Britain's Lewis Hamilton is on the brink of winning his fourth world championship at Sunday’s Mexico Grand Prix after passing title rival Sebastian Vettel to triumph in the United States.
Victory in Austin propelled the Mercedes driver 66 points clear of Vettel, who finished second, with only 75 available from the three remaining races. The German has to make up 17 points on Hamilton in Mexico City to take the contest to the next race in Brazil.
Such a points margin translates to Vettel topping the podium in Mexico and Hamilton, who has won five of his last six grands prix, finishing in sixth place or lower. Hamilton could finish fifth and be crowned champion.
“We can see the fat lady backstage preparing,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff of Hamilton, who has finished outside the top five on only one occasion this season, and his chances of success.
Pole-sitter Hamilton traded first position with Vettel at the start of the race but regained it at Turn 12 on lap six, from where he never looked back and cruised to a ninth victory in 17 races this term.
“It’s been an incredible year so far and I’m really enjoying driving this car,” said Hamilton. “We didn’t expect to have the pace on Sebastian today, but the balance was just great. Three races to go, three to win.
“Growing up I was very proud to be among the great British drivers. It is such a dream.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who started in 16th position after a hefty grid sanction, thought he had claimed third place from veteran Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen, only to be hit with a five-second penalty for gaining advantage by disrespecting track limits.
“We had a great race but with those stupid decisions you kill the sport,” added Verstappen, 20. “I hope the fans do not like this decision and next year they do not come.”
A further title for Hamilton would also ensure a fourth consecutive championship double for Mercedes, who clinched the constructors’ title in Austin.