Mercedes were unexpectedly victorious in a nail-biting Mexican Grand Prix where strategy was the key for some but the linchpin for others.
Who are our winners and losers from Mexico City?
Mercedes arrived at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez as underdogs on a track that has eluded them since 2016. Hamilton himself didn’t expect to win in Mexico but Mercedes’ strategy prevailed over Ferrari’s, seeing the five-time world champion rise from the ashes – or from the floor of the podium stage – on the verge of claiming his sixth World Championship title.
Changing for Hard tyres on Lap 24, a perfectly executed one-stop strategy teamed with Hamilton’s skillful tyre management made the 48-lap stint seal his second win in Mexico and Mercedes’ 100th as a constructor, a feat that only Michael Schumacher (with Ferrari) has achieved before.
Even Hamilton was sceptical of the strategy at first, calling out Mercedes’ decision to pit him early over the team radio several times before chief strategist James Vowles stepped in to reassure him.
The Brit’s victory marks his tenth of the season although it was the first time in three years that he hasn’t claimed the championship title in Mexico City. Hamilton is a sure bet to close the deal in Austin this weekend, where an eighth-place finish will suffice at a Grand Prix where he has won four of the last five races.
Albon started from fifth on the grid and one place behind relegated teammate Max Verstappen in Mexico but after the chaos of the first two turns, emerged as the lead Red Bull in third place while Verstappen tousled with Hamilton.
The British born Thai kept third position for the first stint and stayed close with the Ferrari’s ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes, a certain career-highlight for any driver let alone a 23-year-old in his first season of Formula One.
Albon pitted on Lap 15 for Medium tyres as part of a two-stop strategy and eventually finished fifth as the top three all stopped once. A first podium still awaits the rookie but having outscored Verstappen since the summer break, Albon is impressing the right people at Red Bull Racing.
The home-grown hero equalled his career-best result in Mexico holding off a late charge from Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo to claim a ‘best-of-the-rest’ result of seventh place.
Starting in P11, the Racing Point driver had the choice to start of Medium tyres before boxing on Lap 20 for Hards. The remaining 51 laps showed the impressive pace of his RP19, delighting his home crowd and ahead of his teammate Lance Stroll in P12.
Perez’s six points in Mexico also helped Racing Point draw level with Toro Rosso on 64 points in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
All signs were pointing to a third successive victory for Max Verstappen in Mexico until his pole position result was revoked due to the 22-year-old ignoring the yellow flag for Valtteri Bottas’ late crash in qualifying.
Starting fourth on the grid, Verstappen was aggressive in the first two turns but came off worse when forced onto the grass to avoid a collision with Hamilton. The Red Bull Racing driver then attempted to make a move on Bottas, resulting in contact and a very costly puncture for the Dutchman.
Emerging from the pits in 20th place, he fought back to claim sixth after running for 65 laps on the Hard tyre, proving the Red Bull’s pace and underlining a huge opportunity lost.
A front row lockout for the Mexico Grand Prix boosted the Ferrari spirits but it was their failure to execute a winning strategy that brought the Prancing Horses undone.
Charles Leclerc’s promotion to pole position as a result of Verstappen’s penalty saw him make the most of the opportunity for the opening stint, comfortably leading the race. However, heading to the pits on Lap 16 for Medium tyres and committing to a two-stop strategy proved to be the wrong move, and dropped him out of contention.
Leclerc did manage the fastest lap of the race and claimed the bonus point, but that would be the end of the good news for the Monégasque racing driver.
Sebastian Vettel also had a run at the front, albeit briefly, as Ferrari’s decision to keep Vettel out after Hamilton pitted eventually ended his chances of winning despite his fresher Hard tyres. The four-time World Champion however did finish second for the fifth time this season.
A cross-threaded wheel nut on his left-front tyre was a moment that Lando Norris’ Mexico Grand Prix would not recover from.
The 19-year-old was running inside the points when he was called to the box on Lap 15 to change for Medium tyres but as he went to rejoin the race, the team quickly realised that the tyre was not securely fastened. Acting swiftly, Norris was able to stop at the end of the pits and was pushed back to rectify the problem.
The British driver finally rejoined the race but running a lap down, the team ultimately chose to retire him from the race.
The Formula 1 World Championship will be tearing up tinseltown for the first time this weekend, taking to the streets as they shut down Hollywood Boulevard for the F1 Festival before they head to the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
Hamilton will be looking to tie up the loose ends of the champion title but after the shock win from Kimi Räikkönen in 2018, this is not a race you want to miss.
Images via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Racing Point, Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Ferrari