At F1’s visit to Austin last time out, Max Verstappen and Red Bull dominated at a track supposed to be a Mercedes stronghold. This past weekend, the F1 fraternity set up camp at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, which, on paper, has been a track better suited to the Red Bull. That did seem like the case on Friday and most of Saturday as the Red Bulls laid the gauntlet with their blistering pace.
However, just like Christian Horner stated a few days back, you can rip pretty much up the formbook this season, which has seen the title race swing back and forth like a pendulum. Come qualifying, Mercedes locked out the front row as Valtteri Bottas took pole from Lewis Hamilton, with Verstappen and Perez in P3 and P4, respectively.
The race too didn’t disappoint as Verstappen pounced onto the lead on lap 1, never looking back since, while a fascinating strategic battle between Lewis Hamilton and local hero Sergio Perez saw the Mexican narrowly miss out on second place and take the final podium place.
Here are the key takeaways from the race.
Verstappen Inching Closer To Maiden Championship Title
After opening up a 12-point lead over Hamilton at Austin, the onus was on Verstappen to build on that gap at a track where Red Bull was expected to deliver. But after Saturday, when Mercedes secured 1 and 2 on the grid, it seemed the momentum shifted in their favour, and we would witness another twist in the championship battle.
Come race day, Max Verstappen extinguished all such predictions as he took the lead of the race into turn 1, courtesy of the space afforded to him by the Mercedes drivers on the outside line. From there on, he put in an assured and dominant drive and quite simply, looked untouchable as he controlled the pace throughout the race and comfortably finished around 20 seconds in front of Hamilton.
Consequently, he widened his championship lead to 19 points and even though he was wary of getting carried away, it does look increasingly likely that a first championship title is headed the Dutchman’s way.
Bottas’ Bad Luck Continues
Ever since Valtteri Bottas announced that he will be leaving Mercedes at the end of the season and joining Alfa Romeo, he has been a different driver altogether.
Poles in Italy and this weekend in Mexico are a testament to that statement. However, success on race days has continued to elude him as he has failed to convert these poles into a win, with a win at Turkey his first win in almost a year.
He has run into mechanical issues multiple times, having to take new power units a couple of times which have demoted him down the grid, effectively ending his chances of a win.
This weekend, starting on pole position didn’t do him much good as the long straight into turn 1 left him vulnerable to Hamilton and Verstappen, while his race went away for good when Ricciardo rear-ended him in the same corner.
From there, it only went downhill as he spent most of his race stuck behind the McLaren of the Australian. Mercedes’ late attempts at pitting him for fresh tires only to snatch the fastest lap from Verstappen resulted in him ending the race a whopping two laps behind the leaders.
Even though he’s had his fair share of critics over the season, one can’t help but feel sorry for the way his race unfolded, through no fault and makes you wonder what more he must do to get a clean and strong weekend. Maybe a switch to Alfa Romeo will breathe a new lease of life into him.
Gasly Quietly Steals The Show
In what is only the fifth or sixth best car of the grid, Pierre Gasly has been making a habit of finishing in the top six.
In Mexico, he seized fourth place at the start of the race, thanks to Ricciardo and Bottas colliding and tumbling down the order. He made it his own, from that point, as he led a lonely but nevertheless impressive race after managing to distance himself from attacks by both Ferraris and finished the race comfortably ahead of the duo.
His efforts seem all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that he has scored 86 points to Tsunoda’s 20, spearheading Alphatauri’s fight for fifth place in the constructor’s championship against Alpine as both teams are currently level on points.
If he can keep this up next season, another shot at that Red Bull seat which he so desperately longs for might not be too far away.
Take A Bow, Mexico City
Mexico City has always been a special place for the F1 community, with fans always providing a unique experience throughout the weekend. With the race weekend typically around the Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), fans throng the circuit in monumental numbers, wearing traditional costumes and creating a raucous atmosphere.
For the past few years though, they have another reason to put on a show, as the sport’s return to the country has coincided with the rise of a Mexican driver named Sergio Perez. His face was all over the city and with his move to Red Bull this season, an estimated 370,000 fans turned up to the track to cheer on the local hero, hopeful of a podium or even a win.
The sheer volume produced by the fans just at the sight of Perez on track gave an indication of what’s to come. During the race, they were on it again as they cheered their man as he chased down Hamilton for second place, only narrowly missing out. However, he made history by being the first Mexican driver to take a podium at this track, which paved the way for a special post-race ceremony.
Safe to say, Mexico City has firmly established itself as one of the finest race venues and belongs on the F1 calendar for years to come.
Be First to Comment