Hamilton sees F1 title race going on beyond Mexico
Champion-in-waiting has four races in the dominant Mercedes to clinch his sixth title
Lewis Hamilton expects he will have to wait beyond Mexico, the next race on the calendar and one that could be a struggle for his Mercedes team, to secure his sixth Formula One world championship.
After finishing third in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, with his lead over team mate — and now sole rival — Valtteri Bottas reduced to 64 points, the Briton is finally in a position to wrap up the title.
Hamilton assured reporters he was in no hurry, however.
“For me, it’s never been a case of always wanting to rush things,” he said.
“I think Mexico is generally our worst race of the year because of the way our car is set up and it’s going to be a tough one for us. The last few have been pretty shocking, even though we’ve won the title there.
“I don’t anticipate it (the decider) will be Mexico. I think we will be battling for a good few races.”
Hamilton won his 2017 and 2018 titles at Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, which returned to the calendar in 2015 for the first time in 23 years.
There is no real doubt about who will be champion, just a case of when.
“Lewis will win it. Doesn’t matter which race. I don’t think it matters for him, does it? It wouldn’t matter to me,” said Ferrari's four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, who was second on Sunday.
With four races remaining, there are 104 points to be won when the extra point available for fastest lap is taken into consideration.
Hamilton needs to score 14 points more than Bottas in Mexico but he has done that only once this season — in Hungary when he won and the Finn was eighth.
Mercedes, who clinched the constructors' title for the sixth year in a row on Sunday, have had eight one-two finishes in 17 races.
The team's worst race of 2019 so far was Germany, with Hamilton ninth and Bottas a nonfinisher.
While Bottas celebrated his third victory of the season on Sunday, he is up against a man who has scored for 29 races in a row and been on the podium in all but three this year.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen has won in Mexico for the past two years and Ferrari are also expected to be strong, so the maths would favour Texas as a more likely title-decider from the North American double-header.
LeClerc accepts blame for crash with Verstappen
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc has accepted blame for a collision with Red Bull's Max Verstappen that wrecked both drivers' Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Monegasque finished sixth but was demoted to seventh after collecting time penalties for the collision and continuing with a damaged car, while Verstappen retired from engine partner Honda's home race.
The Dutchman had accused Leclerc in the immediate aftermath of “irresponsible” driving.
Leclerc said initially it was a “tricky situation” but later recognised his mistake.
“I had a poor start. I got a little bit distracted,” he told reporters.
“I was on the inside and being behind Seb (Vettel) and Lewis (Hamilton), I lost a little bit the front (of the car)," he explained. “Normally you need to anticipate those things and I didn't. So I'm the one to blame.”
Leclerc and Verstappen are both now mathematically ruled out of title contention with only the Mercedes drivers still in the running.
MOTORING PODCAST | Racing the Devil