Can Lewis Hamilton Win His First Race of The Season? Will Max Verstappen Claim His Record-Setting 14th Win?
Red Bull has already secured both the Driver’s and Constructors Championships heading to the Mexico Grand Prix, but Verstappen’s job was far from done. Verstappen who tied Germany’s Michael Schumacher and Sebastien Vettel with the most wins in a single season with thirteen victories at the US Grand Prix could surpass those legends in at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez on the other hand was hoping to claim his third win of the season in front of his home crowd chanting Checo. The rest of the field is fighting for pride and a higher position in the standings and for some drivers a chance of retaining their seats next season in F1.
Mercedes came out roaring hoping to play spoiler to Red Bull with Lewis Hamilton and George Russel putting up impressive practice times leading up to the qualifying sessions. Ferrari’s stable of drivers of Carlos Sainz Jr and Charles Leclerc had a dismally slow qualifying by their standards and for the first time, this season was on the outside looking in on the front runners. Sainz managed to land in fifth and Leclerc in seventh. Alfa Romeo and Valtteri Bottas had a rare strong day qualifying in sixth followed by the Leclerc in seventh and the McLaren of Lando Norris in the eighth.
The Alpines of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top ten with Alonso in 9th and Ocon in tenth. Mercedes would have loved taking the pole but once again Max Verstappen and his mighty Red Bull spoiled the German team’s fun earning his sixth pole position of the season wearing his brand new 22karat gold leaf plated helmet. Russel beat out Hamilton by a narrow margin to sit in second place on the front while Hamilton sat in third on the second row. The Mexican Grand Prix’s racing order was set, and Sunday promised to be an interesting race.
The Mexican fans were chanting 1 “Checo, Checo, Checo” trying to urge their hometown hero Sergio Perez to be the first Mexican driver to win the Mexican Grand Prix. Perez starting in fourth place had his work cut out ahead of him with two Mercedes and his world-champion teammate to go through. Over 395,000 fans filled the grandstands throughout the weekend and surely, they are all pleased to know that the Mexican Grand Prix had its F1 contract renewed guaranteeing races until 2025.
The field of teams was split in terms of which tires they preferred with half the field on softs and the other half on mediums. The drivers lined up on the grid with seventy-one laps to complete and awaited the red lights to go out and Verstappen flew out of the gates cleanly keeping both Mercedes drivers behind him. Russell struggled to allow Hamilton to pass him in the first set of corners followed by Perez who made Russell’s start even worse by passing him as well. For the first ten laps, the front order was Verstappen in P1, Hamilton in P2, and Perez in P3 which did not change until Lap 23.
Perez elected to pit earlier than the front runners with the hopes of undercutting at least Hamilton, Perez had a terrible stop when his crew struggled to secure his rear tires costing him precious time. Perez went from P3 to P6 making his life much harder to return to the podium. Verstappen’s pits stop which came on Lap 26 was much cleaner than his teammates and only slid to P3 after he completed the stop.
Hamilton took over the race’s lead until he made his first pitstop, opting for hard tires which would later come into play. Russel took over the lead of the race followed by Verstappen who seemed poise to take over the race once Russel took his first pit stop. Russel who used and abused his medium tires entered the pits and left with hard tires in fourth place.
The Mexican Gp at this point saw the same order at the front of the pack as there was at the start of the race. Verstappen was in the lead followed by Hamilton in second and Perez in third. Both Hamilton and Russel complained about their tire selection and being unable to catch Red Bull who was on mediums and running fast.
The entire race was very streamlined until Lap 51 when Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo tangled and collided when Ricciardo attempted to overtake the Japanese driver. Both seemingly looked to survive the incident until Tsunoda entered the pits to get needed major repairs and it was deemed he could not continue much to his chagrin.
Ricciardo’s McLaren came out of the situation unscathed, but the racing stewards slapped a ten-second penalty on Ricciardo for the dangerous move he attempted. Ricciardo seemed to come alive after the crash and looked more like the driver of years going on the charge that not only put him in the points in eight places but also negated the ten-second penalty by building a large enough gap to cover the penalized time to retain a solid position at the end of the race.
The GP who struggled to create any real drama on track might give fans something to chew on when a virtual safety car was needed when Alpine’s Alonso engine failed. The VSC only stayed on track for a couple of corners and the race resumed as normal. Verstappen like in many other of his races crossed the finish line in complete control of his race claiming his record-setting 14th win of the season.
Verstappen will have two more Grand Prix (Brazil, Abu Dhabi) to add to his record and it is extremely plausible he could end the season with a whopping 16 wins. Lewis Hamilton was frustrated despite finishing in second place because of the tire selection. Perez who finished in third place gave the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez plenty to celebrate. Perez’s podium finish helped him extend his lead over Ferrari’s Leclerc for second place in the driver’s standings by five points.
The Brazilian Grand Prix is the next stop for Formula 1 and with Mercedes performing at a higher level perhaps Hamilton can repeat his stellar 2021 performance at the circuit. We are all certain Verstappen will not be so eager to let that happen.
Rest of the Pack
Mercedes may have made some gains on Ferrari for the fight for second place in the Constructors ranking but Russel was nonetheless furious with the poor tire selection robbing him of a chance for a podium finish. Russel took fourth place followed by the non-threatening Ferraris of Sainz in fifth and Leclerc in 6th.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo had an impressive race landing himself in seventh place making you wonder where this driver was all season long. Alpine’s Ocon finished in eighth followed by the other McLaren of Norris in ninth. Alpine leads McLaren for the battle of fourth place in the Constructors ranking by seven points. Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas took tenth place and the last point available to grab after a strong weekend drive.
Overall, the 2022 Mexican Grand Prix was lackluster, to say the least without much action and drama throughout the race. All eyes will be on the Brazilian Grand Prix on November 13th and hopefully, there will be plenty of action in Sao Paulo.
2022 MEXICAN GRAND PRIX FINAL STANDINGS
|1||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NETHERLANDS||RED BULL|
|3||SERGIO PEREZ||MEXICO||RED BULL|
|5||CARLOS SAINZ JR||SPAIN||FERRARI|
|10||VALTERRI BOTTAS||FINLAND||ALFA ROMEO|
|11||PIERRE GASLY||FRANCE||ALPHA TAURI|
|13||ZHOU GUANYU||CHINA||ALFA ROMEO|
|14||SEBASTIEN VETTEL||GERMANY||ASTON MARTIN|
|15||LANCE STROLL||CANADA||ASTON MARTIN|
|RETIRED||FERNANDO ALONSO-LAP 63||SPAIN||ALPINE|
|RETIRED||YUKI TSUNODA-LAP 50||JAPAN||ALPHA TAURI|