What did we learn from the Mexican Grand Prix?

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After a strategy-dominated race-long battle, Lewis Hamilton emerged victorious in yesterday’s Mexican Grand Prix. Following a clash with Max Verstappen at the first corner, a miracle looked to be required to secure victory, but the unexpected durability of Pirelli’s hard compound saved the Briton’s race.

What a passionate crowd!– The wonderful Mexican Grand Prix weekend turned into an amazing fiesta, enticing 138,435 fans on Sunday and 345,694 over the weekend.

No podium, but one additional point – Charles Leclerc’s race unravelled due to a false strategy decision. Reacting on the early pit stop of Alexander Albon, Ferrari pitted the young Monegasque for fresh mediums on lap 15. As Leclerc had to visit the Italian team’s pit crew for a second time, he lost his chance of finishing on the podium. However, Leclerc grabbed the opportunity of adding an additional point to his tally by setting the fastest race lap with a time of 1m19.232. This lap time was four tenths of a second shy of the all-time track record set by Valtteri Bottas in 2018.

Unbelievable top speeds – Situated at some 2200m above sea level, Mexico presents a unique set of challenges to racing cars. Teams have to use the Budapest-specification rear and front wings to generate the necessary downforce. However, even using these steep wings, cars produce levels of loads seen in Monza which explains why cars can reach incredibly top steeds in Mexico. In yesterday’s grand prix, it was Sergio Perez to record the highest top speed with an incredible 359.7kph.

Race pace – Despite having been the dominant force over a single lap in recent years, Mercedes has not been on pole since the German Grand Prix. However, it does not mean that the team’s 2019 contender, the W10 has been lacking pace recently as the car usually comes alive in race trim. It was the case yesterday as well and that, combined with a perfectly executed strategy, helped Lewis Hamilton to take his tenth win of the season and his 83rd in total. It leaves Hamilton only eight wins adrift of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 Formula One victories.

Unexpected tyre performance – Friday free practices indicated that teams would face a huge task in terms of managing Pirelli’s three compounds over longer distances. However, track conditions improved significantly for Sunday, meaning that the hard and the medium compound turned out to be very durable race tyres. Max Verstappen completed the longest stint on the C2 hard compound after a puncture-forced early pit stop. The Dutchman stopped on lap 5 and completed 66 laps on the white-banded tyre. When it came to the medium compound, the trio of Sebastian Vettel, Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll covered the longest distance of 37 laps. On the red-banded soft compound, it was Carlos Sainz to complete the longest stint with 15 laps. Interestingly, no driver used the C4 compound other than the two McLaren and Toro Rosso drivers who had to start the race on the softest compound available in Mexico City.

Unexpected strategy – Given the tyre behaviour seen on Friday, Pirelli recommended a two-stop strategy for the 71-lap Mexican Grand Prix. The Italian tyre manufacturer expected high degradation, but it turned out to be a wrong expectation as the medium and the hard compounds coped well with the track conditions. In the end, thirteen drivers opted for a one-stopper with the most favoured one being the medium-hard strategy. Of these thirteen drivers, only Daniel Ricciardo went for a reverse strategy as the Australian started the race on the hard compound to finish the Mexican Grand Prix on the mediums.

Home hero – Mexico’s beloved home boy, Sergio Perez Mendoza did not fail to impress in front of his crowd. Fighting against Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages of the race, the Guadalajara-born driver finished the race in seventh position, equalling his previous best finish in Mexico. When the sport returned to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in 2015, Perez finished the race eighth. The following year saw the Mexican take the tenth position to score a single championship point while he recorded a seventh-placed finish in 2017. Last year brought immense disappointment to the Mexican on home soil as he was forced to retire from the race.

Unexpected exception – Although the governing body usually takes it very seriously if teams fail to secure tyres properly, McLaren escaped a possibly very hefty penalty in yesterday’s Mexican Grand Prix. On lap 12, Lando Norris dived into the pits to get rid of his worn soft tyres, but his pit stop visit turned into a nightmare after McLaren mechanics failed to fit the new tyres correctly. The stewards commenced an investigation into the matter and heard from the team representative and the FIA Technical Delegate. After reviewing video evidences, the FIA technical delegate could not establish if the car was in an unsafe condition after being released from the pit stop and the stewards decided to take no further action.

The closest gap – The closest fight turned out to be the one between Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo. The Mexican pitted on lap 20 for fresh hard tyres while the Australian completed his solo pit stop 30 laps later. On his much fresher yellow-banded tyres, the Perth-born driver closed in on Perez with mammoth steps, but, enjoying the support of his home crowd, Perez defended his position and finished the race 1.105 seconds ahead of his rival.

Tiring repair work – Following his heavy crash in the dying minutes of the Saturday qualifying session, Valtteri Bottas provided his mechanics with plenty of work to complete before the Mexican Grand Prix. The Mercedes mechanics had to change a long list of parts on Car 77 including the floor, plank, ERS pump filter, front cockpit loom, steering wheel, steering column, power steering rack, front wing and nose assembly, the nose pins, rear wing assembly, the deck wing assembly, the gearbox carrier, the brake master cylinder, the rear suspension assembly, rear wing mirror, barge board and the front suspension assembly.

Six outfits – Six outfits managed to leave the first round of the current double-header of races with points in their bags. Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault left Mexico City with adding points to their tally with two cars while the Racing Point and the Toro Rosso team appeared with one of their cars in the top ten. In the Constructors’ Championship, an intense battle is shaping up between Renault, Racing Point and Toro Rosso. The three outfits have three more races to decide over the fifth place with Renault (73 points) currently enjoying a small margin over its two rivals (64-64 points).

Fight for the third place - Lewis Hamilton has not yet got his hands on his sixth title, but he’s getting even closer to this amazing achievement. He leads his team-mate by 74 points and there are only 78 up for grabs from the remaining three races. The fight for third is still on, with Leclerc now only 6 points ahead of Vettel. Max Verstappen has now dropped to 16 behind the Monegasque.