Verstappen reigns at Mexico as Hamilton takes 5th championship

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Mexico, Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguezmx

Max Verstappen took the lead at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix and went on to win the race without error. Behind him, lots of tyre worries dominated the race, leading to Ferrari completing the podium. Lewis Hamilton finished 4th, enough to take a historic 5th World Championship title.

As the lights went out, Daniel Ricciardo immediately lost his pole position advantage due to a slow getaway, allowing Hamilton get past immediately. Verstappen took the lead in Turn 1, ahead of Hamilton while Ricciardo managed to fend off Vettel for third, despite briefly losing the position ahead of Turn 1.

Bottas ended up in 5th, followed by Sainz, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Leclerc and Ocon. The latter immediately dove into the pits at the end of lap 1, changing to super soft tyres. Hartley stopped as well, returning to the track on ultrasofts.

In the midfield, Alonso was seen going very wide out of Turn 3, and he continued to battle with Perez throughout the first lap, eventually passing the finish line after the first lap in 12th, the position he started in. Lance Stroll on the other hand enjoyed a really strong start and ended up 13th, ahead of Magnussen, Sirotkin, Gasly, Vandoorne, Grosjean, and the two who stopped after lap 1.

Up ahead, positions soon fixed, with Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Vettel and Bottas all slightly less than 2 seconds apart from one another. Raikkonen, who passed Sainz on lap 2, was closer to Bottas as he looked to overtake the Finnish Mercedes driver.

On lap 4, Alonso already retired from the race, quite likely due to the debris from Ocon's front wing that hit his McLaren in the first lap. Though the Spaniard parked his car safely off track, a virtual safety car was deemed necessary to remove the car.

By lap 10, most front drivers were seeing some graining, but less so on the Red Bulls. This resulted in a 5s advantage for Verstappen to Hamilton, and Ricciardo getting into DRS range of the Mercedes driver. Vettel followed 3s behind Ricciardo, with Bottas another 6 extra seconds further back.

On lap 11, Hamilton, Bottas and Sainz pitted. They all changed to new super softs. Hamilton returned 5th, Bottas 8th and Sainz in 13th position. Ricciardo pitted the next lap to cover Hamilton's stop, and so did Hulkenberg. Verstappen pitted one lap later, handing the lead to Vettel, with Raikkonen in second place, 10s down the road. The pitstop saw Verstappen return on track right behind Raikkonen. It cost Verstappen about 1.5s before he managed to pass the Finn, thanks to an extremely easy pass with DRS after literally shadowing the Ferrari through the slow stadium section.

Raikkonen rapidly lost ground to Verstappen and saw himself chased by Hamilton and Ricciardo on lap 17. Kimi held on for the entire straight, but lost the position in Turn 2. Ricciardo made perfect use of the move to pass the Ferrari seconds later, enabling him to stay in touch with Hamilton.

The end of lap 17 saw Vettel and then Raikkonen pit, also changing to new super soft tyres.

With the first stops done, Verstappen led by 8 seconds over Hamilton on lap 18. Ricciardo was third, 2.5s down, followed by Vettel and Bottas, both about 4 seconds down on their competitors ahead. Raikkonen in 6th had already lost 16s to Bottas, while Perez in 7th had not pitted yet, thanks to starting on the super softs. Sainz, Hulkenberg and Magnussen completed the top 10.

Leclerc was 11th, leading a train of 5 cars, all packed together in less than 5 seconds. Gasly and Vandoorne were really closely following Ocon in 14th, but the Force India's top speed made it difficult to make a move stick.

By lap 22, Hamilton started complaining about his tyres again. It was clear why, as he was unable to match Verstappen's pace, while Ricciardo and Vettel were closely following the Mercedes driver. However, his engineer rapidly pointed out that he had to go on for now, given that their only other option was to fit softer tyres, which would last even less.

On lap 28, when Verstappen had 11s in hand over Hamilton, the Dutchman was told to "settle down, there's a lot of tyre troubles behind". Indeed, both Hamilton and Ricciardo were complaining of left front graining. Vettel seemed to have a lot less problems as he started to attack the Red Bull in lap 29.

A virtual safety car for Sainz' retirement on lap 31 gave Ricciardo some time to breathe, but only just for 2 laps. The situation was further complicated with backmarkers, and on lap 34, Ricciardo was really stuffed as two cars ahead of him in the stadium (Perez and Leclerc) prevented him from pulling away on the accelleration zone, leaving him without defence on the main straight. Ricciardo soon said "what a f*cking joke" on the radio.

Halfway into the race, this saw Vettel close in to Hamilton for second place. Ricciardo lost further ground and saw Bottas reduce the gap behind him. Raikkonen had an anonymous race, but managed to get to within 7s to Bottas. At this stage, everybody else was lapped already.

On lap 38, Vettel already moved up into second position, enjoying great traction out of the final corner and a good draft on the straight to outbrake Hamilton for Turn 1.

Meanwhile, as Perez retired from the race due to a gearbox problem, Ocon got involved in a contact with Hartley. Ocon incurred no obvious damage, but the Toro Rosso did end up with a damaged floor on the left hand side.

At the front, Vettel recorded a string of fastest laps in the low 1:20's, eating half a second a lap out of Verstappen's advantage. Hamilton on the other hand lost nearly a second a lap to Ricciardo, just like Bottas versus Raikkonen, indicating how the Mercedes were suffering in their super soft tyres.

On lap 46, Ricciardo passed Hamilton for third after a few failed attempts. This time though, Hamilton outbraked himself while trying to defend him position at Turn 1, leaving him no other option but to go off the road, onto the grass and carefully return to the track, behind Ricciardo.

At the end of that lap, Vettel pitted and changed to new ultra softs as Hamilton switched to used ultra softs - having no new ones left. That lap, Raikkonen passed Bottas in the same manner as Ricciardo did against Hamilton the lap before. Verstappen pitted at the same time, but rejoined the track on new super softs, most likely the best option given there was still 22 laps to go. Ferrari and Mercedes though did not have this option, as they had only one set of super softs available for the race.

Bottas pitted the next lap, but even after that stop was lapping slower than Raikkonen did as he continued on his super softs from lap 15. Hamilton similarly didn't impress on his ultra softs, lapping around 1:22, like Bottas, but that was at least half a second slower than the four cars ahead.

As Ricciardo didn't pit a second time, he once again faced a battle with Vettel, who had closed in from behind after his second stop. Just as the battle hotted up, Vettel had a bit of oversteer through Turn 10 and dropped a full second. That was it really, as 10 laps from the end, when Vettel was getting close to DRS range again, Ricciardo's car started smoking, forcing him to pull off the track at Turn 1. That's the 8th technical retirement for Daniel Ricciardo this season.

The virtual safety car that was kicked in triggered Mercedes to pit Bottas, changing him onto used hyper soft tyres with 7 laps to go. The switch allowed Bottas to set the fastest lap, though it was just 2 tenths faster than what Verstappen managed. Bottas improved on that one lap later, setting the benchmark to 1:18.741 and triggering Verstappen to go slower and forget about setting the fastest lap himself.

Despite extremely worn tyres for many in the final laps, nothing changed anymore, leaving Verstappen to take his second consecutive win at Mexico, ahead of the Ferraris. Lewis Hamilton endured a difficult race but secured his 5th World Championship title.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
133Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer711:38:28.85125
25Sebastian VettelFerrari71+17.316s18
37Kimi RäikkönenFerrari71+49.914s15
444Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG71+78.738s12
577Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG70+1 lap10
627Nico HulkenbergRenault69+2 laps8
716Charles LeclercSauber Ferrari69+2 laps6
82Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren Renault69+2 laps4
99Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari69+2 laps2
1010Pierre GaslyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda69+2 laps1
1131Esteban OconForce India Mercedes69+2 laps0
1218Lance StrollWilliams Mercedes69+2 laps0
1335Sergey SirotkinWilliams Mercedes69+2 laps0
1428Brendon HartleyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda69+2 laps0
1520Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari69+2 laps0
168Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari68+3 laps0
NC3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer61DNF0
NC11Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes38DNF0
NC55Carlos SainzRenault28DNF0
NC14Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Renault3DNF0