Lewis Hamilton made a one-stop strategy work to take the win at the Mexican Grand Prix, but his teammate’s third place ensures the title race continues to Texas.
Valtteri Bottas’s third means he can still mathematically deny Hamilton a sixth drivers title, while Sebastian Vettel split the Mercedes cars.
Verstappen and Hamilton went wheel to wheel on the opening lap, with the pair bumping wheels sending both cars across the grass and allowing Alexander Albon and Carlos Sainz to jump ahead of both.
The incident left debris on the track, with carbon fibre coming off the Red Bull, so a virtual safety car was needed. Verstappen resumed behind Bottas, and briefly got ahead of the Finn, but as the Mercedes driver looked for a way back past the two came together, leaving the Red Bull with a puncture. The carcas of the tyre flew off the car, coming back across the track in front of the cars behind, with Daniel Ricciardo narrowly avoiding collecting the damaged Pirelli.
Having avoided all the incidents at the start of the race, Albon was the first of the front runners to come in for new tyres, but the Thai driver got stuck behind Carlos Sainz on his out lap, preventing him from undercutting the Ferraris.
Hamilton had been behind the Red Bull prior to the pitstops, but waiting until later in the race the Brit switched onto the hards and came out in front of Albon.
Lando Norris lost time in the pitlane as McLaren released the rookie with an unattached front tyre. Norris managed to stop before the exit line, so his mechanics were able to push him back, but the mistake left him well off the back of the pack. Alfa Romeo had a similar issue when Antonio Giovinazzi tried to go before his pit crew had finished putting his new tyres on, but the Italian managed to get the car stopped before leaving his pit box.
Verstappen’s struggles continued as he made his way back up through the field, banging wheels with Kevin Magnussen before running wide, but the winner of the last two races at this track found himself back in the top 10 at half distance.
Vettel continued at the front of the field, finding himself stuck behind a closely-fought contest between Sainz and Pierre Gasly while attempting to lap the McLaren and Toro Rosso. He stayed out until lap 38, coming up in fourth, but knowing Albon would need to come in for another set of new tyres.
Leclerc also needed a second stop, but a problem with the wheel gun cost the Monegasque driver a few seconds, dropping him behind both Mercedes cars.
Ricciardo was the only driver to start the race on hards, and he stayed out until lap 51, finally coming in for fresh mediums to leave him on newer tyres towards the end of the race. While Ricciardo was in the pitlane, Norris also came in, but it was for a retirement. Kimi Raikkonen also had to pull into his garage a few laps later.
With differing tyre strategies and back markers, the leading quarter bunched up with 10 laps remaining, but a Leclerc error allowed the three ahead of him to get away.
In the battle to be the best of the rest, Ricciardo, on newer tyres, tried a late lunge on Perez, but the Australian couldn’t get his Renault stopped in time, using the runoff area and having to give the place back to the local hero.
Vettel and Bottas both continued to push in the final few laps as Hamilton nursed his old tyres to the end, but he managed the degridation well to ensure he kept both behind.
There was late drama as Hulkenberg and Daniil Kvyat scrapped over ninth. The German had the advantage, but the Toro Rosso clouted the back of the Renault, sending Hulkenberg into the barrier and leaving him without a rear wing. He managed to keep the car going, but ended up finishing outside the points. The incident was being investigated by the stewards as the cars crossed the line though, and a 10-second penalty dropped the Russian outside the points.
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
5. Alexander Albon (Red Bull)
6. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
7. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
8. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
9. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso)
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
11. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)*
12. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)
13. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
14. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
15. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
16. George Russell (Williams)
17. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
18. Robert Kubica (Williams)
Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
Lando Norris (McLaren)
*Kvyat crossed the line 9th but was handed a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision with Hulkenberg