Hamilton survives nervous start to win Mexican Grand Prix and keep F1 title hopes alive
Lewis Hamilton scores his second straight victory, but Nico Rosberg is still on track for the drivers’ title with a second-place finish at Hermanos Rodriguez track. AP

MEXICO CITY — Lewis Hamilton is in top form and winning races again. His problem is that he's running out of time to win another Formula One championship.

Hamilton survived a nervous start to win the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday (Monday, Manila time), his second victory in a row in a desperate chase to catch Mercedes teammate and rival Nico Rosberg for the season title.

"History has shown it is not too late," Hamilton said.

He's pressing Rosberg as much as he can and cut his deficit to 19 points. But with just two races left in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, Rosberg is still in pole position for his first career title, one that would match the championship won by his father Keke Rosberg in 1982.

Rosberg finished second Sunday and can clinch the season title if he wins in Brazil in two weeks. And even if Hamilton wins both races, a second- and third-place finish would crown Rosberg champion.

"Sounds good," Rosberg said. "At the moment, I'm thinking of the missed chance to win today ... Lewis was too quick today and all weekend."

Hamilton started on pole position and held the front despite locking a wheel and cutting through the grass on the first corner out of the start. With dirt and grass flying, he recovered to hold position and drove off to grab his 51st career victory, tying Alain Prost for second most in F1 history.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was third when Red Bull's Max Verstappen was penalized 5 seconds after the race for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. The move came in a late-race duel between the drivers for third.

"Move! Move for God's sake," Vettel shouted over his car radio when Verstappen ignored his team's orders to yield position to Vettel.

As they crossed the finish line, Vettel pulled alongside Verstappen and wagged his finger at him. The Dutch teenager responded by shaking his fist. The penalty pushed Verstappen back to fifth behind his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

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Verstappen had already gone to the podium-finishers' cool-down room before the penalty was announced. He quickly stormed out and Vettel was rushed in for the post-race champagne celebration.

"I was quicker, put him under a lot of pressure and he made a mistake," Vettel said. "It was clear he should have moved."

Ricciardo had his own late-race issue with Vettel, accusing the Ferrari driver of moving in a braking zone to denying his pass attempt. Formula One officials recently said that such moves would be punished after drivers, including Vettel, complained about Verstappen.

"Seb did what everyone's been complaining about lately," Ricciardo said. "He doesn't deserve to be on the podium."

Hamilton has been bedeviled by poor starts all season, but got a good bolt off the line into one of the longest straights in Formula One. A right front brake problem caused the lockup and smoke billowed from his screeching tire. He veered wide but kept Rosberg in his rearview mirror.

"I was carrying such speed I was lucky I didn't go into the wall," Hamilton said.

Hamilton's drive through the grass looked a lot like Verstappen's move that was penalized. They came on the same corner but Hamilton insisted they were different racing situations.

"I think I was still in the lead going in. I was still in the lead going out," Hamilton said.

Rosberg battled Verstappen all afternoon in a duel that could have impacted the title chase had the Mercedes car been damaged.

Their cars bumped tires on the first corner out of the start, sending Rosberg into the grass, just not as wide as Hamilton. Rosberg held position and race stewards decided there would be no penalty. Without the bump, Verstappen might have emerged in second for the early laps.

Verstappen made a late charge to pass Rosberg with a bold move on lap 50, but again couldn't hold the position through a corner, missing a chance to close Rosberg's margin for error over the final two races.

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"It's good racing I guess. In the car it was exciting stuff," Rosberg said.

Verstappen was seething after the race.

"Lewis gained a massive advantage (at the start) and Nico went off and gained an advantage. I didn't gain an advantage. When I came back on track I was the same length in front so I think it's ridiculous," Verstappen told Sky Sports.

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