Nico Rosberg has returned to the winner’s circle, and to second place in the Drivers’ Championship standings, with victory over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton at the Mexican Formula 1 Grand Prix.
It was the German’s fourth win of the season – his first since Austria in June – on the sport’s comeback race in Mecixo, comfortably leading from start to finish to cross the finish line 1.9 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
Despite the small victory margin, Rosberg had the race in hand and held his nerve to fend off any threat Hamilton tried to mount; the duo claimed Mercedes’ tenth 1-2 finish of the season.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas finished in third place – surviving his second collision with Finnish countryman Kimi Räikkönen along the way – after overtaking Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat in the closing stages.
Despite predictions of a wet Sunday, conditions were absolutely baking at the start of the race with soaring 54ºC (129ºF) track temperatures that threatened to be a major test of the tyres and cars.
Rosberg managed to lead from pole position over Hamilton, blocking any threat from the newly-crowned three-time World Champion by studiously holding the inside line at the end of the long start/finish straight.
Most of the field made it through the opening complex of corners unscathed, with the exception of Sebastian Vettel. The Ferrari driver picked up a right-rear puncture after turning into Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull at Turn 1. The German was forced into the pits for fresh tyres and rejoined at the rear of the field.
It proved not to be the end of Vettel’s dramas, with the four-time champion have an uncharacteristically error-ridden day. After working his way back into the points, he spun off at Turn 7 but was able to rejoin. He also further flat-spotted his tyres with a wild lunge on Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus and had to return to the pits for a second pit stop. Then on Lap 50, he brought out the Safety Car by crashing into the barriers at Turn 7 – the same corner where he’d slid off before.
The full-course interruption helped liven up a race which, until that point, had proven to be a somewhat sedate affair. Rosberg and Hamilton had quickly stretched their advantage into a comfortable 1-2 at the front, leaving much of the wheel-to-wheel racing to the pack behind them.
The pair traded fastest laps in their opening stint, with Rosberg switching from the Soft Pirellis to the Mediums on Lap 26, while Hamilton followed suit a lap later.
The pair had initially looked set to run a one-stop race, but the higher track temperatures had increased the tyre wear to the point that Mercedes opted for a second pit stop for both. Neither would be threatened given the advantage they’d built over the rest of the field, but Hamilton initially disputed the request to pit a second time.
He peeled in a lap after being instructed to, and rejoined again on Rosberg’s tail and was unable to capitalise when the race was restarted after Vettel’s crash.
The restart saw Bottas finally get the jump on Kvyat to claim third place; neither Kvyat nor teammate Ricciardo was able to challenge the Williams driver on the run home despite having the quicker car – they were just getting blown away on the start/finish straight after clawing back ground through the track’s twistier sections.
It was a fine drive from Bottas, who recovered from his second clash in three races with Kimi Räikkönen on Lap 22. Bottas tried to pass the Ferrari driver on the outside of the Turn 4/5 chicane, with the move giving him the inside line for the right-turn exit. Räikkönen turned across the front wheels of Bottas in reversal of their contact at Sochi, with the 2007 World Champion coming off worse after his rear suspension was broken.
Kvyat held on to finish fourth ahead of teammate Ricciardo, while the sister Williams of Felipe Massa finished sixth after being shoved out wide in a tight midpack battle on the opening lap.
The Force Indias of Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez finished seventh and eighth. Pérez did particularly well and was the only runner not to pit during the Safety Car period. The master of tyre management eventually closed an impressive 53 laps on his Medium-compound tyres.
Max Verstappen was rather muted in his aggression – by his standards at least – to finish a solid ninth ahead of the two battling Lotus’ of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, neither of whom ever looked in the hunt to make any major inroads into the top-ten.
Marcus Ericsson was the sole Sauber runner to finish the race – teammate Felipe Nasr spun out with overheated brakes shortly after the race was restarted – with the second Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr finishing thirteenth after a couple of off-track excursions.
After a wretched weekend with little actual running thanks to ongoing unreliability, Jenson Button had a lonely and off-the-pace run to fourteenth, with his McLaren-Honda proving breathless in the high-altitude conditions. Teammate Fernando Alonso retired at the end of the opening lap with a loss of power, an issue that the team had detected before the start of the race.
At the back of the field came to the two Manor Marussias, with Alexander Rossi once again getting the better of teammate Will Stevens in their interesting inter-team battle.
|Formula 1 Pran Premio de México 2015 – Final Classification (71 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps|
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||71||1:42:35.038|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||71||+ 1.954|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||71||+ 14.592|
|4.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||71||+ 16.572|
|5.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||71||+ 19.682|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||71||+ 21.493|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B||71||+ 25.860|
|8.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B||71||+ 34.343|
|9.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||71||+ 35.229|
|10.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||71||+ 37.934|
|11.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||71||+ 38.538|
|12.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||71||+ 40.180|
|13.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||71||+ 48.772|
|14.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||71||+ 49.214|
|15.||Alexander Rossi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B||69||2 laps behind|
|16.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B||69||2 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||57||Brakes|
|DNF.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||50||Accident|
|DNF.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||21||Collision|
|DNF.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1||Power Loss|
Images via Sutton Motorsport Images