Mexican Grand Prix- Game, Set, Match.
The last time we reviewed a F1 race was the Baku Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel left that race with a 14 point lead, yet it was the beginning of an unraveling for Ferrari. In Baku during a safety car period Vettel hit Hamilton leading to massive controversy. It would also mark the beginning of a charge by Lewis Hamilton, a series of mistakes, bad luck and questionable strategy for Ferrari for the next 10 races. Hamilton won 6 of the next 10 to take command of the championship. Coming in to Mexico, Vettel was mathematically in the hunt but he had to finish at least second to keep his hopes alive for Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Vettel took the pole for the race, but it would come crashing down. Max Verstappen made an outside move into turn 1, compromising Vettel, and as the pack exited the turn, Vettel made contact with Hamilton. Vettel came out with front wing damage, forcing a pit stop and Hamliton discovered a puncture, putting them both at the back of the field.
Both drivers would fight back with Vettel putting in a great drive to finish in fourth while Hamilton finished in 9th. It was a less than ideal way to win a title like two punch drunk heavy weight fighters swinging with every haymaker they had left. Hamilton collected his 4th title equaling Vettel’s career total. Hamilton becomes the best British F1 driver in history and would also surpass Ayrton Senna’s 3 championships.
Mercedes and Hamilton stepped up their game massively since the summer break, taking advantage of every opportunity as Ferrari continually appeared to be caught on their back foot having to chase the championship rather than defend.
A note on Verstappen
Verstappen is an exciting racer who always pushes beyond the limits, and that brings excitement and fan interest. However, this display of blazing speed overlooks his recklessness. On his outside pass into turn one the replay shows he was almost completely off track, leaving no room for Vettel. Should it have a penalty? Probably not, but to dive bomb someone fighting for a championship when you are not in play reeks of poor judgement. Yes, everyone is excited at the long term prospects of Red Bull with Verstappen, but at what point does the exuberance ebb and real questions begin to be asked about his on track moves that often leave competitors with no choice but to get hit or get run off the track?
Ferrari were out played
Ferrari faces some critical decisions for next season (again). They could approach things with no mercy and clean house, but that may be a mistake. They have much success to build on with a season that had them fighting in the front. It was really down to mistakes and bad luck, but to take the title from Mercedes will take the cold calculation that existed during the Schumacher era.
MEXICAN GRAND PRIX
Sunday from the 2.67-mile Hermanos Rodriguez Autodrome circuit in Mexico City:
1. (2) Max Verstappen, Netherlands, Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer, 71 laps, 1:36:26.552, 25 points.
2. (4) Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Mercedes, 71, +19.678, 18.
3. (5) Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Ferrari, 71, +54.007, 15.
4. (1) Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Ferrari, 71, +1:10.078, 12.
5. (6) Esteban Ocon, France, Force India Mercedes, 70, +1 lap, 10.
6. (12) Lance Stroll, Canada, Williams Mercedes, 70, +1 lap, 8.
7. (10) Sergio Perez, Mexico, Force India Mercedes, 70, +1 lap, 6.
8. (18) Kevin Magnussen, Denmark, Haas Ferrari, 70, +1 lap, 4.
9. (3) Lewis Hamilton, Britain, Mercedes, 70, +1 lap, 2.
10. (14) Fernando Alonso, Spain, McLaren Honda, 70, +1 lap, 1.
11. (11) Felipe Massa, Brazil, Williams Mercedes, 70, +1 lap.
12. (15) Stoffel Vandoorne, Belgium, McLaren Honda, 70, +1 lap.
13. (20) Pierre Gasly, France, Toro Rosso, 70, +1 lap.
14. (17) Pascal Wehrlein, Germany, Sauber Ferrari, 69, +2 laps.
15. (19) Romain Grosjean, France, Haas Ferrari, 69, +2 laps.
16. (9) Carlos Sainz, Spain, Renault, 59.
17. (16) Marcus Ericsson, Sweden, Sauber Ferrari, 55.
18. (13) Brendon Hartley, New Zealand, Toro Rosso, 30.
19. (8) Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, Renault, 24.
20. (7) Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer, 5.