Max Verstappen increases lead over Lewis Hamilton with victory in Mexico City Grand Prix

· The Japan Times
Max Verstappen celebrates with the trophy after winning the Mexico City Grand Prix on Sunday. | REUTERS

Mexico City – Max Verstappen cruised to victory at the Mexico City Grand Prix on Sunday, forcing defending champion Lewis Hamilton to admit the Red Bull car “is far superior.”

Hamilton finished second in his Mercedes after holding off a late charge from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.

“Their car is far superior this weekend and there was nothing we could really do about it,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen, who grabbed the lead on the first corner, finished 16.555 seconds ahead of Hamilton, with Perez just over a second further back.

The Dutchman increased his lead over Hamilton in the world championship standings to 19 points with four races left.

“There’s still a long way to go,” Verstappen said. “It’s of course looking good, but also it can turn around very quickly.”

Pierre Gasly finished fourth in an AlphaTauri and was followed by the Ferraris of Charles LeClerc and Carlos Sainz.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton both started fast, but Verstappen charged around the outside of Bottas as the two Mercedes headed into the first side by side.

The three cars went into the corner abreast, but the Red Bull came out first.

“It was nice three wide and it was all about just trying to brake as late as you can,” Verstappen said.

“I kept it on the track, came from third to first and that was basically what made my race because I could just focus on myself, and we had incredible pace in the car.”

As Hamilton tried to chase down Verstappen, Bottas went into a spin.

“Someone hit me and caused me to spin,” he complained on team radio after rejoining the race in last place.

The guilty party was Daniel Ricciardo, who came charging in from the fourth row.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was unhappy at the way Verstappen got through.

“That should not happen,” Wolff said. “We had two cars in front and seemed to opened up the sea for Max to come around the outside. The spin afterwards when there could have been a third or fourth place is annoying to say the least.”

The collision at the front sent ripples down the pack as Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher both went off.

The safety car came out, allowing Ricciardo and Bottas, who eventually finished in 15th place, to pit for repairs.

Verstappen quickly built a lead over Hamilton, with Perez third, when the racing resumed.

Red Bull’s pit-stop strategy allowed Perez to take the lead on the 33rd lap.

As it dawned on the huge crowd that a Mexican was leading, they rose in their seats, roaring and waving flags.

“I could hear the crowd coming through the stadium section, it was pretty incredible,” Perez said.

After Perez finally pitted, he came back in third place and resumed his pursuit of Hamilton.

The crowd roared again when Perez caught up on the 61st lap, but he could not find a way past.

“It shows how fast their car is when Sergio is that close behind me and able to follow that closely,” Hamilton said.

Perez still earned the first podium finish by a Mexican driver in the race.

Wolff said the Red Bulls were just faster.

“Their pace was on another level,” he said. “I don’t think we could have won even if we’d stayed ahead at the first corner. They could have driven circles round us.”

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