Lap 51/58 It seems like Hamilton and Perez have turned their inters into slicks, which is why they’re still out there in front. Meanwhile, Raikkonen spins, Verstappen goes around him, and Albon spins.
Lap 50/58 Hamilton and Perez, the two at the top, have only pitted once. That’s not quite a pit in hand, but it seems extremely unlikely that Perez could hold it down even if Hamilton came out in second.
Lap 49/58 Ricciardo tries to keep ahead of Norris, his breaks lock up, and Norris goes by. See ya! Meanwhile, Verstappen looks to attack Albon – will Red Bull wave him by, on the basis that he’s their faster car?
Lap 48/58 This is very, very close now. In the interests of impartiality, come on Lewis!
Lap 47/58 Hamilton laps Bottas – a lovely touch – as Verstappen says he’s ready for slicks and attacks Albon. The gap, though, is still 1.477s and I doubt he forces it this time. Hamilton leads Perez by 18.619s, with Leclerc third, Vettel fourth, Sainz fifth, Albon sixth and Verstappen seventh.
Lap 46/58 “Hamilton is driving like Senna and Prost,” tweets Gary Naylor and he’s right, this is absolutely phenomenal behaviour. Only he has coped with these conditions; he doesn’t have the fastest car, but he’s got the fastest brain and the coolest demeanour. We might just call it genius.
Lap 45/58 This is such a race; I can’t remember a better one in the last few years. There’ve been crashes and safety cars, all of that, but I can’t think of many which have tested the drivers like this; where they’ve been racing with the same degree of intensity. And that’s why the best of all of them is in the lead.
Lap 44/58 Hamilton is now a pit clear of Verstappen … and Leclerc goes by him! So Verstappen pits, and how he comes out will likely decide this race. If he’s quicker than Hamilton, he’s got a chance, but if not, it’s over.
Lap 43/58 Verstappen is in third, 27s or so behind. I’m not sure there’s anything he can do with that. We are in the presence of greatness.
Lap 42/58 Hamilton leads Perez by about 12s, but Perez has nae pace and it’s becoming increasingly hard to see how anyone but Hamilton takes this, provided there’s no safety-car situation.
Lap 41/58 Hamilton is still enjoying his tyres, and notices that it’s getting darker. Stroll, meanwhile, is having an absolute shocker – Sainz takes him out, and this is a classic #headsgone situation.
Lap 40/58 There might be rain in 10 laps’ time. Oh yes! There’s a big black cloud we can see, and that might just play into Hamilton’s hands, given he’s yet to stop. Leclerc has taken Vettel though, and is absolutely bousting!
Lap 40/58 Hamilton has lashed a lead of 4.976s now. If he can do a little more work on that, come in and come out still ahead, he is actually going to do this. I’m not entirely sure how he’s done it, but that’s genius isn’t it. Meanwhile, Stroll lunges by Vettel, loses it, and Leclerc passes him too!
Lap 39/58 It’s looking extremely Lewisalicious out there now. Of course it is!
Lap 38/58 Hamilton leads Perez by 2.075s, with Verstappen a further 15.298 behind and Stroll 4.424s away from that.
Lap 37/58 When will Stroll come in? He’s losing pace this way and that … and here it comes. On go the inters, and he comes out in fourth, but of those in front, Perez and Hamilton have only pitted once and not a chance Verstappen says out there until the end. Stroll’s team might’ve overruled him and hauled him in sooner, because he was losing time for a while. AND WHAT’S THIS?! Hamilton takes out Perez like it’s nothing, which for him it is not, and already he’s extending that lead.
Lap 36/58 Hamilton ponders just staying out there, while Perez closes on Stroll, the gap down to 0.890s. Hamilton will be absolutely stenching blood here; can he join the immortals in the grand style?
Lap 35/58 That is absolutely dreadful news for Albon, whose chance to make a seat-saving statement is getting away from him; he pits. I should have noted, by the way, that Vettel stopped on the previous lap, so:
Lap 34/58 Verstappen gets by Ricciardo, and we learn that Leclerc is way faster than everyone on his new intermediates. Meanwhile, Albon spins coming round the corner, losing grip, and Hamilton is into third! HAVE A LOOK!
Lap 33/58 …and instead, Sainz nails Ricciardo, who now has Verstappen on his tail! At the front, meanwhile, Perez is eating into Stroll, the lead now 2.946s. I’ve not a clue who’s going to win this.
Lap 31/58 Who’s going to move first? We’re at that point where someone will gamble, pit, and change tyres … and it’s Leclerc. He goes for inters….
Lap 30/58 Norris has just taken Magnussen, moving into tenth. And the conditions mean that DRS is now enabled, which will please everyone but Stroll, I shouldn’t wonder. His lead is now 3.789s, more or less where it’s been for the last 20 minutes.
Lap 29/58 The top five are covered by 10.5s, and Hamilton is now the favourite to win. In the interests of objectivity, COME ON LEWIS!
Lap 28/58 Verstappen wants to come in, but his team tell him that they’re not expecting any more rain, so he needs to stay out just a little longer before coming in for dries. We still don’t know if he’s going to be penalised; David Croft speculates that they can’t find a camera which gives a definitive angle.
Lap 27/58 Perez leads Albon by 0.972s now, while Vettel is 5.923s behind and Hamilton a further 2.282s back. Any of these five could win.
Lap 26/58 Vettel is currently quicker than Hamilton; he’s quicker than everyone! Meanwhile, Aldon and Perez continue dueling for second, the gap between them under a second. Stroll leads by 3.526s.
Lap 25/58 Albon won’t want to cede his podium, but he’ll be desperate to make a point, and bring it home.
Lap 24/58 The problem the drivers are now finding is that some of the track is wet and some of it is not, so they’ve no idea which tyres to move to and which lines to pick. Albon is currently the quickest on the track, but going off line to overtake is such a risk. Just ask Verstappen.
Lap 23/58 Hamilton wants to pit, naused that he’s stuck behind Vettel – who’s rowing with Albon over third.
Lap 22/58 Stroll is really holding it down here. Perez is quicker than him, but he’s looking strong.
Lap 21/58 Albon, who’s fighting for his career, is absolutely flying, setting a fastest lap. He’s about 8.5s off the lead, as we learn that Verstappen is under investigation for crossing the line at the pit exit. He’s had better lunchtimes.
Lap 20/58 Stroll leads, from Perez, from Albon, from Vettel, from Hamilton, from Ricciardo, from Sainz, from Verstappen.
Lap 19/58 Verstappen will be vex with himself for that – taking Perez was a matter of patience and time, as George Harrison once said, but he forced it and pits, coming out in eighth.
VERSTAPPEN ATTACKS PEREZ DOWN THE INSIDE AND SPINS!
Lap 18/58 Perez was slow coming out of the chicane and Verstappen couldn’t take it any longer, going outside then in seeking a gap that wasn’t there, spinning and losing places to Vettel and Hamilton! Has his chance gone?
Lap 18/58 Bottas is 15th, incidentally, as Verstappen looks to attack Perez again, unable to find a way through; in front of him, Stroll leads by 8.582s. Meanwhile, in ninth, Leclerc is having it, going faster than anyone else.
Lap 17/58 Albon is on a roll here, taking Vettel, but Hamilton has yet to find a way through. Meanwhile, Verstappen is right up on Perez, who sets a fastest lap, but it’s not going to be long. Red Bull have the fastest car, and the real question is whether it’ll be enough to get them first place.
Lap 16/58 Vettel is finding this harder than Hamilton, who can’t quite force his way into fourth. To get onto the podium from here is a big ask, but he attacks Vettel on the inside then on the outside … and Albon takes the chance to overtake him instead! Hamilton falls from fifth to sixth! We had four different leaders in the first 12 laps here; no other race this season has had four leaders full stop!
Lap 15/58 This is absolutely fascinating stuff, but let’s not forget the humungous picture: barring accident, Lewis Hamilton is going to clinch his SEVENTH world championship!
Lap 14/58 The virtual safety car is out as we check out Verstappen’s slow (four second!) stop. His team did a great job there.
Lap 13/58 Giovinazzi is out! We don’t see why, but we see him trundling off the track. He’s the first to go – you’d not have expected it to take this long at the start, even before Bottas spun off.
Lap 13/58 Albon now leads, but he’s not pitted yet – he’ll be in next time round – and Stroll will take over. Behind him, Perez is 10.856s back, Verstappen 11.851 away, Vettel 15.028s and 15.717s.
Lap 12/58 Verstappen’s told he’s coming in, and though it’s not hard to understand why he insisted on staying out, it might just cost him! His pit takes a touch longer than you’d expect too – are they removing some tape from the brake duct? – but he gets out ahead of Vettel and Hamilton, just, and Verstappen will be fancying this!
Lap 11/58 The track is drying and Verstappen is on one, setting a fastest lap as Perez comes in! Verstappen now leads and Perez’s stop takes double what it should! So we’ve now got:
Lap 10/58 Verstappen is having it now, enjoying the clear track in front of him while behind him, Albon sets a fastest lap. Stroll decides to take his chances, zooming into the pits and coming out in fourth, while Verstappen looks to close the gap on Perez, 5.7s at the moment. Hamilton meanwhile, is now in eighth.
Lap 9/58 No! It’s Vettel who tries it, his team presumably seeing Leclerc’s stats. I guess that’ll make up Verstappen’s mind for him, because he needs to do whatever Vettel doesn’t.
Lap 8/58 Leclerc and Ocon have both pitted already – Leclerc is now on intermediates – as we settle in with Verstappen, still unable to pass Vettel. Meanwhile, Hamilton sets the fastest lap, reducing the gap between him and Stroill to 18.583s. Meanwhile, Bottas pits and changes to intermediates; perhaps Verstappen will do likewise, because Leclerc is absolutely bousting on them. Hamilton comes in too.
Lap 7/58 Stroll leads by 4.999s, from Perez, from Vettel from Verstappen, from Albon, from Hamilton. Stroll is more than a pit-stop ahead of Hamilton, the difference between them roundabout 30 seconds. Bottas, meanwhile, is stuck in 15th, behind Norris.
Lap 6/58 We see some tape of Sainz nipping past Raikkonen on the inside. “Big fan of your work,” he’s told by his team.
Lap 6/58 Vettel and Verstappen duel for third, the gap 0.487 and closing. If Verstappen can get by, he should have the most pace, but given the conditions, he might need a safety car to deploy it properly.
Lap 5/58 It’s drying out a little bit, and Stroll sets the fastest lap. That 16/1 is looking nice! Except it’s going to rain again soon, at which point, who on earth knows?
Lap 4/58 Hamilton is really almost there! Does he try to win the race – he’s 19.866 behind Stroll now – or at least make the podium? Or does he take is nice and easy, spending the next hour or so party-planning?