Mexico 2019 – Mercedes triumphs, while Ferrari’s strategy continues to lack

The Mexican Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton victorious, but not sufficiently so to crown him the 2019 Drivers Champion. Hamilton’s win also saw his 100th podium for Mercedes, and saw Ferrari give up the top spot on the podium thanks to poor strategy calls once again.

The opening moments of the race delivered excitement, as Grands Prix often do. With Charles Leclerc making an excellent start, his teammate Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, and Max Verstappen jostled for position.

Vettel easily got the best of it (though he made brief contact with Leclerc), retaining second position, while Red Bull’s Alex Albon and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz got a large boost, climbing to third and fourth respectively. Hamilton fell back to fifth, and while Verstappen initially fell back to eighth he quickly suffered a puncture when making an early overtake on Bottas, leading to an immediate pit stop. He ultimately rejoined the race in 20th.

Don’t worry, Verstappen fans – he performed an admirable drive, finishing in sixth and taking the Driver of the Day award. He demonstrated excellent control and patience, regaining several places as other drivers stopped for fresh tyres. When he began overtaking others later in the race, he did so smoothly, with few if any elbows out. Verstappen’s choice of hard tyres led to early speculation about the possibility of a one-stop race.

There was a Virtual Safety Car deployed after the initial carnage while the marshals attended to the debris from the opening collisions, but the race then proceeded Safety Car-free.

(Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, the opening lap tussles were some of the only exciting moments of the race. While the order changed a bit, the top five drivers throughout the race largely remained Leclerc, Vettel, Albon, Hamilton, and Bottas. The race ended with Hamilton in first, Vettel in second, Bottas in third, Leclerc in fourth, and Albon in fifth.

Though they were few, there were nonetheless some exciting moments. Local hero Sergio Perez (Checo if you’re nasty; all apologies to Janet Jackson) made an excellent early overtake on Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, to the delight of the crowd. Daniel Ricciardo made a spectacular, but failed, late overtaking attempt on Perez. He badly overcooked the attempt and was forced to run wide, cutting several corners. While this did allow him to return to the track ahead of Perez, Ricciardo wisely ceded the position back to his rival.

While there was some other overtaking, it was mainly clean and competent with the defending drivers ceding position when it was obvious they weren’t able to defend successfully.

There was minimal contact between drivers after the first lap. Verstappen and Kevin Magnussen made brief contact on lap 27, but the stewards declined to investigate further. The most memorable other contact came during the final lap. As Hamilton crossed the finish line, Daniil Kvyat returned to his old form and ran straight into the back of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, destroying his rear wing and ending his race practically within sight of the finish line. This initially cost the German two places, dropping him from ninth place to eleventh, though the stewards quickly issued Kvyat a 10-second penalty. This dropped Kvyat to 11th, and brought Hulkenberg up to 10th along with its accompanying point.

Pit stops provided some drama. McLaren’s Lando Norris was given the signal to exit the pit too early, with his left front tyre not completely secure. While he was able to stop prior to crossing the pit lane exit line and his crew was able to remedy the issue, Norris never recovered from this mistake and remained last until his retirement on lap 48.

(Photo by Joe Portlock / LAT Images)

Antonio Giovinazzi’s right rear tyre caused him considerable difficulty as well, which was compounded when the jack was released too quickly, before the tyre was secure. Charles Leclerc wasn’t immune to pit issues either – trouble with the right rear tyre cost him four precious seconds on his second stop.

Tyre management proved to be key in this race. Ricciardo deserves special mention for his tyre management. He was able to maintain respectable pace for 50 laps on his opening set of hard tyres, maintaining sixth place for the last 30 of those 50. It was this show of durability that likely convinced Red Bull to keep Verstappen out on his set of hards, which lasted him for an amazing 66 laps following his early stop. Perez ran the final 51 laps of the race on hards, and Hulkenberg ran 52 laps on his. Vettel also deserves credit for his tyre management, turning in a respectable 40 laps on his initial set of mediums between qualifying and the race.

Indeed, had Vettel not resisted calls for him to prepare to pit on lap 25, the result might have been very different for him. Ferrari, it seemed, had a very different model of tyre performance in this race and were unable to adapt in time to salvage the win. The pit wall’s call for Leclerc’s early stop on lap 15 was premature. All of the front runners started their race on used mediums, but the others handily demonstrated that their tyres were good for many more laps – eight more laps for Hamilton, 21 more laps for Bottas, and 22 more for Vettel. Had the Scuderia sent Leclerc back out on hards, his race might’ve gone very differently as hard tyres amply proved to deliver incredible life.

With three races left, the top of the pecking order is fairly settled. While it is mathematically possible for Bottas to claim the Drivers’ Championship, it is not likely. Similarly, while Red Bull could pass Ferrari for second in the Constructors’ Championship, it is similarly unlikely.

As has been the case for the past several seasons, it’s the midfield where the excitement lies. Toro Rosso and Racing Point are in the fight for sixth and if Renault doesn’t finish strongly in the closing rounds it’s possible that they could find themselves slipping to sixth or even seventh.

And what can we say about Williams? McLaren has recovered from their slump and is showing a return to form, but Williams remains incapable of finding their way forward. On the other hand, they have managed to score one point. Recent seasons have seen some backmarkers finish with zero, but seeing the once powerful team fall to last over the course of a few short seasons still gives pause.

Formula One returns to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez next year for the Mexico City Grand Prix. Same race, different name.

 

 

[Featured image – Steve Etherington]

Five Things We Take Away From The Mexico Grand Prix

 

Max Verstappen the winner of the 2018 Mexico Grandprix. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

1 – Max sticks to his word

All season it has been said that Red Bull realistically have talked up winning at Monaco, Hungary and Singapore. But if you were to ask that question to Max Verstappen, he would say ‘and Mexico too.’ He wasn’t a happy man on Saturday though as another chance at pole position went begging. On Sunday it took great guts to be the latest braker into turn 1 and his kindness to his tyres took him to victory, like he has been saying all season. He had two sets of new red supersoft tyres compared to the rest of the field, who only had one, and he won by a clear 15 seconds – his fifth victory in F1, and second of the 2018 season.

 

Photo Credit: Suceria Ferrari

2 – Vettel is gracious in defeat

When David Coulthard was doing the pre-podium interviews it was great to see Sebastian Vettel go to Lewis Hamilton and congratulate him. The German knew where it all fell apart this season and didn’t want to discuss it at the time. A true sportsman as he probably wasn’t in high spirits and he wasn’t standing on the first position on the podium. After this he entered the Mercedes pit section and congratulated the team too. The German will look to build on this season and look  ahead to the challenges that 2019 hold. 

 

Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas

3 – Mercedes tyre wear haunts them

The tyres that the Silver Arrows cars used just fell apart, which resulted in Hamilton finishing a distant P4 and Bottas pitting 3 times before finishing a distant P5. They had great starts but it was easy for others to overtake them, and poor mistakes from both Hamilton and Bottas put them back to P4 and P5. An investigation will surely be had after the celebration of Hamilton’s 5th title, as they were the team that struggled the most with tyres and they are close to wrapping up another Constructor’s title.

 

 

4 – Superb Sauber

Sauber had to start on the ‘chewing gum’ tyres, the pink wall hypersofts, and still managed P7 and P9. They both made a ‘one stop’ strategy work, taking us back to the days of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez doing it so well in the Sauber colours. They jumped Toro Rosso in the standings for P8, as Pierre Gasly had a solid Sunday, but more grid penalties only helped Sauber further. It was a great haul of points by the team considering they started on the hypersoft tyres. 

 

Daniel Ricciardo in Aston Martin RedBull Racing garage at the 2018 Mexico Granprix. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

5 – Ricciardo can’t wait for his new challenge to begin with Renault

“Just let Gasly drive it” was the quote from the Honey Badger in the media pen after his eighth retirement of the season and his second mechanical failure in a row. He probably feels that his 2018 car is cursed and hasn’t taste champagne since his victory in Monaco. His new chapter edges closer and most are unsure how close he will be to the podium in the future, considering that Nico Hulkenburg, as of yet, still hasn’t been there. 

2018 Mexican Grand Prix Preview

The 19th round of the 2018 Formula One World Championship brings us to the 4.3 kilometre-long Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez for the Mexican Grand Prix, where the world championship is set to be decided in Lewis Hamilton’s favour.

The circuit is named after brothers Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez. The first ever Mexican Grand Prix took place in 1962 in a non-championship event and, tragically, Ricardo was killed during the race, with Pedro carrying the Mexican Grand Prix into the world championship the following year.

1992 would be the last race in Mexico for 23 years, before the circuit’s reintroduction as a revamped circuit in 2015, with the victory being taken by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.

GP MESSICO F1/2017
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER FERRARI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

A week after narrowly missing out on his fifth world title in the US – the country where he desperately wanted to get the job done – Lewis Hamilton now will need just a seventh place finish to overtake Sebastian Vettel on the world championship count.

After a brilliant race last time out, it was a third place finish for Hamilton, behind second-placed Max Verstappen, who started 18th, and extremely popular race winner Kimi Raikkonen, who took his first win in Formula One since the opening race of 2013.

Off the back of that, Mexico is a track where we should expect a tight battle between all three of F1’s top teams. Max Verstappen won the race last season, and Red Bull are anticipating another strong weekend this year. Furthermore, Ferrari are expected to be slightly stronger than Mercedes, which for really the first time this year, gives us a race in which any of our top six could take the win.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

A win is something Sebastian Vettel will desperately want, having seen his team-mate win in the States. In order to achieve this, however, he will need a weekend free from mistakes. The four-time champion has proven to be a bit of a magnet to the two Red Bulls in the past couple of races, hitting Max Verstappen in Japan and Daniel Ricciardo in the States.

However, a perfect weekend with a victory will probably not be enough for Vettel to keep his title hopes alive, and he would need a remarkable amount of bad luck for Lewis Hamilton who, excluding his DNF in Austria, has a lowest finishing position of fifth.

As if the task weren’t difficult enough already, Ferrari will have to factor in the Red Bulls, who will up for a fight for victory at a track where they will be brimming with confidence. Verstappen will be a tough man to pass, and Ricciardo will be desperate to get one last win before he leaves the team for Renault at the end of the season. This, though, could also be a potential banana skin for Lewis Hamilton, making Mexico an eagerly anticipated race at the tail-end of a season which has seen Mercedes turn the tables on Ferrari from the start of the year and give them a vicious beat-down in the championship.

It was an uphill struggle already for Vettel, but a series of errors from himself and Ferrari this year have meant that Hamilton is one step away from title number five, and in a race just a week before Mexico’s death festival, we are set to once again see the death of Sebastian Vettel’s title challenge, and the rise of Lewis Hamilton to the level of the great Juan Manuel Fangio.

 

 

Featured image: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Mexican Grand Prix Review, Viva Mexico

The minute of silence in respect to the people who suffered from the earthquake in the Mexico City was one of the most emotional moments in the Mexican Grand Prix. People are above everything and we should always help and support each other.

Max Verstappen took the chequered flag in Mexico, but Lewis Hamilton was the big winner of the weekend. Hamilton became the first British, F1 racing driver, with four world titles.

On Saturday, Vettel set the fastest lap in Q3 of the qualifying session and took the pole position in Mexico, followed by Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Lights out, a brave start from the young Max Verstappen who added some pressure on Vettel, took the lead after a wheel to wheel battle with Sebastian, who forced to retreat, and had to fight with Hamilton for the second position. Vettel collided with Hamilton, damaged his front wing and caused a puncture to Hamilton’s rear left tyre. Both drivers pitted and dropped down to the back of the grid.

Lewis Hamilton stuck behind Sainz’s car, whilst Vettel was pushing hard to gain position. Sebastian had to finish in the first two positions, in order to have chances for the championship in the two remaining races.

For almost 30 laps, Hamilton, couldn’t find the speed to pass Carlos Sainz’s Renault, Brendon Hartley retired on lap 31 after an engine failure, gave the chance to Mercedes to call Hamilton into the pits, whilst the race was under VSC, and fit him the super-soft tyres.

The new tyres gave the chance to Hamilton to start his counter attack and cover ground as Vettel was gaining places and was hoping for a miracle in order to get a place on the podium. The German, was far behind the first three drivers, he managed to move up to position four and placed behind Raikkonen, Bottas and Verstappen.

A few laps before the chequered flag, Hamilton asked his team if Vettel could get the second position, Mercedes’ reply was “Negative” as Bottas was second and it would be hard for anyone to take it from him.

Esteban Ocon had his chance to shine, especially after lights out, Ocon was third, but after the first pit-stop period Kimi Raikkonen moved up to the third place and forced Esteban to retreat to fourth. Ocon, had to defend his place from Vettel, but that was not easy, and the German took the fourth place. Ocon’s fifth and Perez’s seventh place, were enough to give the fourth position to Sahara Force India in the constructors’ championship.

Lance Stroll had a quiet race, took advantage of Hulkenberg’s and Ricciardo’s retirements also gained an advantage from Hamilton’s and Vettel’s collision and managed to finish sixth and score eight points for Williams.

The four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton had a tough start this season, but despite the difficulties that he faced, mainly during the first half of the season, he had the courage to fight back, and showed to everyone why he is one of the best drivers on the grid. Silverstone was the spark that led to Hamilton’s comeback and to his fourth world title (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017).

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Mexico Grand Prix Preview with Austin Taste, Ariba Ariba

GP MESSICO F1/2016 – CITTA’ DEL MESSICO (MESSICO) 27/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Last back to back race of the season, directly tickets from Texas to Mexico City were booked by the Formula 1 staff, some had to climb Trump’s wall in order to arrive in Mexico, but everything is almost ready for the 18th race of the season.

Max Verstappen as another Speedy Gonzalez, will have to control his nerves and the “stab in the back” pain from FIA, must race as a normal racing driver under the official rules. Kimi Raikkonen from the other hand, the cool type that we all love, will go to Mexico with one purpose, to support Sebastian Vettel from Friday till the chequered flag. The Finn, was second in Austin and was looking very comfortable, but suddenly Ferrari discovered that he was going to run out of fuels, the order was clear “Save fuels, Kimi” and to our big surprise, Kimi stepped aside and let Vettel pass second, he almost lost the third place from Max, but as many said on the social media, one Finn supports the other, and Mika Salo advised the stewards to give 5 second time penalty to Max Verstappen after the chequered flag.

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States of America.
Sunday 22 October 2017.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I1833

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the 3.7-4 world time champion Lewis Hamilton. The Brit had an easy weekend in Austin, no pressure for him, he read the script and followed exactly Mercedes’ plan. The track suited perfectly to Lewis and his sixth victory in COTA proves that, now the Champ has to finish fifth or above in Mexico in order to celebrate his fourth world title.

AUTÓDROMO HERMANOS RODRÍGUEZ

Laps: 71

Circuit Length: 4.304 km

Race Distance: 305.354 km

Lap Record: 1:20.521 (Nico Rosberg – 2015)

Mexico Grand Prix re-appeared in the Formula One calendar in 2015, after a long absence. Nico Rosberg was the driver who took the chequered flag in that year. Last year Lewis Hamilton won the Mexican Grand Prix, and he will try to repeat his success this season as well.

It is a home race for Sergio Perez, the fans will cheer for him and hopefully he will not complain about Oconstistency’s pace.

Sergio Perez – “Racing at home means a lot for me. It’s always a busy week, both for me and the team, but being at home makes all the hard work we put in for our fans and our partners worthwhile. It’s definitely the most enjoyable weekend of the year for me. It’s a great race for everyone involved in Formula One. There’s so much passion and the whole week is a big celebration. Everyone in Mexico City is looking forward to the race.The track is quite fun to drive and being on those long straights is special. Because of the altitude, even though you’re running high wings, you still achieve very high speeds and it’s really hard to stop the car under braking – in that sense it feels like a bit like Monza.I am lucky I get to race in my country in front of my fans. Their support means so much to me and it’s inspiring to see fans waving the Mexican flag in every grandstand. I really want to give them a special result to celebrate.”

GP MESSICO F1/2016 – CITTA’ DEL MESSICO (MESSICO) 30/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Felipe Massa – “First of all, it’s a shame to see what’s happened, it’s so sad to see the people losing their lives and also their homes from the earthquake so that’s really, really sad. I think we need to help them and get as much support for them. We need to pass the message to people around the world. That is the most important thing. Secondly, they are really in love with Formula One and they go crazy for the race. When you see the people in the grandstand and around the roads, they are proper Formula One fans and I think it’s fantastic to race there. I always enjoy it, I go with some friends, my father and we always enjoy the atmosphere there. It looks very similar to São Paolo so you also feel at home. I really hope we can have an important race for them in this difficult moment.”

In the American Grand Prix, Mercedes AMG celebrated their fourth consecutive constructors’ title, despite their bad start this season, the team managed to overcome their problems and the hard work paid off for them as they won the world title, massive congratulations to every member who contributed to the success.

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