Max Verstappen took a significant step towards his first Formula One championship title with victory at the Mexican Grand Prix.
Verstappen overtook Mercedes rivals Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas heading into the first turn of the first lap and was untroubled throughout Sunday’s race, opening up a 19-point over Hamilton at the top of the championship standings.
The Red Bull driver finished more than 16 seconds clear of Hamilton, who was a little over a second ahead of Sergio Perez – the first Mexican driver to claim a podium finish on home soil.
With just four races remaining this season, Hamilton is running out of time to catch Verstappen in his bid to win a record eighth championship title.
“Their [Red Bull’s] car was far superior this weekend and there was nothing we really could do about it,” Hamilton said.
“I gave it absolutely everything and even obviously a great fight with Sergio at the end, but I’m really grateful I was able to at least get a second.
“I feel positive in the sense that I had a good race. I did it with the car that I had, and the car was not good today.”
It was Verstappen’s ninth victory of the season and his sixth finishing ahead of Hamilton in second.
The Brit added: “They [Red Bull] have had the fastest car most of the year so it’s not a surprise. I wish we were quicker this weekend, but today we were a long way off, so I don’t really understand that. But we’ll go back to the drawing board and try and come back next week stronger.”
Red Bull’s superior pace was evident throughout the race, notably as Perez chased down Hamilton in the closing stages but was unable to pass the Mercedes, nevertheless settling for an historic podium spot.
Verstappen, who only relinquished his race lead when he pitted on lap 34, said he’s conscious of how quickly his title pursuit could be derailed.
“It’s a long way to go, but it’s of course looking good, but also it can turn around very quickly,” said the Dutchman.
“I’m looking forward to Brazil. I have also good memories there,” he added, alluding to his victory in 2019.
Bottas, who endured a disappointing race having secured a surprise pole position on Saturday, denied Verstappen an extra point as he claimed the fastest lap time at the end of the race.
The Finn was forced to the back of the field after being clipped by Daniel Ricciardo at the start of the race and eventually finished outside the points in 15th.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly finished fourth ahead of the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in fifth and sixth.