Hamilton defeats Rosberg as Vettel, Verstappen feud
Lewis Hamilton has notched up the pressure on Nico Rosberg in the fight for the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship standings with a comprehensive victory in the Mexican Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen's simmering rivalry reached boiling point in a startling late race battle.
Starting from pole position, though Hamilton out-braked himself into the first corner – prompting a wild trip across the grass – he was never challenged thereafter as he steadily managed his margin back to Rosberg behind him on his way to a clear eighth win of the year.
A busier afternoon for championship leader Rosberg, he survived light turn one contact with Max Verstappen and a run across the grass – for which he escaped punishment – and another determined but leery effort by the Red Bull driver later in the race to bring the Mercedes home safely in second.
Limiting the damage to his title lead on a weekend he has spent closer matched with Red Bull than Hamilton, the German nonetheless retains a comfortable 19 point lead into the final two rounds of the season in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
In a race of relatively little action until the final few laps, a strategic roll of the dice by Sebastian Vettel, stopping later than most on lap 32, and Daniel Ricciardo, who came in for soft tyres with 20 laps would see them close up to Verstappen in the closing stages.
With Vettel putting Verstappen under pressure, the Dutchman locked up at turn one with three laps remaining, running across the grass and retaining position. With Vettel furious on the radio that Verstappen didn't cede the position – despite Red Bull suggesting he should , it would have the effect of allowing Ricciardo to close right up.
Making an attempt into turn three on the penultimate lap, Vettel controversially appeared to defend under braking – which was banned from the previous race sparked by Vettel's previous complaints against Verstappen -, the pair making brief contact but the Ferrari holding position.
With Verstappen clinging on to the chequered flag, prompting Vettel to launch into a shocking tirade against Race Director Charlie Whiting – telling him to f**k off for not penalising Verstappen -, he would get his wish as the Dutchman was slapped with a five-second penalty to demote him to fifth.
A bad tempered outcome to what had been a fairly mild race up to that point, Hamilton's win alone came despite his trip across the grass being unpunished.
Rosberg himself also didn't get a penalty in an investigation after missing the apex of turn two, a precedent that raises Verstappen's penalty into greater context.
With Ricciardo also promoted for fourth, but furious with Vettel himself, Verstappen was forced to contend with fifth place, despite going all the way to the podium room before being told to leave.
Behind them, Kimi Raikkonen was a fairly lonely sixth in the second Ferrari, passing Nico Hulkenberg late on, who survived a spin as he attempted to defend from the Finn for a strong seventh place. Completing the points was Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez, the latter spending almost his entire race unable to get by the Brazilian.
Elsewhere, Marcus Ericsson survived turn one contact with Esteban Gutierrez and Pascal Wehrlein to finish an impressive 11th, just shy of the points for Sauber, ahead of Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Jolyon Palmer.
Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the Mexican GP yesterday