Max Verstappen defied the disruptive fire around his team and celebrated the next victory at the Mexican Grand Prix. The Dutchman never got into serious trouble and celebrated a lights-to-flag victory ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Pérez.
Before the race, the penalty for Red Bull’s budget overrun last season was discussed again. The racing team made the penalty of seven million dollars coupled with restrictions in the area of aerodynamics public. The competition had previously demanded harsh penalties.
On the day of the race, the news circulated that his team was blocking interviews with Sky TV for the time being. The reason was statements by the British reporter Ted Kravits, according to several media reports. Kravits had said about last year’s controversial World Cup final between Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen that Hamilton had “stolen the title”. He described the Briton as an “eight-time world champion”, although Verstappen ultimately secured the world championship crown and Hamilton is still at seven titles.
Verstappen was not impressed by this either and defended confidently at the start. Behind them, Sergio Pérez immediately made up one place to the great cheering of his Mexican home crowd and passed Mercedes driver George Russell in third place. “Cheeeeco, Cheeeeco” was the chant from the grandstands this weekend – officially 395,902 spectators streamed onto the course in Mexico City.
Behind the world champion of this and last year was now Hamilton, who had also overtaken Russell. The goal: the first win of the season. The now 37-year-old, who is aiming for a new multi-year contract with Mercedes, has never ended a season since joining in 2007 without success.
In an uneventful race, in which the only tension resulted from the fact that the two Red Bulls drove first on the soft tires and the two Silver Arrows on the medium rubbers, Hamilton never seriously approached Verstappen. “The Red Bulls were just too fast,” analyzed Hamilton, who was whistled at briefly by the audience during his interview. “I still have a lot of love for the country and the people,” Hamilton said.
The two Red Bulls had to stop earlier and Pérez had a hard time. His crew needed five seconds to stand still, twice as long as Verstappen, who, like Pérez, switched to the more durable medium tires two laps later. “We had a bad pit stop that put us behind. It’s difficult to overtake and follow,” summarized Pérez. The Mexican fans in the stands suffered audibly. Hamilton was now leading, but only for a short time, he also got new tires surprisingly early, but the hardest compound.
After Russell was in the pits and sent back onto the track with the hard tires, Verstappen was back in the lead, Hamilton was second, Perez was now third, Russell fourth. Both Mercedes drivers complained about the tyres, team boss Toto Wolff had called Mexico the “best shot” for Mercedes the night before. But the poker game with the former world champion team didn’t work out. “In retrospect, maybe not the right tire choice,” said Wolff, who was surprised at how well the medium held up for the Red Bulls.
Verstappens celebrated his 14th win this season, a unique record. “You keep surprising me, a very special achievement,” radioed team boss Christian Horner. “What a fantastic race. 14 wins. What a season,” replied the Dutchman after crossing the finish line. He replaced Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel at the top of the list with the most successes in one year. Schumacher achieved 13 victories in Ferrari in 2004, Vettel did the same in 2013 in Red Bull.
On his farewell tour, the Heppenheimer experienced a disappointing weekend and only finished 14th. Mick Schumacher was again unable to self-promote a new contract in the Haas. Having started from 15th place, the 23-year-old fell back one place. In the first lap he noticed that he would not go far forward, Schumacher explained to Sky. “You could see that the pace wasn’t there today, in both cars. I don’t think it will be a factor in the contract talks,” he said.