F1’s return to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez produced a fascinating 71 laps of racing, in which polesitter Rosberg was never headed - pit stops aside - and in which a late safety car bunched the pack up, allowing Bottas to jump the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat on the restart to secure his podium place.
Kvyat held on to fourth, fending off team mate Daniel Ricciardo, while Felipe Massa finished sixth in the sister Williams. Sergio Perez was beaten to seventh in his home race by Force India team mate Nico Hulkenberg, and Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean completed the top ten.
From his fourth consecutive pole, Rosberg took the lead at the start, and though he and Hamilton then traded fastest laps time and again, was always in control in the cleaner air. By the 51st lap he had stretched his advantage to 3.0s, with Hamilton disgruntled to have been ordered to stop for a fresh second set of medium tyres on the 48th lap after Rosberg had done so on the 46th. The team cited safety reasons.
Four laps later, however, Hamilton got a lifeline when Sebastian Vettel crashed his Ferrari and brought out the safety car for six laps.
The Ferrari driver had been in trouble right from the start, after contact with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in the first corner and sustaining a puncture which dropped him to the back of the field after a pit stop. He was fighting back towards the points when he spun at Turn 8 shortly after fighting past Jenson Button’s McLaren on the 17th lap, but it was his shunt at Turn 7 on the 52nd that ended a very hard day for the Scuderia. With Kimi Raikkonen crashing out on the 22nd lap, it was the first time they had had failed to get a car among the classified finishers since the 2006 Australian Grand Prix.
At the restart Rosberg controlled things perfectly, and Hamilton was never able to exploit the incident and get a look in, though he kept his team mate honest as he finished just under two seonds adrift. The success, Rosberg’s fourth of the season, went some way to making up for his recent disappointments in Russia and the United States, and boosts him back to second in the drivers’ championship, 21 points clear of Vettel.
The safety car helped Bottas, who earlier had once again collided with fellow countryman Raikkonen when they tangled at Turn 3 as the Ferrari driver tried to close a door through which the Williams pilot was already thrusting his car. At the restart Bottas was able to pass Kvyat, who had held what seemed like a safe podium position for much of the race. The disappointed Russian led home team mate Ricciardo, from Massa, Hulkenberg and crowd darling Perez. The Mexican had looked very racy early on, running as high as sixth, but Force India’s decision not to pit him for fresh rubber under the safety car - which virtually everyone else did - cost him his chance of finishing higher.
Verstappen was also quick early on, running as high as third during the first pit stops, but fell back to his eventual ninth place finish ahead of Grosjean, who led team mate Maldonado across the finish line by a scant 0.8s to claim the final point. The Venezuelan was lucky to finish after running very wide entering the stadium on the 64th lap and nearly hitting the wall.
Marcus Ericsson brought his Sauber home 12th after passing Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso near the end, while Button took an unhappy 14th after being a sitting duck on the long straights. It was a bad race for McLaren, as Fernando Alonso was the first retirement after losing power on the opening lap.
The safety car also gave Alexander Rossi a second chance after he’d lost ground to Marussia team mate Will Stevens but was able to move back ahead in the closing stages.
Besides Alonso, Raikkonen and Vettel, the other non-finisher was Felipe Nasr, whose Sauber ran out of brakes shortly after the restart.
Overall the first Mexican Grand Prix of the 21st century was adjudged to have been a major success, and the enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd loved every second of it.