Formula 1

Verstappen Wins as Hamilton’s Crowned Champion.

Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Press Release

The Red Bull of Max Verstappen claimed victory at the Mexican Grand Prix while Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton sealed his fourth Drivers Championship after coming back to score points from a first lap incident.

Verstappen started on the front row of the grid with Sebastian Vettel on pole in his Ferrari alongside him, and Hamilton in third. The three of them went three abreast into the first corner, with Verstappen ultimately coming out on top as Hamilton and Vettel tangled. From there the Dutchman never looked to under serious threat as he pulled out a comfortable advantage over the rest of the field, eventually finishing nearly twenty seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

“The start was very crucial,” said the 20-year-old driver. “I went around the outside and that worked out well. After last week this is the perfect race. I was cruising. It was good to see [Lewis and Seb touching] and after that I just pulled away.”

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Indeed it seemed the greatest threat to Verstappen’s victory was unreliability from the TAG heuer branded Renault engine in the back of his car. The Renault engine seemed to really struggle with the high altitude in Mexico city, and four cars with Renault engines in the back DNF’d during the race, including Verstappen’s own team mate Daniel Ricciardo. Though if this was a thought plugging his mind Verstappen didn’t show it as he pumped in fastest lap after fastest lap. Prompting his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to ask the 20-year-old to slow down. To which Verstappen replied “alright son, I’ll take it easy” only for him to keep pumping in fastest laps.

“Unbelievable. We couldn’t slow him down,” team principal Christian Horner said after the race. “He had an unbelievable start. It’s amazing how quickly he gets on the radio [to celebrate moves] He dominated the Grand Prix and it was a question of slowing him down. We had concerns, one was reliability – we kept seeing fellow cars with similar power units dropping out – and it was quite nerve-wracking that something might happen for Max but he controlled everything.”

Verstappen finished ahead of second place Valtteri Bottas, who after struggling for the last few races since summer break enjoyed a much better weekend. The Finn was on pace for much of the weekend with Hamilton, but found himself in a car unable to challenge for the win. He drove a nearly flawless race and kept his nose clean during the first lap shenanigans to secure his first podium finish in four races.

“It feels good to be back on the podium,” he said after the race. “It felt like I got the most out of the car but we didn’t have the pace to challenge Max.”

Crucially, Bottas occupied the spot that Vettel had needed at a minimum to extend the title race to Brazil. So by holding that off he helped to secure Hamilton’s fourth Drivers Championship. Kimi Raikkonen took the final podium spot for Ferrari, but was a further half a minute off the pace.

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Sebastian Vettel fought back up to fourth place, having suffered front wing damage in the opening lap of the race when he punctured the rear-right tyre of Hamilton. Resulting in both drivers needing an early pit-stop. Vettel appeared to cover Verstappen and Hamilton at the start, but lost out to slipstream the pair were able to pick up and was third exiting the second corner. Vettel fought back, but shunted into his Mercedes rival causing a right-rear puncture for the Englishman in the process. Hamilton had to pit and dropped back to 20th, though thanks to the front wing damage Vettel too had to pit and emerged two places ahead of his championship rival. The German driver didn’t give up despite the fact the race looked hopeless for his championship chances, making up 14 places and pulling off some superb and brave overtakes along the way. But in the end it was a case of too little too late and he had to accept Hamilton was the champion for this year.

The Force India of Esteban Ocon once again managed another fifth place finish in the race, equalling his best race finish of the season. The Frenchman had been running as high as third after steering clear of the drama in the first corners, though he was unable to hold back a charging Vettel in the closing stages. The result for Force India, with local hero Sergio Perez finishing in seventh as well, confirmed that they have secured fourth place in the Constructors Championship this year.

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The Williams of Lance Stroll had another positive race and finished sixth for the team, all but summing up fifth in the Constructors Championship for this year for the Grove based team. The Canadian also felt that with a couple more laps he could have passed Esteban Ocon given the rate he was closing on him in the final stages. Stroll’s eight-point haul from Mexico took him above team-mate Felipe Massa into the 10th in the Drivers’ Championship.

Kevin Magnussen finished eight and clawed back some much needed points for Haas after a torrid qualifying saw the American team the slowest team on the grid. He too like Ocon benefited from the first lap drama and was able to maximise his strategy. His four points moved Haas to within one point of Renault in seventh place in the Constructors Championship, and six points of Toro Rosso in sixth place.

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The new Drivers World Champion, Hamilton, could only recover to ninth place from 20th after his puncture. Though Hamilton struggled to make any impact in the points in his damaged Mercedes around a circuit which didn’t favour the Silver Arrows package anyway. He was even lapped in the race for the first time in four years. Regardless, he did all he needed to secure the fourth world championship, and break Sir Jackie’s record as the most successful British driver that has stood for 44 years.

The final points position was claimed by the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who overcame another grid penalty and drove the wheels off his car to get the McLaren into the points for the first time since F1 returned to Mexico.

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One of the big talking points of the race was the constant engine problem Renault powered cars appeared to be having. Ricciardo, who made his way up to seventh after starting 17th due to an engine issue, was forced to pull up at the side of the track on lap seven thanks to an engine issue. It was the Australian’s first back-to-back DNF since 2013 and his first in a Red Bull. Brendon Hartley, who was enjoying his second ever Formula 1 race was forced to pull up when his engine expired in a fiery mess. While Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz gave Renault a double DNF, Hulkenberg with an ERS failure and Sainz with an engine issue.

Overall the race was definitely a great one to watch. There was a lot of overtaking courtesy of Vettel and Hamilton making their way through the field, while the first lap drama had you guessing what was going to happen in the championship. The Renault engine failures also casted doubt on if Verstappen would even be able to finish the race, adding yet more potential drama to the race. It was definitely one of the better races we’ve been treated to this season, but it did somewhat lack on the drama we had last season in 2016.

I’ll leave you now with my highlight of the weekend, and it’s simply this. Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2017 Drivers World Champion, Four time world Champion, and most successful British Driver of all time, Lewis Hamilton.

Mexican GP Race Result
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull: 1:36:26.550
2) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes:
3) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari:
4) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari:
5) Esteban Ocon, Force India: +1 Lap
6) Lance Stroll, Williams: +1 Lap
7) Sergio Perez, Force India: +1 Lap
8) Kevin Magnussen, Haas: +1 Lap
9) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: +1 Lap
10) Fernando Alonso, McLaren: +1 Lap
11) Felipe Massa, Williams: +1 Lap
12) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren: +1 Lap
13) Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso: +1 Lap
14) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber: +1 Lap
15) Romain Grosjean, Haas: +1 Lap
16) Carlos Sainz, Renault: DNF
17) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber: DNF
18) Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso: DNF
19) Nico Hulkenberg, Force India: DNF
20) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull: DNF

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