Max Verstappen survived a wild start to the race to win the Mexican Grand Prix at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. Verstappen and his Red Bull racer started the race from the front row next to Lewis Hamilton and got off to a brilliant start fighting off a charging Sebastian Vettel taking the early lead. That battle with the Ferrari was not without consequences as Verstappen and Vettel made contact in turn 2. Verstappen kept the lead but Vettel suffered minor damage from the contact.
As Verstappen secured the lead Hamilton was fighting back after falling to third from his pole starting position. Hamilton drew alongside Vettel in turn three where the two made contact. That contact resulted in a cut tire on Hamilton's Mercedes and front wing damage to Vettel's Ferrari. Both championship contenders were now pit bound.
Verstappen was not free to build his lead over the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and the Force India of Esteban Ocon.
Behind the leaders Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo was recovering from a grid drop for an engine change moving from his 16th starting position to 7th, however, that great drive was then ended by a suspected turbo failure. Vettel began a march through the field and by lap 25 had moved up to 11th place behind the McLaren of Fernando Alonso. Hamilton was suffering through a slower recovery and was lapped by Verstappen.
On lap 32 Raikkonen passed Ocon to claim third place. Behind them were Lance Stroll who was then firth ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
Vettel needed a second place finish to keep his championship hopes. With almost 54 seconds to make up to second-placed Bottas it looked like the Vettel’s title challenge was done. But no one told Vettel as he moved by Perez and then Lance Stroll to take fifth place. Hamilton, meanwhile, had passed Vandoorne to claim P11 and his team was advising him that at the pace he was going he was forecast to finish in P8.
Hamilton began to make that forecast come true by passing Felipe Massa on lap 57 to claim 10th place and a points finish. Vettel passed Ocon to grab fourth but with 24 seconds to make up to get to third placed Raikkonen and a further 26 second gap to close to Bottas Vettel was fighting a losing battle. Told of the gaps he sighed “oh, mamma mia.”
“I know the team has been working hard, doing their best, but we didn’t achieve what we wanted to." said Vettel "It’s hard to cross the line realizing that you are not in the fight anymore. I fought to the end, giving everything I had. Then obviously in the last laps, when I had a big gap to Kimi, it would have been difficult for me to close it without something happening, like a Safety Car, but I was still believing. But in the end it didn’t happen. For sure it is not a great day for us, but it’s not about us today, it’s about Lewis and I congratulate him. Tomorrow you wake up and it will be a different day. The team is growing, and there are many positive aspects. Overall, I think we are on the right path.”
At the point Verstappen had built an 18 second lead over Bottas. Behind Bottas the Ferrari of Raikkonen held third while Vettel’s charge ended in fourth place. Esteban Ocon finished fifth and Lance Stroll put his Williams in sixth place.
“A great win and a fun podium, a Dutch DJ and Dutch driver, what a combination." said Verstappen "The start of the race itself was not great but this allowed me to tuck in and get a tow from Sebastian, I had to be a bit aggressive but managed to get around the outside at turn one and from then on I was just doing my own race. I would go as far to say this was one of the easiest races of my career. I felt I missed out on pole yesterday so I had a lot of motivation to get the result I wanted today. To get not just a podium but the win is awesome. We calmed the pace and turned down the engine to make sure we brought the car home so I was just cruising towards the end. I was confident the car was going to be good today after studying the long run pace we have shown this weekend. This track with low speed and low grip suits our car, but even in Austin we had the balance and pace, I just had to come from way down the grid. Once we had got the balance of the car right it was easy for us to do quick lap times and sustain them. I think if we keep working this way and have a better start to the season next year we can look forward to achieving great things. The podium here in Mexico is special to be on as the fans are so passionate and being in the stadium section means the atmosphere is like nowhere else, it definitely made up for missing it last year. Like I said in the car on lap 1, it was simply, simply lovely.”
Lewis Hamilton finished ninth, good enough to earn his fourth drivers’ title.
"To be honest, this fourth world title is not even registering right now." said Hamilton "There is all this energy from the people around you, but it takes a while for it to really sink in. I am incredibly grateful when I think about everything that was going on this year and everything that had to be in place to produce this result. I didn’t do this on my own, there are over a thousand people back in Brackley and Brixworth who have created this beast that has given me the opportunity to exploit my abilities. I have received such great support from around the world, and I want to thank all of you that believed in me. To do this on Mexican soil, to shine a positive light on a country that has been through such a difficult time over the past few months, makes this really special. It doesn’t matter what happened in the race today. I carry ‘Still I Rise’ on the back of my helmet – it means when you get knocked down, you get back up again and keep pushing as hard as you can. I never gave up, and I kept pushing. Four is a great number – but I want number five now!"
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 1:36'26.550
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 19.678
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 54.007
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 70.078
5 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1 lap
6 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1 lap
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1 lap
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1 lap
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1 lap
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1 lap
11 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 1 lap
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1 lap
13 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Renault 1 lap
14 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 2 laps
15 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 2 laps
Carlos Sainz Renault Renault
Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Renault
Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG
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