Hamilton takes Mexican GP victory with perfect strategy

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Mexico, Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguezmx

There were various strategies possible today, but Lewis Hamilton certainly executed his perfectly. A fighting first stint on medium, followed by an error-free long second stint made for a straight forward victory, ahead of Vettel and Bottas who completed the podium.

The start ended up being a spectacular one, even though there wasn't much damage at all. It all started with Vettel squeezing Hamilton off track to defend his second place. Hamilton momentarily only had two wheels on track, but still manage to make it safely through Turn one, where we was pushed outward by Verstappen. The inevitably bumped wheels, and both men missed the second corner, enabling Albon and Sainz to move up into third and fourth.

Hamilton came back up to speed being in 5th, while Verstappen fell down to 8th, having mistakenly tried to cut a bit more grass, rather then taking the shortest route back to the track.

On lap 5, Verstappen makes a pass on Bottas in the twisty stadium, but three corners further down the road, Bottas returned the favour on the main straight. The Dutch Red Bull driver however soon found out his passing move held great consequences, as a mild touch from Bottas's front wing created a puncture. Verstappen soon dropped to the back of the pack, before returning to the pits for a brand new set of hard tyres.

Bottas went on to pass Sainz as well, 3 laps after Hamilton had done so. The Mercedes driver was thereafter asked to take care of brake temperatures which can be somewhat difficult at Mexico City.

On lap 7 and 9, both Toro Rossos were the first to pit, changing their softs from the start to hard Pirelli tyres. They fell back to 18th and 19th, still comfortably ahead of Verstappen. McLaren called Norris in too, on lap 12, but that went a little less well, as Lando Norris was asked to stop immediately, as soon as the crew found out the left front wasn't fitted properly. The crew ran to collect Norris, pushed him backward, got the new hard tyres fitted properly, and allowed Norris to return to racing, now 20th and a lap down rather than 7th.

Albon and Leclerc were the first of the front runners to pit, both taking on new medium tyres. Leclerc returned to the track in 4th, 8s behind Leclerc, and Albon another extra 9s behind. The new leader of the race, Sebastian Vettel, was immediately asked "what do you think of plan C", while Leclerc got a message "This is a really important stint".

On lap 15, after Hamilton had come to within 1.4s of Vettel, the Championship leader pitted. He got fitted with new hard tyres and immediately recorded the fastest lap, before getting somewhat annoyed by being stuck between the two Williams at Turn 1, 2 and 3.

The race gradually unfolded into a strategically interesting battle where Vettel continued on his soft tyres from the start until lap 38. Bottas, who was closing into the race leader, pitted two laps earlier.

Halfway into the race, this resulted in Leclerc leading, 8s ahead of Hamilton, 12.5 ahead of Albon, 14.3 on Vettel and 4 more on Bottas. Daniel Ricciardo, who was still on his first set of hard tyres, ran in 6th, 25s behind Bottas, and 15 ahead of the trio Perez, Verstappen and Kvyat.

On lap 44, Leclerc was pitted to change to hard tyres, but the stop ended up being slow, due to a wheelgun issue on the right rear. When the Ferrari driver rejoined, he was 4th, 10s behind Bottas. Albon pitted one lap later and ended up 5th, about halfway in the 20s gap between Leclerc and Ricciardo.

With Albon out of the picture, Vettel ended up in between the two Mercedes, with Bottas being the fastest of the three. Therefore, by lap 50, Vettel was probably more focused on his mirrors than on the road ahead, given that the Finn ended up around 1s to 1.3s behind the Ferrari driver. Behind them, Leclerc continued to record fastest laps, steadily reducing the gap to the guys in the top three.

At the same time, Norris pitted to retire from the race while Ricciardo made his sole pitstop, changing his hard tyres from the start of the race to mediums.

All front runners came closer together between laps 50 and 60, but then, the situation sort of got stale, and by lap 64, Leclerc started losing to Bottas.

When they started the final lap, Hamilton had 1.7s on Vettel, and 3.5s on Bottas. All drove different strategies, and they all ended extremely close to one another. It made for a tense race, but the lack of overtaking didn't suggest so.

In the final corner, Kvyat then caused some rolling eyes by bumping into Hulkenberg, effectively causing the Renault driver to end up backwards into the barriers, annulling his possible 9th place finish. Instead, it was Kvyat who crossed the line in 9th, with Gasly 10th and Hulkenberg crossing the line - without a rear wing - in 11th position. Kvyat was subsequently given a 10s time penalty for his action.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG711:36:48.90425
25Sebastian VettelFerrari71+1.766s18
377Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG71+3.553s15
416Charles LeclercFerrari71+6.368s13
523Alexander AlbonRed Bull Racing Honda71+21.399s10
633Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda71+68.807s8
711Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes71+73.819s6
83Daniel RicciardoRenault71+74.924s4
910Pierre GaslyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda70+1 lap2
1027Nico HulkenbergRenault70+1 lap1
1126Daniil Kvyat*Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda70+1 lap0
1218Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes70+1 lap0
1355Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault70+1 lap0
1499Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari70+1 lap0
1520Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari69+2 laps0
1663George RussellWilliams Mercedes69+2 laps0
178Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari69+2 laps0
1888Robert KubicaWilliams Mercedes69+2 laps0
NC7Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari58DNF0
NC4Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault48DNF0

Note - Kvyat finished 9th, but a 10s time penalty dropped him to 11th