This time last year Max Verstappen won the Mexican Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton sealed his 4th world title, this year Max Verstappen once again won the Mexican Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton became a 5-time world champion.
Red Bull had high hopes for the weekend they took grid penalties in Russia so that they would be in a strong position for this race. They looked to be delivering that promise and Max Verstappen topped the time-sheets in both Friday practice sessions whereas Mercedes and Ferrari looked nowhere, even Renault had their cars ahead of the two giants.
Come Saturday Verstappen once again topped the timing sheets in 3rd practice and looked unbeatable. Haas suffered a dreadful qualifying with both failing to reach Q2 joining usual suspects; Siroktin, Stroll and Vandoorne. Home hero Sergio Perez failed to reach Q3 in a strategic move by Force India who saw more to be gained by starting on a free choice of tyres rather than the top 10. Q3 was set to be a thriller with any one of six cars able to take pole, Max Verstappen set the early pace and had a comfortable margin over the rest of the field. In the closing seconds of qualifying Daniel Ricciardo would stop his teammates charge to take the record for youngest pole sitter by taking his 3rd career pole just 0.26 seconds ahead of Vertstappen.
At the start of the race Ricciardo got a poor getaway and would slip behind both Verstappen and Hamilton, there would be contact further behind causing Esteban Ocon to damage his front wing, the debris would fly into Fernando Alonso’s car causing him to retire.
Tyres soon began to be a huge factor in the race, all of the front runners were struggling particularly Lewis Hamilton who had Daniel Ricciardo all over his gearbox. Mercedes were the first to make their stops who were set for a two-stop strategy. A few laps later Red Bull would switch from their shod Ultra-Softs to the Super-Softs with Ferrari opting to run a longer first stint. It took no time before Verstappen would catch Kimi Raikkonen and eventually pass him for second place with just Vettel up the road. Ferrari would then pit both cars and Vettel would find himself within reach of both Hamilton and Ricciardo.
Vettel would pass Ricciardo after spending much of the race stuck behind him and then eventually his title rival Hamilton putting Vettel into P2 but a long way adrift of Verstappen. Ricciardo would once again pass Hamilton before the second stops, all six of the front runners opted to make a second stop with the exception of Ricciardo who was still able to keep his Super-Soft tyres in good knick. Sergio Perez would break Mexican hearts when he suffered a break failure joining Alonso and Carlos Sainz as retirees.
Daniel Ricciardo would then suffer another dose of torrid luck when his Renault engine gave way forfeiting second place gifting the position to Sebastian Vettel. He dominated Friday, was pipped to pole on Saturday but was in control once again come Sunday, Max Verstappen took his 5th career win and his second in Mexico. Lewis Hamilton crossed the line in 4th place taking 12 points and sealing his 5th world title putting him joint second on the all time list for world titles.
Here is how the top ten finished.
- Max Verstappen 1:38:28.851
- Sebastian Vettel +17.316
- Kimi Raikkonen +49.914
- Lewis Hamilton +78.738
- Valtteri Bottas +1Lap
- Nico Hulkenberg +2Laps
- Charles Leclerc +2Laps
- Stoffel Vandoorne +2Laps
- Marcus Ericsson +2Laps
- Pierre Gasly +2Laps
Major Talking Points:
Sauber overtake Toro Rosso:
A double points finish and 10 championship points sees Sauber overtake Toro Rosso in the constructors title, this would be Sauber’s best constructors position since 2015 and Toro Rosso’s worst since 2012. Sauber have been getting stronger and stronger all season, the team made a second Q3 appearance in four races and their second double points finish of the season.
Vandoorne returns to the points:
Stoffel Vandoorne has had a terrible season but a solid race saw the Belgian score his first points since Azerbajian. Vandoorne will be making the switch to Formula E at the end of the year and a strong finish to what has been an awful season will give him a much needed confidence boost into the next chapter of his career.
Another race, another Renault failure for Ricciardo:
Daniel Ricciardo cannot buy luck this season, he took a surprise pole on Saturday but as has been the case 8 times this season he failed to reach the chequered flag. Ricciardo will be making the switch to the Renault factory team for 2019 and will be hoping that they can resolve their engine issues fast.
Your 2018 World Champion:
Lewis Hamilton has been the better driver this season, barring a scruffy run in the first few races Hamilton has been the man to beat, he hasn’t put a foot wrong and is a worthy champion. We all would have liked to have seen the fight go down to the wire but no one can take anything away from Hamilton this season. Vettel will be ruing some of the mistakes he has made this season but he will have to compose himself and reflect on where it went wrong and come back stronger in 2019.
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