Round 18 of the 2019 Formula One season took place at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and gave Lewis Hamilton an unexpected victory at this year’s Mexican Grand Prix, and his tenth win of the season. Having only qualified fourth Hamilton was moved up to third after Max Verstappen was dropped three places on the grid from pole for failing to slow for yellow flags. It therefore meant that Ferrari once again locked out the front row of the grid and Charles Leclerc started on pole ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Valtteri Bottas put in a valiant performance to keep the championship alive by finishing in third just behind another strong drive from Sebastian Vettel who crossed the line second. It was in fact Bottas’ 44th podium of his career, overtaking three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart’s total.
Historically, Mercedes have not performed so well at the Mexican Grand Prix but Hamilton managed the tyre life of his hard compound tyres superbly in a one-stop strategy, making them last 48 laps, giving him his second win in Mexico, the previous one being in 2016, and Mercedes their 100th victory as a constructor. It was however, the first time in three years that Lewis was unable to win the title here in Mexico City. He’ll have to wait a little while longer.
Commenting after his victory, Hamilton said: “Today was a surprise, we’ve really struggled here for quite some time and we came into this weekend expecting it to be very difficult. We really thought we would be on the back foot, but we kept our heads down, we kept working hard and it all came together in the end. I had a crazy first couple of corners today, I was pushed on the grass at the start and then Max hit me. It was not easy to recover from that afterwards – I had a massive chunk of my floor missing, so the rear end was moving a lot and I had to really change the dynamic of how I was driving. I don’t know how I managed to keep it going, but I did. The guys also did a fantastic job with the strategy – we stopped pretty early, and honestly, I thought it might have been too early, but it all worked out in the end. I really wanted to deliver for the fans today; they were all out there during the drivers’ parade supporting me, so I really wanted to give them a good performance and I’m so grateful we won.”
Having locked out the front row of the grid, Ferrari should have performed better than they did in Mexico, but once again they were unable to convert their strong qualifying performance into a strong racing performance with Mercedes outsmarting them once again.
Leclerc got a perfect start and led the opening laps of the race quite comfortably, but an early pit stop committed the Ferrari driver to a two-stop race and effectively ruled him out of a podium finish, only managing a fourth place finish and a bonus point for fastest lap.
Vettel on the other hand pitted too late to challenge Hamilton and had to settle for the runner’s up spot on the podium.
Speaking after the race he said: “We didn’t get it so wrong today. It was simply a case of not believing that the hard tyres could last so long, considering how early in the race Lewis pitted. He took a risk and it paid off. For our part, we tried both strategies; two stops for Charles and one for me and the final result proves that both of them were good. On Friday, we had a lot of graining, while today there was none and that made the difference, helping those who decided to take the risk. Obviously, we can’t be pleased with this result, because when you start from the front row, as a team, you expect to win. In the closing laps we lacked the speed to try and go for the win. For Lewis and Valtteri, everything went really perfectly, while maybe we were just a bit unlucky.”
Red Bull Racing
Having lost pole position, Max Verstappen’s Mexican Grand Prix did not start well, making contact with Valtteri Bottas on the fourth lap and causing him a puncture after previous contact with Lewis Hamilton on the very first lap. Verstappen did well however to recover and work his way back up the field to finish in sixth just behind teammate Alexander Albon who drove a good solid race.
Sergio Perez, the local hero, ran a good race in his Racing Point to finish in the points in seventh.
McLaren put in a strong qualifying performance with both cars in the top 10, qualifying seventh and eighth, but having clawed their way into fourth in the constructors’ championship at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix following some consistently strong performances this season, had a very disappointing race in the end and left the race without a single point.
The Haas F1 Team had a disappointing race with Romain Grosjean finishing 15th and Kevin Magnussen 17th.
So the top ten finishers in the Mexican Grand Prix were: Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Charles Leclerc, Alexander Albon, Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Nico Hulkenberg rounding off the top ten with both Renaults in the points.
The next round of the championship takes place this coming weekend in Austin, Texas at the US Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton could clinch his sixth drivers’ title.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool and Haas F1 Team