The Winners and Losers of the Mexican Grand Prix
Mercedes pulled off a shock victory on a circuit that wasn’t expected to suit them, but it wasn’t such a happy day for others on the grid. We pick out the winners and losers of an intense Mexican Grand Prix…
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
This was not a race Lewis Hamilton expected to win. The last time he triumphed in Mexico was in 2016. Since then, his Mercedes team have not been at the races at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and after qualifying this year, it appeared that trend would continue.
But an excellent strategy that was perfectly executed saw Hamilton clinch the win – his 10th of the season – and move him to the brink of a remarkable sixth world championship that will make him the second most successful driver ever, bettered only by Michael Schumacher.
His triumph from third on the grid in Mexico was the first time the feat had been achieved since Jacky Ickx in 1970. It was also his 100th podium for Mercedes – only Schumacher (with Ferrari) had achieved the feat before.
Sure, he didn’t win the title in Mexico – as he has done in each of the last two years – but that matters little. He will almost certainly achieve the feat in Austin, where an eighth place will suffice. Given he’s won four of the last five Grands Prix (and finished third in the other) at the Circuit of The Americas, it would take a brave man to bet against him.
Loser: Max Verstappen
This should have been Max Verstappen’s third successive Mexican Grand Prix victory. Instead, an error of judgement on Saturday afternoon saw him stripped of pole position – having ignored a yellow flag.
A bold start put him in the mix, but he came off worse when things got tight and he was forced to take avoiding action onto the grass. An aggressive move on Bottas was spectacular but proved to be costly as contact led to a puncture.
He recovered to finish sixth, having running a staggering 65 laps on the hard tyre, but that was the best he could do having dropped to the back of the field. This was a huge opportunity lost.
Winner: Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas was the only man who could stop Hamilton’s relentless charge to a sixth world title heading to Mexico, but his hopes of keeping himself in the race took a hit when he crashed heavily in qualifying.
Fortunately, Mercedes could repair his W10 without taking any penalties, allowing him to start sixth on the grid. From there, he drove a sensible and near faultless race to claim his 14th podium in 18 races this season and keep the title race alive heading to Austin. Incidentally it was the 44th podium of his career, surpassing the tally of three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart.
Bottas knows his title chances are essentially over, but his recovery in Mexico, on the back of strong races in Russia and Japan, help make the case that Mercedes made the right call keeping him for next season.
A front row lock-out is as good as it gets in Formula 1, but once again Ferrari could not convert such a strong position into victory. Team boss Mattia Binotto admitted after the race they should have taken more risks with their strategy, as Mercedes outsmarted them to clinch victory.
Having led the opening stint comfortably, Leclerc's early pit stop – which committed him to a two-stop – proved to be the wrong move and he dropped out of contention. A bonus point for the fastest lap, to go with fourth, was his consolation.
Sebastian Vettel led briefly, but Ferrari’s decision to stay out after Hamilton pitted ultimately ended his chances of victory as despite much fresher hard tyres, the advantage was minimal as degradation was low. Vettel did, however, finish second for the fifth time this season.
Winner: Sergio Perez
Racing Point did not have the fourth-fastest car in Mexico and yet Sergio Perez, racing in front of his home fans who turned out in their tens of thousands, delivered a best-of-the-rest result with seventh.
The Mexican made the most of starting 11th, the best-placed driver with free tyre choice, and held off a spirited attack from Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo to equal his best-ever finish in Mexico, to the delight of the crowd.
Loser: Daniil Kvyat
Toro Rosso’s appearance in Q3 meant it was four Honda-powered cars in the top 10. But their strong qualifying performance actually hurt them, as they were forced to start on the soft tyres while those behind were on the more durable mediums.
Daniil Kvyat raced well, but he got a bit too eager on the final lap and clipped Nico Hulkenberg, when they were battling for ninth, his Toro Rosso tipping the Renault into the barriers. The stewards took a dim view of such antics and penalised him, demoting the Russian to 11th.
Winner: Pierre Gasly
Ninth place might not sound like something to shout about, but consider this result was achieved while suffering from a stomach bug that left Pierre Gasly feeling dreadful.
The Frenchman felt unwell overnight on Friday but still qualified inside the top 10. Come Sunday, he raced strongly to score points for the fourth time in six outings and keep Toro Rosso in the fight with Renault for fifth place in the constructors’ championship. Chapeau.
McLaren were fourth in the constructors’ championship arriving in Mexico and deserved that position after a string of consistently strong performances – but left the race pointless for only the fifth time this year.
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris ran in the top seven early on, but Sainz lost pace – which the team are currently at a loss to explain – on his second stint and that dropped him out of the points.
For Norris, a wheel nut issue on one corner at his pit stop meant he left his box without the tyre securely fastened. He stopped at the end of the pits and was pushed back to rectify the problem. Though he rejoined, the team ultimately chose to retire the Englishman as “some parameters of the car were over the limit”.
Winners: Mexican GP fans
Most Grand Prix venues would be delighted with 92,342 turning up on race day. The Mexican Grand Prix got that on Friday for practice. The figure climbed as the weekend went on, with overall attendance of 345,694 that puts it among the best on the calendar.
The atmosphere in the stadium section was extraordinary, the fans cheering every time home hero Sergio Perez went by. The festival the organisers put on ahead of the race oozed colour and contributed to a real feel-good factor that makes this such an incredible event.
And the dedicated fans were treated to a cracking race, where not only did Perez score solid points, but there was also genuine tension up front with the top four drivers in the field in contention to clinch victory.
Losers: Alfa Romeo
From the moment Kimi Raikkonen was involved in contact on the opening lap, damaging his floor, Alfa Romeo knew it was going to be a long afternoon. The Finn continued, but cooling issues forced his retirement.
Things weren’t much better on the other side of the garage with Antonio Giovinazzi losing 20 seconds during his pit stop. When the mechanics dropped the car, it became clear the wheel wasn’t attached properly.
The Italian crossed the line 14th, meaning Alfa Romeo have now gone three races without points, but they remain seven clear of rivals Haas in the fight for eighth in the constructors’ championship.