A stoppage halfway in the race due to an accident for Kevin Magnussen couldn't prevent Max Verstappen to win the Mexican Grand Prix in front of an ecstatic crowd. Lewis Hamilton was overjoyed with second place while Charles Leclerc completed the podium for Ferrari.
For the first time this year we had an all Ferrari front row with Charles Leclerc starting from pole and world Champion Max Verstappen starting from third. Ricciardo was 4th on the starting grid and local hero Perez 5th.
Lance Stroll was the only one not to start from the grid but rather from the pitlane, this time reverting to the Bahrain car specification while Alonso kept the latest updates as Aston Martin continue to need further data on the new aero package.
When the lights went out Verstappen made a good start and soon found himself in between the two Feraris. Further towards Turn 1 Sainz ended up behind Verstappen as Verstappen and Leclerc battled for first. On the left side of the track Sergio Perez then emerged and with three abreast they started breaking for Turn 1.
Perez though turned in but had Leclerc's left front wheel tear a hole in his sidepod and send him up in the air when their wheels touched. Perez returned to the pits but was forced to retire due to the bodywork damage.
Leclerc had nowhere to go and could not avoid an incident while also incurring damage to his front wing. This all meant that Verstappen took the lead from the inside of Turn 1. Leclerc went on in second despite the damaged front wing endplate and was followed by Sainz, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Piastri, Russell, Hulkenberg and Gasly.
As early as lap 5 drivers were told to move out of the slipstream of the car ahead to cool their cars, further underlining the comfortable position that Verstappen worked himself into.
Lewis Hamilton was one of those drivers but he remained very very close to Daniel Ricciardo before passing the AlphaTauri around lap 10.
On lap 11 Tsunoda was the first to pit and change to hard tyres. Norris did the same two laps later and returned to the track in 18th position, 2s ahead of Tsunoda and 10s behind the Alpine of Ocon.
On lap 19 Verstappen reporting his tyres were giving up and soon he was called in for a pitstop. The Dutchman enjoyed a 2.4s tyre switch to hard and rejoined the race in 7th place, not far behind Russell. The Red Bull easily passed Russell two laps later to move up into 6th with Piastri within reach. Some purple sectors and a single lap later the McLaren driver was passed as well.
Lewis Hamilton meanwhile kept on pushing Sainz despite his team urging him to "let the deg come to us". Sainz meanwhile was unable to keep up with his team mate who had already more than 6 seconds on him by lap 20. After passing the pit entry several times while his crew were ready, Hamilton eventually pitted on lap 25, returning to the track 12 seconds behind Russell and just ahead of Gasly.
When Russell got pitted two laps later he was much less happy when he found out he came out behind Albon and Bottas. Apparently that was to protect him from Norris who was edging closer, meaning Russell simply had to get on with the job to clear Bottas and then Albon in the next few laps.
As Verstappen took second place by passing Sainz, Hamilton progressed into 4th. Ricciardo ended up 5th after his stop with Piastra next up the road, then Russell, Albon, Norris and Bottas.
Carlos Sainz got pitted from third at the end of lap 30. He switched to fresh hard tyres and returned to the track 6 seconds behind Hamilton. Leclerc pitted only lap later, handing the lead to Verstappen.
On lap 34 Magnussen had a big shunt at the high speed middle sector. It looked like something failed at the rear of the Haas as Magnussen rapidly veered to the left and into the barriers on the outside of Turn 8. Magnussen stepped out without injury but with the barriers needing repair, the 2-lap safety car was converted to a red flag.
The stoppage lasted around 20 minutes until one hour and 13 minutes after the original starting time the safety car left the pits to initiate a formation lap ahead of a standing restart for the remaining 35 laps, precisely half of the Grand Prix.
The stoppage allowed teams to fit different tyres as needed, something that was not considered on Verstappen's side as he had used the 2-lap safety car ahead of the stoppage to pit and change for hard tyres, simply making use of the SC to make an earlier second stop. Both Ferraris and the AlphaTauri cars did the restart on hard tyres while the Mercedes and both McLarens opted for the medium.
The lights went out and even though one could expect differently there were no position changes in front. Verstappen had a great start, just like at the beginning of the race to maintain his lead ahead of Leclerc, Hamilton, Sainz, Russell, Ricciardo, Piastri, Tsunoda, Albon and Hulkenberg.
Norris meanwhile had a very poor start and ended up only 14th by the end of that lap.
When DRS got enabled two laps later both Mercedes were eager to exploit their medium tyres to fight with the hard tyre runners ahead of them. Hamilton seemed glued to Leclerc while Russel reported weaving from Sainz. The second lap with DRS saw Hamilton make a second attempt, even putting his right wheels partly on the grass to get the inside of Turn 1 and take second place away from the Ferrari driver.
Russell was less successful and soon had to leave the slipstream on the main straight, making it even more difficult to get past Sainz. He remained close and repeatedly reported Sainz for weaving under breaking, but no stewards' investigation followed and Russell didn't manage to get past the Ferrari.
Tsunoda meanwhile pressured Piastri for 7th place and got more and more challenging as the race went on thanks to his hard tyres versus the mediums on Piastri's McLaren. On lap 51 they came together at Turn 1. Tsunoda braked much later and looked set to take the advantage around the outside until his right rear touched the left front of Piastri. The AlphaTauri ended up in a spin to return dead last while Piastri was lucky to be able to continue in 7th. Norris though closed in rapidly and Piastri let his team mate by after being asked to do so if he was unable to go half a second a lap faster.
Just before that incident, Alonso had retired his Aston Martin in the pits as requested by his team. This made for only his second DNF of the season, and sadly also the second consecutive one after a floor issue halted the Spaniard in Austin.
Norris didn't hesitate and went on to take on Ricciardo, passing him without much ado on lap 61. Norris continued to go quick and was more than half a second a lap faster than Russell to be in DRS range on lap 66. On the first pass at Turn 1 Norris was still too far but next time around he was side by side the Mercedes. Russell held on through the next few corners but in the double left hander that is Turn 7, Norris got the upper hand and 5th place.
The move in fact saw Ricciardo close in on Russell with DRS enabled as they passed the finish line for the 70th lap. Ricciardo came to within 0.057s but didn't manage to make a pass stick, meaning it was 6th for Russell and a wonderful 7th place for Ricciardo.
In front nothing much changed anymore with Verstappen winning "a very strong race" and Hamilton taking second place while also securing the fastest lap in the final racing lap. Charles Leclerc got a solid third with Sainz and Norris just out of the podium positions.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||71||49:23.531||25|
|5||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||71||+33.266s||10|
|7||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||71||+41.570s||6|
|8||81||Oscar Piastri||Mclaren Mercedes||71||+43.104s||4|
|9||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||71||+48.573s||2|
|10||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||71||+62.879s||1|
|11||10||Pierre Gasly||Alpine Renault||71||+66.208s||0|
|12||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||71||+78.982s||0|
|13||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas Ferrari||71||+80.309s||0|
|14||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||71||+80.597s||0|
|15||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||71||+81.676s||0|
|16||2||Logan Sargeant||Williams Mercedes||70||DNF||0|
|17||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||66||DNF||0|
|NC||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||47||DNF||0|
|NC||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||31||DNF||0|
|NC||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||1||DNF||0|