While Max Verstappen delivered a masterclass to claim victory at the Mexico Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton trundled home in an uninspiring but all-important fourth place finish.
Hamilton sealed his fifth world drivers’ championship and, in a similar fashion to last year’s Mexico GP at which he clinched his fourth title, the race was far from straightforward.
Mercedes failed to solve the high tyre degradation it faced in second practice and despite the lower temperatures on Sunday, both Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas endured heavy graining on both the ultrasoft and supersoft.
Both slipped back as the race unfolded, with Hamilton finishing off the podium for the first time since the Austrian Grand Prix and Bottas ending up a lap down after carrying out a three-stop race.
Two-stopping Verstappen was peerless at the front of the field and despite strong race pace from Sebastian Vettel, the Dutchman cruised to a fifth career win – setting a new record for the most wins without having secured a pole position.
Here are our DRIVER RATINGS for the 2018 Mexico Grand Prix;
Driver Ratings: 2018 Mexico Grand Prix
Max Verstappen - 10
Qualified – 2nd
Finished – 1st
Finishing fastest in all three practice sessions, Verstappen was the hot favourite for pole position before his qualifying was hindered by braking issues and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo’s brilliance to scoop pole by 0.026s. However, a great start corrected the shortcomings of Saturday, propelling Verstappen into a lead that he never relinquished. He was peerless for the second Mexico GP in succession.
Sebastian Vettel - 9
Qualified – 4th
Finished – 2nd
This was Vettel’s strongest race since his last victory at the Belgian Grand Prix back in August. He managed the tyres effectively and was decisive in wheel to wheel combat against an admittedly cautious Hamilton. On Sunday, he was the only driver seemingly able to match Verstappen’s pace and despite working his way through from fourth, emerged as the Dutchman’s greatest threat for victory in the closing stages. Had Vettel delivered a stronger performance on Saturday, the fight would have been much closer.
Kimi Raikkonen - 8
Qualified – 6th
Finished – 3rd
After his first win in five years at last weekend’s US Grand Prix, Raikkonen’s weekend was one of quiet productivity in Mexico. Qualifying in an understated sixth place, Raikkonen was anonymous throughout the first half of the race, before appearing in front of both Mercedes after Hamilton and Bottas made their second pitstops. The one-stopping Raikkonen’s tyre management was so effective, that the ultrasoft-shod Hamilton could not catch the Finn in the closing stages.
Lewis Hamilton - 7
Qualified – 3rd
Finished – 4th
One of Hamilton’s most challenging weekends of the season delivered the biggest scenes of celebration, as he wrapped up the title with what was a distant fourth place. Hamilton launched well from third on the grid and on a day where the stakes were lower, he might have taken the high-ground against Verstappen in a wheel-to-wheel dice at Turn 1. Tyre degradation ultimately left Hamilton helpless against Ricciardo, Vettel and Raikkonen, and his excursion across the grass while battling the Red Bull demonstrated those rubber limitations.
For the second year in succession, a poor Mexican GP result delivers the championship jackpot for Hamilton and provides the evidence that titles are won across the course of a season and not in single results.
Valtteri Bottas - 6
Qualified – 5th
Finished – 6th
Bottas suffered the same problems as Hamilton with regards to tyre degradation. Barring a pace advantage for Hamilton, the two delivered near identical Sunday’s, with Bottas even making the same mistake at Turn 1 as Hamilton did while battling Ricciardo. In Bottas’ case, his grassy excursion cost him track position over Raikkonen. Given that he eventually switched to a three-stop, the mistake ultimately had little consequence and at least allowed Bottas some screen time in what was an otherwise painfully anonymous outing.
Nico Hulkenberg - 9
Qualified – 7th
Finished – 6th
Hulkenberg proved that his mid-season dip in form was behind him, as he controlled the best-of-the-rest battle. Qualifying in seventh, his only error was at the race start – bogging down off the line, he was jumped by team-mate Sainz. Despite being on the hypersoft tyre, his pace was strong enough to maintain command of the midfield battle once Sainz had dropped out of the race.
Charles Leclerc - 9
Qualified – 9th
Finished – 7th
Equalling his best finish in F1, Leclerc’s seventh-place seemed unlikely given that his excellent qualifying would be a poison chalice in forcing him to start on the hypersoft tyre. However, Leclerc made plenty of overtakes after his early pitstop and negated the time lost in traffic to successfully maintain his track position. Leclerc reduced the gap to Hulkenberg in the closing stages but was unable to catch the Renault, finishing 11 seconds adrift at the flag.
Stoffel Vandoorne - 9
Qualified – 17th
Finished – 8th
Ending the longest active non-points scoring streak with a sensational Sunday, Vandoorne finally delivered an A-grade performance. Qualifying just one-tenth adrift of Alonso marked an improvement and despite a dreadful start which caused him to end lap one in 19th place, Vandoorne battled valiantly. Performing several key overtakes and managing the tyres well to make the one-stop strategy work, Vandoorne provided great value for the four points haul.
Marcus Ericsson - 8
Qualified – 10th
Finished – 9th
Ericsson may have been beaten by team-mate Leclerc, but his weekend in Mexico was strong nevertheless. Breaking into Q3 and starting in 10th place meant that he was vulnerable versus those immediately behind on the grid who started on the ultra and supersoft compounds. Ericsson’s race was all action, as he battled Perez, Vandoorne and Gasly throughout, despite regularly finding himself at a disadvantage regarding tyre life.
Pierre Gasly - 8
Qualified – 15th (started 20th)
Finished – 10th
Points from 20th on the grid marked a solid Sunday’s work for Gasly. Starting on the unfavoured hypersoft tyres, despite having a free choice of compound was a bold move but the early virtual safety car played into Toro Rosso’s hands as it allowed Gasly to pit. His pace and effectiveness in cutting through the field, along with the fortuitous VSC allowed him to unlock the potential of the strategy.
Esteban Ocon - 6
Qualified – 11th
Finished – 11th
Sacrificing a chance to be in Q3 in order to enter the race with a free choice of starting tyres was a gamble and one which failed to pay off. Ocon was perhaps naive to drive into an ever-decreasing wedge at the tight Turn 3, losing part of his front wing against Hulkenberg’s rear tyre and scrapping the strategic advantage that Force India had earned. His pace in the latter stages was hindered by overheating brakes and Ocon was close to being retired as a result.
Lance Stroll - 7
Qualified – 19th
Finished – 12th
Finishing less than three seconds behind a Force India marks a job well done by Stroll. Outqualifying Sirotkin, who has largely been Stroll’s only reference point this season, the Canadian pitted on lap 11 and carried out a two-stop race. His pace was relatively strong in the closing stages as a result and he was only seven seconds away from the points.
Sergey Sirotkin - 6
Qualified – 20th
Finished – 13th
Sirotkin admitted that his final lap in qualifying was far from his best and the two-tenths margin to team-mate Stroll supports this assessment. In the race, Sirotkin managed his tyres well to execute a one-stop and ended up less than a second behind his three-stopping team-mate.
Brendon Hartley - 5
Qualified – 14th
Finished – 14th
Hartley made a strong start to the weekend, ending up a reasonably representative sixth in FP2. However, running wide at Turn 12 on his final lap in Q2 consigned him to 14th on the grid and his weekend deteriorated from there. Contact while wheel-to-wheel with Ocon caused floor damage on Hartley’s car and led to a five-second penalty being issued to the Toro Rosso driver post-race for “failing to leave sufficient room.” His 12th place finish subsequently became a 14th place as Hartley’s hopes of retaining his seat in 2019 surely took another blow.
Kevin Magnussen - 5
Qualified – 18th
Finished – 15th
Haas endured a disastrous weekend as the team appears not to have solved its Mexico Grand Prix deficiencies. As in 2017, both cars were eliminated in Q1 and did not fare any better in the race. Extending his opening stint to lap 45, Magnussen had climbed to 10th place but fell to the back of the pack after pitting given the lack of field spread in the midfield. He was unable to regain any track position in the closing stages.
Romain Grosjean - 5
Qualified – 16th
Finished – 16th
Grosjean endured a race weekend blighted by a bizarre lack of car performance. The Frenchman was hit by a Williams at the start of the race which compromised his opening lap and was unable to extract performance from the tyres during the race, as was the case for team-mate Magnussen. Grosjean ended up three seconds behind the sister car.
Daniel Ricciardo - 9
Qualified – 1st
Finished – DNF
Sheer brilliance on Saturday was met by sheer despair on Sunday. Ricciardo posted a scintillating second and third sector in the dying moments of Q3 to snatch pole away from Verstappen. A poor start left Ricciardo down in third place but he was soon able to recapture second from Hamilton and looked set to impressively repel a charging Vettel in the closing stages in order to close out a Red Bull one-two after having managed his tyres expertly. That was before a clutch issue ended his race with 10 laps remaining, as Ricciardo put the “Unluckiest Driver of the Season” accolade beyond the reaches of any of his rivals.
Sergio Perez - 8
Qualified – 13th
Finished – DNF
Perez appeared to be converting his enormously vocal home support into pure lap time during the race. The Mexican managed to make several overtakes and was able to take advantage of a perfectly timed virtual safety car to bank a de facto seventh place, with the potential of challenging Hulkenberg for sixth in the latter stages. However, a brake failure brought an abrupt end to his afternoon.
Carlos Sainz Jr - 7
Qualified – 8th
Finished – DNF
The notorious Renault battery shutdown issue was the cause of Sainz’s sudden breakdown while on course to score significant points. Beaten by team-mate Hulkenberg in qualifying, Sainz quickly redeemed himself with a great start to vault ahead of Hulkenberg and even ahead of Raikkonen on the opening lap.
Fernando Alonso - 6
Qualified – 12th
Finished – DNF
It was a case of wrong place at the wrong time for Alonso, as he collected the carbon debris which was scattered to the outside of the track after Ocon and Hulkenberg made contact at Turn 3. The debris tore a water line on Alonso’s McLaren forcing him out of the race by lap two.
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