MEXICO CITY — Lewis Hamilton overcame Ferrari’s front-row start to win the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, moving the Mercedes driver closer to a sixth career Formula One championship.
Only Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas’ third-place finish denied Hamilton the championship by the slimmest of margins. Hamilton needed only to beat Bottas by 14 points, but picked up 10 instead. That sends the championship to next week’s U.S. Grand Prix, where Hamilton has won five times since 2012.
“I don’t mind. I love racing,” Hamilton said after climbing out of his car. “This is a race I wanted to win for some time. It came together nicely.”
Mercedes gambled on an early tire change and Hamilton rode it all the way to the finish to get his 10th win of the season and first in Mexico City since 2016, the last time he was even on the podium in the high altitude of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Hamilton clinched the 2017 and 2018 titles in Mexico City.
Ferraris’ Sebastian Vettel was second, with teammate Charles Leclerc, who started on pole, fourth.
Leclerc and Vettel had started 1-2. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had been stripped of pole position for driving too fast under a yellow flag after Bottas’ crash in the late stages of qualifying Saturday.
That penalty also lifted Hamilton to start third with a chance to chase a win and the championship at a track where he had struggled badly the last two years.
Ferrari protected the lead from the start as Vettel moved to edge out Hamilton on the long opening straight. Hamilton then tangled with Verstappen on the second corner as they bumped tires and both cars went into the grass.
Hamilton was down to fifth after the opening lap, but quickly pushed his way back to fourth, setting up a long chase for the win.
Hamilton’s tire change on Lap 23 proved pivotal as he inched toward the front that left him needing to go 48 laps to the end. Vettel waited another 19 laps and Leclerc was on a two-stop strategy. That backfired when Leclerc’s second stop was botched on the tire change and his chances of hunting the leaders over the final laps was finished.
“He was cruising,” Vettel said about Hamilton. “(Our) strategy could have been sharper.”
Bottas earned his podium in a car that had to be repaired overnight after the hard crash in qualifying. His pushing Vettel from behind helped ease pressure on Hamilton at the front.
Verstappen had a miserable start before rallying to finish sixth.
The two-time defending race champion got caught in traffic after his bump with Hamilton, and he was quickly down to eighth. He fought back to pass Bottas on the second lap, but suffered a tire puncture when he bumped Bottas’ front wing. The tire shredded off and Verstappen drove nearly an entire lap with a bare wheel as the field passed him by.