Lewis Hamilton was the undoubted star of the F1ESTA! That was the FORMULA GRAN PREMIO DE MEXICO 2019 and he was even joined on the fantastic podium at the Foro Sol stadium section by his number 44 Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport car. Hamilton emerged victorious at the end of the race which, on Saturday night, he had seemed very unlikely to win and after the first lap, a miracle looked to be required to secure victory. Both Ferraris were on the front row and then he went off at turn 1 after the start while duelling with Sebastian Vettel. Come the next corner he and Verstappen touched, so the situation seemed somewhat compromised. But the five times world champion produced yet another bravura performance to take his tenth win of the season, his 83rd in total.
Despite no longer being the quickest over a flying lap, given that a Mercedes has not been on pole since Germany, the champions elect proved to be strongest in the race today, both in terms of pure performance and in how they handled the strategy. In fact, that was the key to turning things around, linked to Hamilton’s usual masterful ability to manage the tyres. Mercedes immediately went for a one stop strategy, which given the data from Saturday and the long runs on Friday, did not seem to be the best. Furthermore, the Silver Arrows strategists split their options, bringing Hamilton in early on lap 23, while Bottas stayed out until lap 36. The Finn pretty much marked Vettel who was leading at that point. After the run of pit stops, which ended with Leclerc’s second stop on lap 43, having made his first on lap 15, Hamilton found himself in the lead, but facing the prospect of going all the way to the end of the 71 lap race on a set of Hards which had already done around 20 more laps than those of his pursuers.
Thus began a short sprint race between the two Mercedes and two Ferraris, all on Hard tyres, with Hamilton the hare to Vettel’s hound, the German himself being hunted down by Bottas who at this point looked capable of catching the both of them. Behind this trio, running within 6 seconds of one another, came Leclerc who had started favourite and even if the two stop strategy was not looking that good, he still had hopes of being in the game, making the most of being on fresher tyres.
In fact, there was no change in the order, even if there were moments when it seemed that Vettel and Bottas might have deprived Hamilton of the win. However, the Englishman never let them get that close, proving that he had a bit in hand every time that Vettel got within less than two seconds of him. Bottas was never able to attack the Ferrari man, even on the couple of occasions when he could use DRS. Leclerc did manage to close on the Finn, despite a slow second pit stop because of a problem fitting the right rear wheel. But his hope evaporated with a mistake at turn 4 with 12 laps remaining. From then on, the Monegasque didn’t seem able to keep up and had to settle for fourth, definitely below his expectations going into the race. Scant consolation came in the form of a point for setting the race fastest lap.
The man leaving Mexico with the most regrets is undoubtedly Max Verstappen. Yesterday, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver was fastest in qualifying, but was then dropped three places on the grid for not respecting the yellow flag waved when on the final lap. A collision with Hamilton on the opening lap and a puncture following another incident with Bottas as he tried to pass him on lap 4 meant he had to pit and take on a set of Hards, which he proceeded to drive on for 66 laps all the way to the chequered flag going from last to sixth.
He did it without any outside help such as safety cars but finishing over a minute off the winner must leave him reflecting on the missed opportunity of scoring a third win of the year. He finished behind team-mate Alexander Albon who starred in the opening laps behind the two Ferraris, but then suffered as did Leclerc by opting for a two stop strategy.
Daniel Ricciardo also did a great tyre management job, starting from 13th running a very long 50 lap stint on Hards so that he was chasing local hero Sergio Perez as they fought to be the “best of the rest.” Once he took on the Mediums, Ricciardo closed up to the Mexican Racing Point driver but could not get by. He got his front wheels ahead at one point but his attack into turn 1 was decidedly optimistic and he ended up going off track, but with no consequence.
Pierre Gasly and Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten although ninth across the line was Daniil Kvyat. Torro Rosso’s Russian had barged his way past the Renault at the final corner but Hulkenberg was sent crashing into the barriers and Kvyat dropped down to 11th with a 10 second penalty.
Four teams failed to score points today. That’s hardly a novelty for Williams, who have struggled all year and indeed Haas and Alfa Romeo have also struggled since the summer break, whereas for McLaren, pretty much the fourth team in the pecking order, this was unexpected. Carlos Sainz was down in 13th while Lando Norris didn’t see the chequered flag, after the team sent him off after a pit stop with one wheel not properly secured, which dropped him to the back of the field so that a short while later the team decided to retire him.
Lewis Hamilton has not yet got his hands on his sixth title, but he’s getting even closer to this amazing achievement. He leads his team-mate by 74 points and there are only 78 up for grabs from the remaining three races. The fight for third is still on, with Leclerc now only 6 points ahead of Vettel. Vettel has now dropped to 16 behind the Monegasque. The fight for fifth in the Constructors’ is still on with Renault on 73, nine points ahead of Toro Rosso and Racing point.
From the Drivers
"Today was a surprise, we've really struggled here for quite some time and we came into this weekend expecting it to be very difficult. We really thought we would be on the back foot, but we kept our heads down, we kept working hard and it all came together in the end. I had a crazy first couple of corners today, I was pushed on the grass at the start and then Max hit me. It was not easy to recover from that afterwards - I had a massive chunk of my floor missing, so the rear end was moving a lot and I had to really change the dynamic of how I was driving. I don't know how I managed to keep it going, but I did. The guys also did a fantastic job with the strategy - we stopped pretty early, and honestly I thought it might have been too early, but it all worked out in the end. I really wanted to deliver for the fans today; they were all out there during the drivers' parade supporting me, so I really wanted to give them a good performance and I'm so grateful we won."
"Today was a very good day, especially considering the circumstances - the shape of my car after the crash yesterday and the fact that I started P6. I had a difficult start, but after that I had a very strong race. I looked after the tyres and managed to extend the first stint quite a bit, which opened up a few opportunities. I was trying to put some pressure on Sebastian, but ultimately, I don't think the margin between him and me was enough to overtake. We maximised our result and the entire team delivered today - from the mechanics fixing my car to the strategists coming up with a great plan for the race -everyone did a really good job. Yesterday, both Red Bull and Ferrari had the upper hand, but we've really been strong on Sundays this year and ultimately that's the day that matters. We secured the Constructors' Championship in the last race, but today's result shows that this team is still hungry and I'm really happy that all the hard work from everyone in Brackley and Brixworth paid off today."
“We didn’t get is so wrong today. It was simply a case of not believing that the hard tyres could last so long, considering how early in the race Lewis pitted. He took a risk and it paid off. For our part, we tried both strategies; two stops for Charles and one for me and the final result proves that both of them were good. On Friday, we had a lot of graining, while today there was none and that made the difference, helping those who decided to take the risk. "Obviously, we can’t be pleased with this result, because when you start from the front row, as a team, you expect to win. In the closing laps we lacked the speed to try and go for the win. For Lewis and Valtteri, everything went really perfectly, while maybe we were just a bit unlucky.”
“Starting a race from pole and not finishing first is always disappointing. The beginning of the race went well, and I managed to stay in the lead for the first stint. Wanting to cover off Alex (Albon), we pitted early and committed to a two stop strategy. "After my first stop the race was very tricky: my second stint was difficult and any time I approached a car ahead I struggled with overheating and couldn’t overtake. "All in all, it’s a shame but if there is something I can learn from today it is to try to help the team more with my feedback from inside the car so that we can make the best call together.”
“Sixth obviously isn’t where I wanted to finish today with the car we had but when you look at the circumstances I think it was still a very good race. I had a good start and I think Lewis got pushed onto the grass by a Ferrari so he lost some momentum. He came back around the outside at Turn 1 and then into Turn 2 he went very deep to defend and I had to go onto the grass to avoid him. The race was still on until I overtook Valtteri and he clipped my rear tyre which gave me a puncture and I had to do a whole lap to get back to the pits. After that I was forced to do a one stop which was very slow as I did 66 laps on the hard tyre. The result is a shame as the pace was good and the car was good but to come back to sixth was actually not a bad result if you look at everything that went on.”
“Today was okay and I had good fun. I think it was one of my best races in terms of pace and the guys in front weren’t too far ahead! At the start we were running third and I was getting quite excited. It was great to be fighting at the front but unfortunately their one stop strategy worked out better. We stuck to a two stop strategy but I’m not sure if we had the pace or tyre life to make a one stop work. I lost quite a lot of time getting through traffic, especially after my first pit stop when I came out behind Sainz but there’s quite a high chance of getting traffic at this circuit. The boys also got the fastest pit stop of the race, so I obviously hit my marks! They have had a busy weekend so that was a great job and I’ll have to repay them. Overall, I’m happy with my performance and I’m improving my consistency which is important. The lap times are coming and now I’ve got three more races to improve even further!“
“It’s good to be in the points. I could have got more if I had passed Perez but I just couldn’t make it stick. I sent it into Turn 1, maybe a little late and the postman wasn’t there! We made a really strong start on the hard tyre and that set us up for the rest of the race. It’s a solid day with both cars back in the points. It’s been a tough week for the team, so I’m proud of them and how they’ve kept their spirits high. We regrouped quickly and we can be pleased with that, but now we have to move on and keep it up.”
Mexico Grand Prix Final Classification
1st Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 71 1:36.48.904
2nd Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow 71 +1.766
3rd Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 71 +3.553
4th Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow 71 +6.368
5th Alexander Albon Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 71 +21.339
6th Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 71 +68.807
7th Sergio Perez SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 71 +73.819
8th Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team 71 +74.924
9th Pierre Gasly Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 70 +1 lap
10th Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 Team 70 +1 lap
11th Daniil Kvyat* Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 70 +1 lap
12th Lance Stroll SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 70 +1 lap
13th Carlos Sainz McLaren F1 Team 70 +1 lap
14th Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 70 +1 lap
15th Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 69 +2 laps
16th George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing 69 +2 laps
17th Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team 69 +2 laps
18th Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing 69 +2 laps
NC Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 58
DNF NC Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 48 DNF
Fastest lap: Charles Leclerc (1.319.232 on lap 53)