F1 – Mexican GP – Race

Hola, MiniFans! After Saturday’s surprising front row lockout from Ferrari, Mexico welcomed us to the race day with the sun shining brightly, hopeful for their local hero, Pérez, and expecting a great spectacle on the same level as the one that was provided prior to the race.

The dusty main straight blew up a curtain of fog as the cars went over it, giving Verstappen and Sainz’s great starts a cinematic feel as both of them lined up alongside Leclerc. Sainz eventually backed off as Leclerc reached them, switching the sandwich ingredients as Leclerc went from the side to the middle, shielded by both Red Bulls. As the three of them went into the first corner, there wasn’t space for everyone, which caused contact between Leclerc and Pérez, who got launched up by his rear tyre as it made contact from behind with Leclerc’s front. The big impact as he landed back on the tarmac, added to the damage that had already been acquired during the impact, made it so that the car couldn’t be repaired in time and the local hero had to give up. All of this helped Verstappen to settle in first as the Ferraris lined up behind him, with Leclerc in front.

Apart from the big first corner stunt, the biggest surprise was Ricciardo managing to keep Hamilton at bay, as well as his fourth place, as well as both Tsunoda and Hulkenberg gaining four positions each. A quick virtual safety car to retire Leclerc’s fallen front wing endplate later, the race started to settle, save for the battle that started to brew for fourth place. Having lost Sainz’s DRS, Ricciardo was being forced to drive very defensively, closing every and any door Hamilton could think of for a few laps, eventually yielding to the quicker Mercedes.

Once Hamilton got past, a question arose for the Ferrari wall regarding positions, as Leclerc’s broken front wing could affect his pace, even if it didn’t quite look like so at the time. Battles were similar further back, with Albon leading both Alfa Romeo and Magnussen or small teams of two fighting each other, but overtakes weren’t exactly being performed due to the characteristics of the track and the altitude effects.

The first of those topping the timing tower to pit was Verstappen, after having complained via radio that his tyres were gone. Meanwhile, Hamilton had gotten very close to Sainz, who had dropped far back Leclerc, but the little difference that activating the DRS gives in Hermanos Rodríguez didn’t exactly give him a hand. The only car on track easily passing rivals was Verstappen, who was slowly climbing back up the standings and putting out very quick laps despite his team asking him to take it easy for a few laps.

Hamilton finally pitted a handful of laps later, in hopes of achieving an undercut. Sainz didn’t pit but quickly lost enough time to the Mercedes driver so that pitting immediately wouldn’t be beneficial, so he didn’t and stuck it out, not even fighting Verstappen when he came by as it wasn’t his battle. He would eventually pit not to defend against Hamilton, but Ricciardo, who had kept up his pace and not been overtaken by any other driver. A couple laps later, Leclerc did the same, keeping a small gap to Hamilton as he left the pits.

The race was shaken up by Magnussen’s crash, as a safety car needed to be deployed to retrieve the Haas. Verstappen took advantage of this to do his second stop of the day, but the safety car eventually turned into a red flag, due to the barriers needing to be repaired. It was only thanks to the replays that the reason for the crash was discovered, which was caused by Magnussen’s rear left suspension breaking as he entered the corner. Once the Tecpro barriers were brand new, it was time to go back racing.

Tyre choice was all over, as some drivers kept their pretty much brand new hards, such as Verstappen, but Mercedes decided to go with a different strategy, fitting mediums on both cars. This second start was clean and Mercedes’ stunt seemingly only worked with Russell, who took advantage of Ricciardo’s not so great start to get past. While Hamilton did try with Leclerc from the first metres, the Ferrari put up a fight at the beginning, managing to keep the British driver behind until the DRS was enabled and he couldn’t close the door anymore. On the other hand, Verstappen’s great start meant that he wasn’t disturbed by any other driver, slowly building the gap to second.

Despite the predictions which imagined Ricciardo wouldn’t hold up too long, both him and Tsunoda were doing a great job in their AlphaTauri, following Russell and Piastri respectively, but Tsunoda’s tries at getting past the McLaren ended up in a small collision that sent the Japanese driver spinning and to the back of the grid, as well as earned him an investigation for the movement and the contact that wouldn’t carry a penalty.

The only driver on mediums matching Verstappen’s pace was Norris, who was quickly passing cars and was allowed to change positions with his teammate before he started to hunt Ricciardo down. Once past the Australian, thanks to a very tight manoeuvre that can only be undertaken with certain drivers, he had ten laps to try and get to Russell, whose mediums, unlike Norris’, seemed to be starting to deflate and he was losing time to his compatriot.

The last ten laps’ main point of interest was the gap between Russell and Norris quickly shrinking as the McLaren driver’s wall advised him to take care when trying to overtake, as Russell isn’t the type to leave doors wide open. However, after a few scuffs, Norris squeezed past and earned the applause of the audience. Slowly but surely, the Mercedes driver would see Ricciardo in his mirrors, who wouldn’t manage to get past but would put pressure on him until the very end, giving a show in the last lap of the event.

Mexico was ready to cheer for their local hero, but Pérez was out in the first corner, leaving them to see how his teammate was the one to reach first place. Forgetting about the repetition of winner, the race offered a few points of interest, mainly centered around drivers like Ricciardo, whose pace was unthinkable prior to the event, or Norris, whose comeback brought him up to fifth, but also strategies, which upped Hamilton in front of the Ferraris. We’re now off to Brazil, home to some great racing that we’ll hopefully get to see again.