https://www.bbc.com-By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took a dominant victory in the Mexico City Grand Prix to strengthen his chances of a first world championship.
Verstappen’s title rival Lewis Hamilton was second, the Mercedes driver holding off a charge from Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez in the closing laps.
Perez was on Hamilton’s tail on the last lap but was not able to pass.
Verstappen’s ninth win in 2021 gives him a 19-point lead with four races and a total of 107 points remaining.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas deprived the Dutchman of the point for fastest lap on the final tour.
One of the most imposing victories of the year therefore puts Verstappen in a commanding position in the championship.
And a one-three finish moved Red Bull to just one point behind Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.
How did Verstappen turn the tables?
After Mercedes surprisingly locked out the front row on Saturday, Verstappen immediately put himself in a position to win by taking the lead at the first corner.
Benefiting from the tow behind the two Mercedes, and then slotting into a gap left by Bottas on the outside on the run from the grid, Verstappen braked later than both Mercedes drivers and swept around their outside into a lead he never looked like losing.
“It was all about braking late,” Verstappen said. “I kept it on the track and that basically made my race.”
In the aftermath of the move, Bottas was tipped into a spin by McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, relegating him to the back and taking him out of the picture. To add insult to injury, Bottas rejoined from a pit stop for tyres on lap one behind Ricciardo and could not pass him for the next 30 laps or so.
Over 135,000 Mexican fans turned out to support Perez
Mercedes stopped him late in the race to set fastest lap, to limit Verstappen’s haul by one point.
Verstappen pulled away from Hamilton so commandingly that the suspicion was he would have won even if he had not taken the lead at the start.
As it was, he had an untroubled drive, pulling nearly 10 seconds clear of Hamilton by the time the world champion made his pit stop on lap 29.
Mercedes stopped Hamilton on that lap because he was beginning to come under threat from Perez and they wanted to ‘bank’ track position.
Red Bull then left Perez out for a further 11 laps to give him fresher tyres with which to come back at Hamilton in the second stint.
Perez was within a second of Hamilton with 11 laps to go.
There were a few nervous moments as Hamilton came up to lap McLaren’s Lando Norris but was not close enough to pass until the younger Briton eventually got some blue flags. But once clear of Norris Hamilton always looked to have Perez under control.
Hamilton said: “Their car was so superior this weekend that there wasn’t really anything we could do about it. I am just happy to have second.”
The first lap had all the action: Tsunoda climbing all over Schumacher to end both their races
Who else had a good race?
It was a largely uneventful race behind the leaders.
Pierre Gasly had a strong but lonely race in the Alpha Tauri, starting fifth and running fourth throughout.
He had the measure of the Ferraris behind. For a long time, the lead red car was Charles Leclerc, but his team-mate Carlos Sainz made a later pit stop even than Perez and Leclerc let him by in the later laps to give him a shot at chasing down Gasly.
When the Spaniard was unable to catch him, the Ferraris swapped back with a handful of laps to go, promoting Leclerc back to fifth ahead of Sainz.
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel took seventh, ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Norris.
Driver of the day
Slim pickings in such an uneventful race, but Verstappen was masterful in the best car by far, as he has been for much of the year, and is looking increasingly like he will be tough to stop in the championship
What happens next?
The Americas theme continues next weekend, as F1 hops down to Sao Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix at historic Interlagos. Verstappen won there the last time the race was held in 2019 and enters the weekend as favourite again. Hamilton has his work cut out.