastic start, and took fourth from Ricciardo and almost grabbed third from Verstappen into Turn 4. “Puncture, I think I have a puncture,” said Vettel in seventh, but he stayed out.
Sainz reported a gearbox issue early on, and was handed a 5s time penalty for forcing Fernando Alonso into a wild moment on the grass on the exit of Turn 3.
Near the back of the field, Pascal Werhlein shunted his Manor into the barrier after a clash with Esteban Gutierrez’s Manor that cannoned him into Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber, who backed his car into the tyres but rejoined.
The safety car was called upon, with Ricciardo pitting from fifth to get rid of his supersofts for mediums. He rejoined in 17th.
Hamilton reported a big vibration under the safety car: “I have a heavy flatspot guys,” he said after his Turn 1 lock-up. “We’re not too concerned, if you can live with it,” replied his engineer.
The race restarted on lap four with Hamilton leading Rosberg, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, the Williams of Felipe Massa and Vettel.
Despite his flatspot, Hamilton quickly edged out of DRS range of Rosberg, who had to look out for Verstappen’s supersoft-shod Red Bull in third. Max remained in DRS range for a while, but couldn’t pass.
Ricciardo was doing all the overtaking early on, slipping through the midfield and passing Jenson Button’s McLaren for 12th on lap nine, and picking off Kevin Magnussen’s Renault a lap later.
Verstappen pitted from third on lap 13, switching from supersofts to mediums. He rejoined behind teammate Ricciardo – with Hulkenberg returning to the track after his first stop behind both of the Red Bulls.
“I’m a bit stuck, they’re very fast on the straights,” reported Vettel about Massa’s Williams that had got ahead of him on the opening lap. Vettel attacked Massa hard on lap 13: “He’s stupid, he’s slowing himself down because he’s defending so hard.”
Massa’s defence was backing Vettel into his Williams teammate Bottas, who also had Force India’s Sergio Perez for company – but pitted for mediums on lap 15 which finally released Vettel.
Leader Hamilton pits
Hamilton pitted from the lead on at the end of lap 17, giving up a 6s lead. Rosberg took over up front, well clear of Raikkonen and Vettel, with Hamilton rejoining fourth.
Bottas and Perez were embroiled in a duel for fifth, which ended when Bottas peeled off into the pits on lap 20, which helped Ricciardo’s progress. He attacked Perez, who also then pitted.
Rosberg, who was effectively now under attack from Ricciardo, pitted from the lead on lap 21, rejoining ahead of both the Red Bulls.
“What do we do now? I’m stuck,” said Verstappen, who was lodged behind Ricciardo on fresher tyres.
Ricciardo let Verstappen through on lap 22 in an attempt to chase down Rosberg, who was told he’d been given “more front wing than planned” in his pitstop.
Bottas passed Massa for eighth on lap 23, and Perez attacked Massa at Turn 1 on lap 25 but outbraked himself in no uncertain terms. Perez complained: “I don’t know why you pitted me so late.”
Vettel led for a while, putting in some handy times on the soft tyres he started on and delayed his first stop despite being called in. He eventually stopped after a 32-lap run, rejoining behind Raikkonen and in front of Hulkenberg.
“The grip on this tyre is just very poor,” complained Raikkonen.
Rosberg set fastest lap on the 44th tour, just as Hamilton hit a gaggle of eight backmarkers while holding a 4.3s lead.
Verstappen attacks Rosberg
On lap 50, Rosberg was delayed by backmarkers which allowed Verstappen into DRS range. He lunged past Rosberg for a split second, on full opposite lock, at Turn 4 but couldn’t make it stick. “Just regroup, nice try,” he was told.
Raikkonen stopped on lap 46, dropping him behind Vettel and Hulkenberg, and Ricciardo threw the dice with a pitstop for softs with 20 laps remaining. That dropped him to sixth, behind Vettel and Hulkenberg.
Ricciardo picked off Hulkenberg for fifth at Turn 1 on lap 52, as Verstappen hit some debris after dropping some 2.5s away from Rosberg.
Vettel began to worry Verstappen in the closing stages, and got to within DRS range. As Vettel attacked, Verstappen outbraked himself at Turn 1 with four laps to go, going across the grass, but keeping his position.
Verstappen was suggested to give the place to Vettel by his engineer, as Ricciardo latched on to the rear of the Ferrari. “Move, move for [bleep] sake,” cursed Vettel, as the stewards reported they’d investigate after the race. “He’s just backing me up into Ricciardo.” He also then swore at race director Charlie Whiting.
Ricciardo attacked Vettel at Turn 4 on the penultimate lap, and the cars almost became locked together as they banged wheels.
Verstappen scampered away to finish third on the road, ahead of Vettel and Ricciardo. But a 5s penalty was applied to Verstappen after the race, promoting Vettel to the podium.
There was more drama behind: Hulkenberg was passed by Raikkonen with four laps to go, and spun at Turn 4. He retained his seventh place, however.
Williams duo Bottas and Massa – who managed to keep the angry Perez at bay – were next up.
Marcus Ericsson just missed out on a point for Sauber after an excellent run, with McLaren’s Jenson Button passing Jolyon Palmer’s Renault for 12th with 10 laps to go.
Alonso suffered a terrible second pitstop, but he also passed Palmer to finish 13th.
Sauber’s Felipe Nasr finished 15th, ahead of Sainz, Renault’s Kevin Magnussen and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.
Esteban Gutierrez finished 19th, while teammate Romain Grosjean complained about his front wing not working on his way to a 20th-place finish, ahead of only Manor’s Esteban Ocon.
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||20.858|
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||21.323|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||Mercedes||58.891|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||1'16.798|
|11||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||Ferrari||1 lap|
|12||Jenson Button||McLaren||Honda||1 lap|
|13||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||Honda||1 lap|
|14||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||Renault||1 lap|
|15||Felipe Nasr||Sauber||Ferrari||1 lap|
|16||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||1 lap|
|17||Kevin Magnussen||Renault||Renault||1 lap|
|18||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||1 lap|
|19||Esteban Gutierrez||Haas||Ferrari||1 lap|
|20||Romain Grosjean||Haas||Ferrari||1 lap|
|21||Esteban Ocon||Manor||Mercedes||2 laps|