Lewis Hamilton almost locked down the 2019 F1 World Championship in Mexico with a drive to victory that was hailed as ‘one of the finest of his career’ by Jenson Button.
Hamilton is set to win his sixth title in Texas on Sunday after he upset the form book to triumph in Mexico City.
The 34-year-old Briton only needs to finish eighth at the American venue, where he has won on five of his last seven visits, to win the championship, but he will wrap it up regardless if Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas fails to win in Austin.
A sixth F1 championship title would move Lewis Hamilton above Juan Manuel Fangio and within one of Michael Schumacher’s record title haul of seven.
Hamilton started as a rank outsider for victory in Mexico, but an impressive strategy call by his Mercedes team put him in the box seat to claim his 10th win of the year and 83rd of his career.
Hamilton delivered by making his tyres last for 47 laps at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, holding off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Bottas. Pole-sitter Charles Leclerc dropped to fourth following an ill-advised two-stop strategy by his Ferrari team.
“For me, that was one of Lewis’ best drives,” Button, Hamilton’s former team-mate at McLaren, told Sky Sports. “We know Lewis as the aggressive driver fighting for victory.
“But this was a different victory. He was really looking after the car, he looked after the tyres, he was consistent, and he got the job done.”
Hamilton, who will head to New York on Monday, completed the job without his race engineer Pete Bonnington, who was sidelined through illness. Bonnington is also set to miss Hamilton’s likely championship coronation in America, too.
Bonnington, known as ‘Bono’, has been Hamilton’s race engineer for the past seven seasons. His absence here ended a run of 136 consecutive races together.
Marcus Dudley stepped up from his role as performance engineer to fill Bonnington’s shoes.
“I came into the weekend not having Bono for the first time in seven years,” said Hamilton. “Knowing that Bono wasn’t around, I thought, jeez you could look at that as a disadvantage, but Marcus stepped into big shoes. It is not easy to work with a world champion who demands a lot.”
“Bono was texting all weekend, and I really just wanted to make him proud. He has devoted so much of his life to me for the last seven years and I am sure he is happy, and I like to think I can be proud of my performance today.”