F1 – Mexican GP – Race
Hola, MiniFans! The atmosphere at the track already told us the day was to become a celebration of racing. Colours were plentiful in the stands and spirits were festive with the locals celebrating their driver, always helped by the fact that the fight for the championship is tighter than ever.
The kickoff gave us everything we wanted and more. Verstappen’s start wasn’t brilliant, but the tow he got from Bottas and Hamilton’s incredible reaction time meant there was a three-way into the first corner. Out of the three of them, Verstappen made the best entrance into the corner, braking late but sticking the car into the track, passing both Mercedes cars. Bottas was hit by Ricciardo, who lost his front wing, and spun, creating chaos. Ocon collided with Tsunoda and Schumacher, sending them flying and into early retirement from the race. The safety car was deployed and both Bottas and Ricciardo were sent to the back of the pack, following pit stops and new hard tyres
The restart wasn’t as exciting as the first one, due to Verstappen being prepared and catching Hamilton unaware enough to pull away before he could grab a tow. The race started settling, save for the midfielders regaining positions and overtaking each other cleanly. Verstappen slowly started opening a gap to Hamilton, while the Brit only started to complain about his tyres. Pérez, behind them, relayed to his engineer that his tyres were only getting better and he was indeed chipping time off.
The first stops for hards, bar the ones from the cars who had had to pit after the first lap incidents, came what seemed too early for a one-stop strategy. The first stop for the top three was Hamilton’s in lap 30, trying to keep Pérez behind. In a surprising move, Red Bull did not pit Pérez in the following lap, losing the chance at overtaking him. Verstappen did follow through a couple of laps later, leaving Pérez to lead the race and take his mediums as long as he possibly could to have a fresher tyre at the end to try and fight Hamilton. The Mexican driver would finally swap tyres in lap 41, meaning they were eleven laps younger than Hamilton’s, and left the pit lane around nine seconds behind the Mercedes, setting his sight on the back of the silver arrow.
To continue with tradition, Mercedes messed up Bottas’ stop, who had already been struggling behind Ricciardo’s McLaren, being rendered unable to overtake him. Worry for the race leader came out when he asked his engineer to compare his front left tyre to others, but he was promptly reassured that it looked good once the visual check was completed by the team. On the other hand, Mercedes started getting worried, as Hamilton was only losing time to both Verstappen and Pérez, falling back from his championship rival and into the Mexican. The hunt was on.
It was with ten laps to go that Pérez finally reached the back of Hamilton’s car. The smaller than one-second gap necessary for him to use DRS came and went, eventually becoming too big for him to close back up. The gap shrunk again in the last two laps, allowing him to use DRS once again, but it still wasn’t enough. His teammate, however, already in cruise control since his stop, crossed the line in first place and made the gap to Hamilton even bigger.
Yesterday’s stunt by Mercedes caught everyone by surprise. It was only in Q2 that they started showing their pace, but it wasn’t until Q3 that they truly showed how much they had been hiding. A front row lockout seemed even harder to crack by Red Bull, but Verstappen isn’t among the pool of drivers who crack down under pressure or back down from a fight. His bravery at the start made it so he braked later and overtook both of them after managing to get a fantastic tow from Bottas. His lead has extended but the championship is far from over and the remaining races are sure to be every bit as exciting as the rest of the championship has been.