Hamilton wins Mexican Grand Prix in chase to catch Rosberg
MEXICO CITY (AP) Lewis Hamilton is in top form and winning races again. His problem is that he's running out of time to win another Formula One championship.
Hamilton survived a nervous start to win the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, his second victory in a row in a desperate chase to catch Mercedes teammate and rival Nico Rosberg for the season title.
''History has shown it is not too late,'' Hamilton said.
He's pressing Rosberg as much as he can and cut his deficit to 19 points. But with just two races left in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, Rosberg is still in pole position for his first career title, one that would match the championship won by his father Keke Rosberg in 1982.
Rosberg finished second Sunday and can clinch the season title if he wins in Brazil in two weeks. And even if Hamilton wins both races, a second- and third-place finish would crown Rosberg champion.
''Sounds good,'' Rosberg said. ''At the moment, I'm thinking of the missed chance to win today ... Lewis was too quick today and all weekend.''
Hamilton started on pole position and held the front despite locking a wheel and cutting through the grass on the first corner out of the start. With dirt and grass flying, he recovered to hold position and drove off to grab his 51st career victory, tying Alain Prost for second most in F1 history.
Daniel Ricciardo finished third after his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel were both penalized after the race in a wild series of events.
First, Verstappen was hit with a 5-second penalty immediately after the race for leaving the track and gaining an advantage in a late-race duel with Vettel.
That penalty put Vettel on the podium for the post-race champagne celebration. But about two hours later, Vettel was penalized 10 seconds for what race officials called an ''abnormal change of direction'' that was ''potentially dangerous'' when he blocked Ricciardo on lap 70 of 71.
Ricciardo loudly complained after the race that Vettel's move was illegal. Formula One officials had recently said that blocking moves in a braking zone would be punished.
''Seb did what everyone's been complaining about lately,'' Ricciardo said. ''He doesn't deserve to be on the podium.''
Hamilton has been bedeviled by poor starts all season, but got a good bolt off the line into one of the longest straights in Formula One at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. A right front brake problem caused the lockup and smoke billowed from his screeching tire. He veered wide but kept Rosberg in his rearview mirror.
''I was carrying such speed I was lucky I didn't go into the wall,'' Hamilton said.
Hamilton's drive through the grass looked a lot like Verstappen's move that was penalized. They came on the same corner but Hamilton insisted they were different racing situations.
''I think I was still in the lead going in. I was still in the lead going out,'' Hamilton said.
Rosberg battled Verstappen all afternoon in a duel that could have impacted the title chase had the Mercedes car been damaged.
Their cars bumped tires on the first corner out of the start, sending Rosberg into the grass, just not as wide as Hamilton. Rosberg held position and race stewards decided there would be no penalty. Without the bump, Verstappen might have emerged in second for the early laps.
Verstappen made a late charge to pass Rosberg with a bold move on lap 50, but again couldn't hold the position through a corner, missing a chance to close Rosberg's margin for error over the final two races.
''It's good racing I guess. In the car it was exciting stuff,'' Rosberg said.
Verstappen was seething at being denied his seventh podium of the season.
''Lewis gained a massive advantage (at the start) and Nico went off and gained an advantage. I didn't gain an advantage. When I came back on track I was the same length in front so I think it's ridiculous,'' Verstappen told Sky Sports.