To have any chance of winning the 2016 Driver's Championship, Lewis Hamilton needed to get his Mercedes-AMG Petronas across the finish line ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg. Once again we got a weekend full of vintage Hamilton, the Brit dominating the from Friday to Sunday, except for the first corner of the first lap. Pole-sitter Hamilton reached Turn 1 clearly in front of the field. But he couldn't make the corner and stay on track, so he zipped into the runoff area and over the grass, rejoining at Turn 3 still ahead of the field. The stewards didn't penalize Hamilton, one commentator's explanation being that Hamilton "was not battling another car." The non-action left car #44 to enjoy a lights-to-flag win.
At that very same corner, Rosberg also availed himself of the runoff area. His infraction seemed destined to incur a penalty until replays showed that Max Verstappen in the Red Bull slid wide and bumped Rosberg, causing the German to go off track. No penalties were handed out there, either. Verstappen would return to hound Rosberg later in the race when angling for second place. Verstappen took a stab through Turn 4 on Lap 50 of the 71-lap race, but ran off the track and lost touch with the Mercedes by Lap 55.
Ferrari got half of its strategy right in Mexico, putting Sebastian Vettel hard on the charge in the final stint. The German got within DRS range of Verstappen on Lap 67, with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo a little more than a second behind Vettel. On Lap 68, Verstappen pulled the same move as Hamilton at the beginning of the race: the Dutchman ran wide through Turn 1, zoomed over the grass and rejoined the track at Turn 3, staying ahead of Vettel the whole time. With three laps remaining, the stewards chose to investigate after the race. In spite of Verstappen's own team telling he probably needed to cede position to Vettel, Verstappen stayed in front and slowed just enough to put Vettel under threat from Ricciardo.
On Lap 70 Ricciardo had closed up to Vettel's gearbox. Headed for Turn 4, Vettel swung outside to take the corner. When Ricciardo moved inside to pass, Vettel moved inside to block the Aussie while both cars were in the braking zone. The Ferrari made light contact with the Red Bull, but Vettel held his position through Turn 5. The German crossed the line in fourth, but not before dumping a bucket full of curses on Verstappen and on Formula 1 Race Director Charlie Whiting for refusing to order Verstappen to give up third position before the checkered flag.
After the race Verstappen parked his car in the spot for the third-place finisher and went to the podium room. The stewards hit the teenager with a five-second penalty for the incident at Turn 1, dropping him to fifth behind Vettel and Ricciardo, and ushering him out of the podium room so Vettel could take the lowest step on the dais.
Three hours after the race, the stewards gave Vettel a ten-second penalty for moving in the braking zone, dropping Vettel to fifth behind Ricciardo and Verstappen. The irony of the situation is that Vettel got bit by a new regulation he championed, written into the rule books after Verstappen moved under braking in Japan while defending against Hamilton. So the final order was: Hamilton, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Vettel.
Behind them, Kimi Räikkönen got the second Ferrari home in sixth after an iffy strategy and slow pit stop. Nico Hülkenberg claimed seventh for Force India, a fortunate result after contact with Räikkönen on Lap 67 at that infamous Turn 4. The Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa took the next two places, Sergio Perez taking the last point in tenth at his home grand prix.
With two weeks to go until the next race in Brazil, we can expect a fortnight of hand-wringing about Verstappen's driving, the inconsistency of steward's decisions, whether "the knives are out" against Red Bull, and the chance of Vettel getting being fined for his epithets. We expect a number of driver announcements during the break, so we can already start wondering why Esteban Ocon is linked to a Force India seat when he's done little to show he deserves his Manor Racing seat. And one day soon we hope Haas F1 will answer all questions about its questionable brakes – Romain Grosjean hopes so, too.
There will no doubt be more dialogue about Rosberg's potential Driver's Championship; pundits wonder if a Rosberg title would shine a little less if Rosberg doesn't beat Hamilton in equal machinery in the final races. For now, Rosberg holds a 19-point advantage over Hamilton, and that's all that matters to the record books. Until Brazil.