Hamilton de­feats Ros­berg as Vet­tel, Ver­stap­pen feud

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

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

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