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Verstappen takes giant stride to F1 title with crushing Mexico win over Hamilton

Verstappen takes giant stride to F1 title with crushing Mexico win over Hamilton

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Verstappen takes giant stride to F1 title with crushing Mexico win over Hamilton

Verstappen takes giant stride to F1 title with crushing Mexico win over Hamilton

Max Verstappen took a giant stride to his first F1 title with a crushing Mexico City Grand Prix victory over championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

From third on the grid behind a Mercedes front-row lock-out, Verstappen grabbed the lead into turn one and never looked back at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

In claiming his third win in Mexico, ninth of this season, and 19th of his career, the Red Bull driver has now opened up a 19-point cushion over the seven-time champion.

At the end of the 71 laps, Verstappen finished 16.555secs clear of the Mercedes, with team-mate Sergio Perez completing the podium to the delight of his home crowd, just 1.197s behind Hamilton.

With Red Bull pulling in a 40-point haul and Mercedes 18, as polesitter Valtteri Bottas was a miserable 15th after being spun around at the first corner by McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo, the Silver Arrows only has a one-point cushion in the constructors' table.

In the race, Verstappen could not have dreamed of a better start.

With a Mercedes wall ahead of him on the front row, Bottas and Hamilton made the getaway they would have hoped for and on the second-longest run down to a first corner in F1, for a moment it appeared as if Verstappen had nowhere to go.

Inexplicably, however, Bottas pulled across to the middle of the track, opening a door to his left that Verstappen took full advantage of.

Late on the brakes into turn one, Verstappen swept through the first corner with the lead, followed by Hamilton.

As for Bottas, the Finn was tagged from behind by a late-breaking Ricciardo, sending the Mercedes into a 180-degree spin and left facing the wrong way as the rest of the field filed around him.

At the rear of the pack, Alpine's Esteban Ocon was the filling in a sandwich of Haas driver Mick Schumacher and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda.

The heavy contact sent both Schumacher and Tsunoda out of the race, sparking a full safety car for three laps to clear up the debris.

Bottas and Ricciardo both pitted at the end of the last lap, the former taking on a set of hard tyres, and the latter likewise with the addition of a new front wing.

Upon the resumption of the race at the end of lap four, Verstappen managed to pull away easily from Hamilton, ensuring he avoided a tow into the first corner.

The lead duo were followed by Perez, AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

Within half-a-dozen laps, Verstappen had pulled away from Hamilton by over three seconds, which had increased to 5.5s after 14 laps, and as tyre wear kicked in, the Briton started to fall back into the clutches of Perez.

After 29 laps, Mercedes pulled the trigger first on the pitstops, at which point Hamilton was just over nine seconds adrift of Verstappen and 1.6s ahead of Perez in switching from the medium-compound rubber to the hard.

His frustration at falling so far adrift of Verstappen will have turned to dismay as he emerged directly behind Leclerc, and then relief as the Monégasque pitted on the next lap.

In clean air, Hamilton immediately pumped in the fastest lap, resulting in Red Bull bringing in Verstappen at the end of lap 33.

That propelled Perez into the lead, affording him the honour of being the first Mexican - with the 31-year-old the sixth in F1 - to lead his home race.

Perez remained in front for eight laps before taking on his own set of hard tyres and slotting back into third, over 10 seconds adrift of second-placed Hamilton who, in turn, had dropped to 10 seconds behind Verstappen.

Perez then delivered a couple of fastest laps and with 11 remaining had closed to within a second, with the roars of 130,000 Mexicans urging him on.

But it is one thing to catch, another to pass, and as the duo came upon traffic, it was the reigning champion who scythed through it the better to ease the pressure and hold on to the runner-up slot, but only just.

Mercedes managed one small crumb of comfort as Bottas took the fastest lap away from Verstappen on the last lap of the race, denying him an additional point.

Gasly claimed fourth ahead of Leclerc and Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz, with Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel, followed by Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen, Alpine's Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris in his McLaren.

With Ferrari collecting 18 points and McLaren only one, the Scuderia has now taken over third in the constructors' by 13.5 points.

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