Mexico has been a place for world championship celebration for Lewis Hamilton in the past, however, this weekend the Englishman would have to outscore Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by 14 points to take the title in Mexico City. This was a tall order, but the reigning world champion would be content with the race result, forgoing celebrations for one week.
The action began in qualifying when Bottas planted his machine into the wall in the closing seconds of Q3. While double yellow flags were being waved, Max Verstappen kept his foot flat to bring his Red Bull-Honda over the finish line to post the fastest lap of the session. It was a silly thing to do, really, as the Dutchman already had pole position in the bag.
He nonchalantly mentioned how he didn’t lift to slow down for the aftermath of Bottas’s accident, which sent the stewards scurrying to view the replays (even though F1 pundits immediately noticed this fact when Verstappen posted the time). The youngster lost three positions on the grid and gained 2 points on his licence.
Verstappen continued with this train of thought on race day, squabbling with Hamilton for position at the start, while the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel streaked away into the lead from the front row of the grid. Verstappen tagged Hamilton twice, damaging the Mercedes’s floor in the process, resulting in both drivers leaving the circuit and giving third place to Alexander Albon (Red Bull-Honda).
Verstappen had another skirmish with a Mercedes a few laps later – this time with Bottas as he passed him under braking and running slightly wide. The Finn had nowhere to go and his front wing made contact with the Red Bull racer’s right rear tyre, resulting in a puncture.
Verstappen spent the rest of the afternoon carving his way through the field to finish an eventual sixth, earning Driver of the Day in the process. As the top three teams are a good 1.5 seconds a lap faster than the rest of the field, this was to be expected and this F1 fan feels there was another driver more deserving of this accolade…
Despite having Verstappen clatter into him and having to drive his machine differently to bring her home, Lewis Hamilton posted the fast times when necessary and conserved his tyres extremely well – to such a degree that he was posting personal best times in the closing stages of the race to keep Vettel at bay.
Hamilton and team decided to one-stop and switched to hard tyres before half distance, forcing the Englishman to make them last for 48 laps. Of course, Hamilton is a master of misinformation over the radio (“we pitted too early, man” was definitely aimed at rivals listening in), however, he maintained a strong pace to the chequered flag to claim his 10 th victory of the season and his 100 th podium finish for his team. To top it all off, victory in Mexico 2019 was Mercedes’ 100 th in F1.
Various pit strategies made for interesting racing on race day. Hamilton stopped once, albeit some 14 laps before archrival Vettel, who asked to stay out when Hamilton pitted (telling pit wall “I’m still peachy”). Bottas also stayed out long before his only pit stop, but Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) stayed out longest of all, using his strategy to haul him into a points-scoring finish.
Ferrari hedged their bets, putting Leclerc on a two-stop strategy – throwing away victory in the process. They were focused on Red Bull’s strategy with Albon and pulled the Monegasque into the pits to counter it. Leclerc defended the team’s action, stating that the set of medium tyres for the second stint were not as good as his first set – while the second stop was a botched one, minimizing Leclerc’s chances of a
Nursing it home
That being said, there were a few disastrous pit stops on race day. Leclerc’s second stop was four seconds longer than normal. Lando Norris had to have his McLaren pushed from pit exit after an error with tyre replacement, while Alfa Romeo seemed to have a serious problem with their air gun when replacing Antonio Giovinazzi’s right rear wheel, the wheel coming off immediately after the Italian dropped the clutch to leave the pit!
Vettel chased Hamilton to the chequered flag to finish second, closely shadowed by Bottas and Leclerc. Albon was proud of his strongest showing to date, finishing a fine fifth ahead of teammate Verstappen. Home-town hero Sergio Perez brought his Racing Point-Mercedes home seventh to the cheers of his legion of fans, while Riccardio shadowed him to the flag. There was some further action on the final lap when Daniil Kyvat (Toro Rosso Honda) tapped Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) into the wall two corners from the flag. While he crossed the line in 9 th place, a subsequent 10-second penalty for the transgression ensured that teammate Pierre Gasly was awarded the position ahead
of a wingless “Hulk”…
Seven in Texas
Hamilton has a 74-point lead over Bottas and needs to finish 7 th at Austin to seal the deal. Will he try to lead from the front, as he is strong at Circuit of the Americas, or will he nurse the car home to take the title? We have six days to wait…