Front to back: the Mexican Grand Prix

All the action and reaction after a controversial end to Sunday’s race in Mexico City.


Lewis Hamilton:
qualified 1st, finished 1st
Nico Rosberg: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd
While the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers (well, except Raikkonen) had plenty to say after the race, Hamilton kept his cool on and off track to chip away at Rosberg’s championship lead with his second win in seven days, and one that never looked in danger despite running wide at Turn 1 and taking to the grass on the opening lap. Hamilton has now won at 23 different circuits, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record, while speaking of the great German, Sunday’s victory was Hamilton’s 51st, tying for second with Alain Prost – but still a long, long way away from Schumi’s 91 wins. With two races to go, the Briton has the momentum, but is still 19 points adrift of his teammate after Rosberg banked another second place. Rosberg pulled out a mighty lap to get second on the grid after looking to struggle through the three practice sessions, and while he had a fraught moment in the race when Verstappen attacked him for second on lap 50 at Turn 4, 18 points were never under threat after that. The German has the comfort of knowing that if the results of Austin last weekend and Mexico this weekend are repeated in the final two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, he’ll be world champion by a margin of five points.

Sebastian Vettel:
qualified 7th, finished 5th
Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 6th, finished 6th
Where to start with Ferrari? What isn’t in dispute was that Vettel was brought back into podium contention after running a long first stint on soft tyres, not pitting until lap 32, which proved crucial as he hunted down Verstappen on fresher tyres late in the race while keeping a watching brief on the flying Ricciardo behind him. With the Australian the quickest of the trio, Vettel was always going to be the meat in a Red Bull sandwich, and the three tyre strategies employed by the trio overlapped in the last four laps, Vettel incensed with Verstappen after the Dutchman missed the first corner and ran off onto the grass while retaining position, and then touching with Ricciardo at Turn 4 on the penultimate lap when the Australian spied a chance of a sneaky podium. With Verstappen given a five-second post-race penalty for “leaving the track and gaining an advantage”, Vettel was elevated to third and had to hot-foot it from the paddock to the podium, which in Mexico is located smack-bang in the middle of the packed stadium section at the end of the lap. But three hours after the race, the stewards assessed Vettel a 10-second penalty for moving under braking while defending against Ricciardo, dropping him to fifth and elevating the Red Bull driver to the podium. Raikkonen was a much quieter sixth and was the only driver in the top 10 other than Ricciardo to stop twice, as he was pitted on lap 52 for used medium tyres just when he was running ahead of his teammate on track. He was able to hunt down Hulkenberg for sixth, but was 28 seconds adrift of the Vettel-Verstappen-Ricciardo brawl at the finish. “Maybe the second stop was not the right thing to do,” he shrugged afterwards.

Felipe Massa:
qualified 9th, finished 9th
Valtteri Bottas: qualified 8th, finished 8th
If straight-line speed is your thing, then Williams is the team for you – Bottas was fastest of all down the start-finish straight on Sunday (372.5km/h), Massa not exactly hanging around either at 371.7km/h. For all of that grunt, the team dropped a point to Force India for fourth in the constructors’ race to be nine points adrift with two races left, six points for Bottas and Massa matched by Hulkenberg’s seventh place for Force India, with Perez adding another point for 10th. Both cars made just one stop and ran the durable medium tyres to the end, Bottas finishing 10 seconds up the road from Massa, but both cars more than a minute behind race-winner Hamilton.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo:
qualified 4th, finished 3rd
Max Verstappen: qualified 3rd, finished 4th
Ricciardo secured third in the drivers’ championship and finished the best of the Bulls on Sunday after a weekend where he’d spent most of it trailing Verstappen. The Australian didn’t make a great getaway and dropped behind Hulkenberg on lap one, and played the long game by immediately pitting under safety car conditions to run a long second stint on the medium tyre, which gave him the advantage of a new set of soft tyres for the final 21 laps. He pitted on lap 50, set the fastest lap of the race three laps later, and screamed up behind Vettel before they touched two laps from home, Ricciardo less than impressed with his former teammate. “Seb did what everyone’s been complaining about lately, moving under braking,” Ricciardo said. “For me he doesn’t deserve to be up there (on the podium) with the move he pulled.” The stewards agreed, Vettel’s 10-second penalty elevating the Aussie to third, his eighth podium of 2016. Verstappen was the quicker of the Red Bull drivers all weekend and was ahead of Ricciardo on the grid for the third time in the past four races, and while his chance of second turned to dust after unsuccessfully attacking Rosberg on lap 50, it would have been galling to arrive at the green room ahead of the podium ceremony after crossing the line in third only to be told he had to leave with a five-second penalty and no trophy. He did have a few words for Vettel though, who gestured angrily to him after they crossed the line. “I don’t know how many times he is using very bad language in general, I think he has to go back to school or something to get some language,” Verstappen said. “I will speak to him because this is just ridiculous the way he is handling it.” Vettel’s penalty elevated him back to fourth three hours after the chequered flag dropped.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg:
qualified 5th, finished 7th
Sergio Perez: qualified 12th, finished 10th
“Best of the rest” was Hulkenberg’s succinct social media summary on Sunday, and finishing behind the Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari drivers was as good as it was ever going to get for the German, who was arguably the star of Saturday as he qualified ahead of both Raikkonen and Vettel with what he described as “possibly my best qualifying lap of the season”. Hulkenberg held off Raikkonen for as long as he could on Sunday before the two came together four laps from home at Turn 4, Hulkenberg sent into a spin, but able to recover to take seventh with the Williams of Bottas some distance behind. Speaking of Williams, Perez would be sick of the sight of the back of Massa’s car after trailing the Brazilian for most of Sunday’s race, his car looking better in the corners, but lacking the straight-line punch to get by in his home GP.

Jolyon Palmer:
qualified 22nd, finished 14th
Kevin Magnussen: qualified 14th, finished 17th
Palmer started from the pit lane after being unable to take part in qualifying, his chassis needing repairs after the Briton clouted a kerb too hard in FP3. The lap one safety car saw him dump his supersoft tyres and play the long game by running the mediums until the end, but it was a decision that was never likely to produce a points finish. Magnussen’s commitment couldn’t be questioned – he danced as close as you would dare to the outside wall at the last corner right through qualifying and the race – but grunt down the straight was in short supply, and he finished 14 seconds adrift of his teammate after making one more pit stop than Palmer. Off-track, the Dane’s name has been linked with Haas, team principal Gunther Steiner admitting over the weekend that the former McLaren driver is being considered to partner Grosjean at the American team in 2017.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat:
qualified 18th, finished 18th
Carlos Sainz: qualified 10th, finished 16th
Both Toro Rosso drivers incurred the wrath of the stewards on Sunday, Sainz for forcing Alonso onto the grass at Turn 3 on the manic first lap, and Kvyat for using all of the run-off at the outside of Turn 12 coming into the stadium section to pass Grosjean’s Haas later in the race. Five-second penalties for both mattered little as both were well outside the points, which compounded a difficult weekend for Kvyat after the Russian was sidelined with an electrical issue after his first lap in Q1 that saw him stuck in the pits. Sainz made the top 10 in qualifying for the second week running, but gearbox gremlins and a lack of straight-line speed was a problem over 71 laps in the race, the Spaniard the third-slowest driver through the speed trap at the end of the mammoth start-finish straight.

Felipe Nasr:
qualified 19th, finished 15th
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 15th, finished 11th
Ericsson was gutted to miss Sauber’s first points of 2016 after a comeback drive that seemed very unlikely when he was the innocent victim in the first-lap mess that sidelined Wehrlein’s Manor, and Sauber described the Swede’s recovery as “brilliant” despite him just failing to crack the top 10. Nasr started from 19th and ran the durable medium-compound Pirellis for a marathon first stint of 52 laps, which made for some amusing radio chat between the team and its drivers as the Brazilian was persuaded – eventually – to let his recovering teammate through on a completely different strategy. With just two races left, Sauber’s time to get off the mark in 2016 is fast running out.

Jenson Button:
qualified 13th, finished 12th
Fernando Alonso: qualified 11th, finished 13th
After the optimism of a double-points finish for McLaren in Austin seven days ago, it was back to the anonymity of the Japanese Grand Prix earlier in October for the team in Mexico, with neither driver making Q3 nor finishing inside the top 10. Button was eight seconds up on Alonso after 71 laps and had the far quieter race, while the Spaniard had his now-customary rant over the radio to the team mid-race when he was asked to push, and was hampered by a slow pit stop on lap 48 when the left-rear tyre took an eternity to be changed.

Pascal Wehrlein:
qualified 16th, did not finish
Esteban Ocon: qualified 20th, finished 21st
Wehrlein’s outstanding effort to make Q2 on Saturday for the fourth time this season counted for nought on Sunday when he got caught up with Gutierrez and Ericsson on lap one and became the first – and only – retirement of the race with broken suspension. Teammate Ocon admitted to being down on confidence and struggling on the low-grip surface through practice and qualifying, and duly finished last and two laps down of the 21 cars who saw the chequered flag.

Romain Grosjean:
qualified 20th, finished 20th
Esteban Gutierrez: qualified 17th, finished 19th
A horrible race for Haas. Grosjean battled understeer and oversteer and admitted he “never knew what I was going to get out there” as he laboured to 20th, while Gutierrez’s home race wasn’t a lot better as he clashed with Wehrlein and Ericsson at the first corner and finished nine seconds and a spot ahead of his teammate.


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