Lewis Hamilton completed a faultless Mexican Grand Prix to take the win unthreatened. Nico Rosberg did get under fire from time to time, but held it together to finish second. Vettel completed the podium following a penalty for Verstappen, although he too was later demoted, handing the remaining podium position to Daniel Ricciardo.
As the lights went out following a fairly rapid warm-up lap, there was really nobody at the front who messed up their start. The first corner following the long straight was another thing, with Hamilton having a major lockup and cutting turn 1 and 2 to rejoin the track in turn 3, easily ahead of the pack.
Behind him, Rosberg was bumped off the track by Verstappen, but Rosberg opted to veer left and also cut a part of turn 2, hence retaining his advantage on the Dutchman.
At the back, Gutierrez slightly touched wheels with Wehrlein in turn 2, resulting in the German losing rear grip and bumping into Ericsson. It was an immediate end of the race for Wehrlein as the front suspension was completely shot to pieces.
During the resulting safety car period, the Mercedes pit crew headed out, but Hamilton nonetheless opted to stay out, despite reporting considerably vibrations due to his lockup in turn 1. Ricciardo however chose to pit and change his super softs to a new set of mediums. Ericsson also pitted and similarly changed to new medium tyres. He would go on to complete the race on this set of tyres, eventually finishing 11th.
By lap 9, Hamilton steadily opened up an advantage of 3 seconds to Rosberg, with Verstappen following closely. Hulkenberg followed in 4th, ahead of Raikkonen, Massa, Vettel, Bottas, Perez, Sainz and Alonso. Ricciardo at the time had already progressed into 12th position following his first lap pitstop.
On lap 12, Grosjean was the first to make a regular stop, followed one lap later by Verstappen. The latter rejoined the race 1.5s behind Alonso who got passed one lap before that by Daniel Ricciardo.
At the same time, a serious queue was forming behind Massa as the Williams driver increasingly struggled on the super softs. When he eventually pitted on lap 14, Vettel rapidly pulled away from Bottas and Perez who were behind him.
On lap 18, the race leader pitted and was changed to medium tyres in 2.1 seconds. He rejoined the track in 4th, 2.5 seconds down on Vettel and about 4 ahad of Bottas, the latter still going on his super softs from the start. Perez was now seemed to become the culprit as Bottas struggled, and the closely matched Red Bulls joined the queue.
Bottas pitted on lap 20, Perez, Rosberg and Raikkonen on lap 21.
On lap 23, Ricciardo let Verstappen past him, following a note from Verstappen via the radio "so what do we do now? I'm stuck".
On lap 28, Vettel continued to lead the race, still using softs in his first stint, while everybody else, except Kvyat in 18th was by now running medium tyres. The German's laptimes however were still a match to Hamilton, who ran 4 seconds down the road. Rosberg followed up in third at another 5 seconds. Verstapppen was up next, 2.5 s behind the Mercedes and about the same ahead of his team mate.
2 laps later, Ferrari called Vettel in, only to see the German continue for another 2 laps before eventually diving into the pits and change to medium tyres. That ended a 32 lap stint on softs, which had even been used and while Pirelli had advised not to do more than 22 on that tyre. Anyway, the pace was still there, but the team probably opted to change to medium for safety reasons, knowing that the medium would easily last till the end of the Grand Prix anyway.
The situation remained stale for a long while, with some battles underlining the difficulty to get past around this circuit. Sergio Perez for instance was continuously chasing Massa, but the top speed of the Williams made it impossible to get past, even despite having DRS on every single lap.
25 laps from the end, Raikkonen pitted and took on another set of mediums. Alonso pitted one lap later, changing to new softs. The stop itself could've been better though, as three wheels were already fitted before the left rear crew managed to get the rear wheel into its correct position.
On lap 51, 20 from the end, Ricciardo pitted to get a new set of softs, having completed 50 on his set of mediums. At about the same time, Max Verstappen attempted a pass on Rosberg after the latter made a mistake in turn 3. It was probably the right time, but he braked too late, ending up oversteering off the track on the exit of the corner, and finding Rosberg ahead of him when back on track.
In the closing laps, the battle for third heated up, with Vettel and Ricciardo both at striking distance of Verstappen. 3 laps from the end, Verstappen locked up and went straight to cut turn 1 and 2, hence easily staying ahead of the two. It quickly triggered a stewards' investigation, dealt with after the race. It left Vettel and Arrivabene furious, with the Ferrari driver driving aside of the Red Bull across the finish line to make his disagreement clear. A further radio message "A f*ck to Charlie".
Then, on the final lap, Ricciardo tried to get past Vettel, but as the Ferrari driver closed the door, they touched, but maintained positions. Ricciardo however locked up his left front badly enough to take him out of the battle, wisely opting to not push any further.
While Hamilton and Rosberg were certain of their positions atop the podium, Verstappen joined them, until getting a message that he had been handed a 5 second penalty anyway. This demoted his to 5th, behind Vettel and Ricciardo. Thanks to the swift decision, a correct podium ceremony could he held, even though it required a short run from Vettel to get to the podium.
Still, that wasn't the end of the saga, as Vettel was later given a 10s penalty for driving "dangerously or erratically" when defending his position against Ricciardo. According to the stewards report telemetry and video evidence showed that Vettel did change direction under braking for Turn 4 and that “this was considered to be potentially dangerous in view of the proximity of the wheels of each car.”
|3||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer||71||+20.858s||15|
|4||33||Max Verstappen *||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer||71||+21.323s||12|
|5||5||Sebastian Vettel *||Ferrari||71||+27.313s||10|
|7||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India Mercedes||71||+58.891s||6|
|8||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Mercedes||71||+65.612s||4|
|9||19||Felipe Massa||Williams Mercedes||71||+76.206s||2|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||71||+76.798s||1|
|11||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||70||+1 lap||0|
|12||22||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda||70||+1 lap||0|
|13||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda||70||+1 lap||0|
|14||30||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||70||+1 lap||0|
|15||12||Felipe Nasr||Sauber Ferrari||70||+1 lap||0|
|16||55||Carlos Sainz *||Toro Rosso Ferrari||70||+1 lap||0|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||Renault||70||+1 lap||0|
|18||26||Daniil Kvyat *||Toro Rosso Ferrari||70||+1 lap||0|
|19||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Haas Ferrari||70||+1 lap||0|
|20||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||70||+1 lap||0|
|21||31||Esteban Ocon||Mrt Mercedes||69||+2 laps||0|
|NC||94||Pascal Wehrlein||Mrt Mercedes||0||DNF||0|
Sainz received a 5s time penalty for forcing Alonso off track.
Kvyat received a 5s time penalty for leaving the track and gaining a lasting advantage.
Vettel received a 10s time penalty for driving dangerously or erratically.