Verstappen wins, Hamilton clinches title

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MEXICO CITY — Lewis Hamilton sealed the 2017 world championship title with a recovery drive to ninth after an early clash with title rival Sebastian Vettel helped Max Verstappen win the Mexican Grand Prix.

There was instant drama at the start as Verstappen and Hamilton got alongside polesitter Vettel into the opening corner. Despite being forced wide, Verstappen got past Vettel between Turn 1 and 2, with the Ferrari driver clipping the Dutchman’s rear as he completed the move. Sensing an opportunity, Hamilton dove around the outside of Vettel through Turn 3 but was forced to lift on exit for Verstappen’s car, leading to contact with his championship rival.

Hamilton suffered an immediate puncture and crawled back to pit, with Vettel getting back faster to repair his damaged front wing. They emerged 19th and 20th. On a circuit with low levels of degradation and limited strategy options it all but ensured Hamilton would win the title, with Vettel needing to finish second or higher to ensure the title fight went to Interlagos if the Mercedes driver finished ninth or lower.

Vettel showed the pace of his Ferrari by storming back through the field for fourth but it was not enough, with Hamilton moving up to ninth in the closing stages of the race to clinch the points he needed. Out in front, Verstappen was unchallenged and turned in a solid drive to his third career win — and second of 2017 — a day after narrowly missing out on becoming F1’s youngest-ever polesitter.

Out in front, Verstappen was unchallenged and turned in a solid drive for his third career win — and second of 2017 — a day after narrowly missing out on becoming F1’s youngest-ever polesitter. With Vettel relegated out of contention the victory never looked in doubt for the 20-year-old.

With Vettel and Hamilton out of contention, Valtteri Bottas drove a lonely race to second position to score a much-needed podium. Fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen finished third after jumping the Force India drivers with the help of a fortunately timed Virtual Safety Car mid-way through the race. Raikkonen finished 16 seconds ahead of teammate Vettel but, even if he had slowed dramatically and let the German through, the extra points would not have been enough to keep the title fight alive.

Esteban Ocon claimed an impressive fifth for Force India, helped by a lighning start which had propelled him to third by the end of the first lap. Despite Williams’ struggles for pace all weekend Stroll turned in a stellar performance to split the Force India’s in sixth position, ahead of local favourite Sergio Perez.

Kevin Magnussen was eighth, with Haas recovering from an abysmal Friday and Saturday. A long opening stint helped bring Magnussen into contention for a top-ten finish and the Dane collected four points for the American team on what it expected to be its weakest circuit on the calendar. After his thrilling battle with Hamilton in the closing stages, Alonso rounded off the top ten behind the newly-crowned world champion. After the conclusion of their battle, Alonso opened his radio channel to ask if Hamilton had gone off the track to pass him, only to be told by his own team “it was good racing, it was fair racing”.

Felipe Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne crossed just 0.5s apart in the battle for 11th, ahead of Pierre Gasly, who finished on his return to Toro Rosso. Pascal Wehrlein had been running well early on but a Virtual Safety Car, brought out for Brendon Hartley’s stricken car, ruined his chances of a points finish.

Renault’s drivers both failed to make it to the finish. Carlos Sainz retired in the pits 12 laps from the end, while Nico Hulkenberg’s brilliant work at the start was undone when his car failed on the fun down to Turn 1 on lap 24. Daniel Ricciardo’s weekend to forget ended with a reliability problem in the opening six laps, another bitter pill to swallow for the Australian on a weekend his teammate claimed a race victory.

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