As Lewis Hamilton’s title was all but confirmed in turn three with both title contenders suffering significant damage and critically eliminating Vettel from podium contention, it opened up chances for drivers up and down the field. Some were completely out of position, and seemingly popping Hamilton’s adrenaline balloon as he appeared panicked and downbeat throughout the race. One man who definitely wasn’t out of position though was race winner Max Verstappen.
K-Mag puts Grosjean in the shade
Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team: Started 18th, Finished 8th
After one lap, it appeared as though Magnussen’s ex-employer Renault were on for a phenomenal result. But points aren’t handed out after qualifying or even a handful of laps in the race. In the end, it was a great result for Magnussen profiting on good, if slightly lucky, strategy and showing his raw pace to recover from an awful qualifying. He closed the gap to Renault in the constructors’ championship to just one point as the Enstone team suffered a double retirement.
Haas had a horrific Saturday. Not only were both cars left stuck in Q1, they were effectively the slowest car on the grid, as they qualified 18th & 19th behind the Saubers and only ahead of Pierre Gasly, who didn’t run. The Dane had the edge, a slight one of three hundredths of a second. On the grid, the US team were lucky to be promoted to 14th and 15th with engine penalties but it saved their bacon.
With the turn one chaos, Magnussen was able to jump up four places into the points by the end of lap one. He’d jumped a further two places to eighth by lap five and suddenly a hopeless Saturday had some promise. With Ericsson and the McLarens behind, the Dane had the pace to hold position in the points, but faster cars were coming from further back.
A great result for Magnussen profiting on good, if slightly lucky, strategy and showed his raw pace
Magnussen made his ultra soft tyres last and cashed in when Brendon Hartley’s Renault power unit went bang (again), causing a VSC and reducing the loss of a pitstop. It protected Magnussen’s gap to the McLarens and Massa and, while Vettel was able to get past, he maintained a fantastic eighth with Hülkenberg’s ERS failure. Regardless of reliability, Magnussen’s pace was impressive, he held off Alonso and a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton, proving the quality of his drive. It was all emphasised as teammate Grosjean struggled to make any progress or impression on the race, languishing well out of the points and finishing last after significant damage from his battle with Alonso.
Eighth was enough for a second points finish in three races, his fifth of the season, cutting the gap to his teammate to nine points and crucially piling the pressure on Renault.
Red mist powers Max to dominant win
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing: Started 2nd, Finished 1st
Do you think that the Flying Dutchman was motivated this weekend? He gave everything an extra effort in Mexico just to make sure that he was on any of the steps of the podium and yet he was upstaged.
Verstappen stunned with his pace in Q2, topping everyone by three tenths; even Hamilton was half a second behind. He couldn’t quite match it in Q3 though and Vettel just pipped his extraordinary pace to secure pole. Come race day, Verstappen made a decent start with the help of the tow down into turn one and then got his elbows out through the first few corners to lead out of turn three. The youngster got lucky as both rear tyres miraculously avoided punctures despite contact with Vettel and Hamilton’s front wing. With the title contenders wounded, Verstappen was in complete control. The Red Bull driver opened up a five second gap at half a second a lap against Bottas and then monitored his pace.
He never relinquished the lead and all that was left to do was to keep himself focused, which Max did by imitating Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull days by setting fastest laps and track records, paying no attention to the lack of Renault reliability and coasting home, beating Bottas by 20 seconds, Räikkönen by 54 and lapping everyone but the top four.
If he has a reliable car in 2018, Verstappen will be a factor in the title race.
Ocon closes gap as Force India secure best of the rest back to back
Esteban Ocon, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 6th, Finished 5th
One day soon Esteban Ocon will be on the podium. The Frenchman has been a star of the season and over the second half looks the most likely midfield runner to taste champagne. There was a slim chance of a podium given the straight-line speed of the Force India but it looked unlikely. By the end of the first lap, there was a great chance of an unlikely podium and Ocon was in the pound seats as Vettel and Hamilton limped back to the pits.
Ocon equalling his best ever F1 result was all built upon his raw pace in qualifying. The Frenchman was within half a second of the Mercedes and even beat Daniel Ricciardo on merit to sixth on the grid. Ocon was the major beneficiary of the turn three drama, showing his maturity and race craft to jump up to third. While he couldn’t keep pace with the top three, he showed great speed and comfortably held off Hülkenberg to stay on course for a podium.
Force India pitted surprisingly early on lap 20, seemingly protecting against an undercut from Massa, giving Räikkönen track position. Could he have held off the Finn over the race distance? It’s unlikely, but it cost him the opportunity. Next, he had to hold off a charging Lance Stroll as the Canadian quickly closed the gap. Vettel cruised by the pair of them, getting past on lap 57, ruining Ocon’s hopes of a career best fourth place but the Frenchman stayed focus and secured fifth place, narrowing the gap to Pérez to just nine points as Force India retained fourth in the constructors’ championship.
Lance strolls through the field
Lance Stroll, Williams Martini Racing: Started 12th, Finished 6th
The Canadian teen has had some great drives in 2017, and while there were flashier results in Baku and Monza, don’t overlook this result at the end of the season. Stroll struggled for pace in qualifying, although it only cost him one position to teammate Massa on the grid, with Hartley and the McLarens not posting a time, albeit he was well over a second behind in Q2.
He stamped his authority as number one driver on the team for 2018
In the race, Stroll made a smart start to jump up to eighth before Ricciardo’s retirement jumped him into seventh. In the first stint he couldn’t live with the Renaults, Force Indias and Räikkönen but after a well-timed stop under the VSC for the super softs he came alive.
On the new rubber he tracked down the impressive Ocon and got within overtaking range, and hounded him to the finish, with a brief interruption as Vettel sliced past both of them, only for a stalemate in Mercedes power in high altitude to prevent the Canadian moving up to fifth. The eight points for sixth place flipped his four-point deficit to Massa into a lead as he stamped his authority as number one driver on the team for 2018.