Lewis Hamilton needed to finish seventh or higher in order to mathematically preclude Sebastian Vettel, his last eligible competitor with a chance, from the 2018 World Championship and take it for himself. By sitting back and allowing everyone else to fight it out, Hamilton trotted home in fourth, the last car on the lead lap in the Mexican Grand Prix. Meanwhile, for the fifth time in his career, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen comes home with the victory without ever having grabbed a pole position.
The race began with Red Bull’s unluckiest driver, Daniel Ricciardo, sitting on the pole position. The team had indicated they would release from the start in flying side-by-side formation to block the other teams from coming behind. That effort went sideways as Ricciardo lost the lead to both Hamilton and Verstappen at the start, Verstappen going side-by-side with Hamilton to push into the front spot.
Once he’d taken the lead, however, Verstappen was dominant from beginning to end. He kept good pace and managed his tires well to run clear of any trouble for the full race. Hamilton slotted into second on a long first stint, while Verstappen and Ricciardo pitted for tires. Max had worked out enough of a gap to Lewis to retain the lead, however.
Following a virtual safety car to pull Carlos Sainz’ Renault, Vettel set to work passing Ricciardo and Hamilton in the space of five laps with brilliant mirror moves on both. He then plotted an undercut on Verstappen in a bid for the lead, but Ricciardo stayed out to maintain track position on older tires, and stayed ahead of Vettel. He’d hoped to make his long-lasting tires run to the end, but with 10 laps remaining there was a puff of smoke from his exhaust, and within the lap he’d retired for the eighth time this season.
Vettel had nothing for Verstappen, ultimately, and without a victory he had nothing for Hamliton’s points bid, either. Sebastian needed a win and for Hamilton to place lower than 8th to keep any title fight, however remote, alive. It didn’t happen. With his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas pitting and the Ricciardo retirement, Hamilton’s fourth placed finish was more than enough to take his fifth championship in the last eleven seasons.
With two rounds remaining, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, Hamilton has accrued 358 points to Vettel’s 294. That’s enough. Well done Lewis.