A week after failing to wrap up the title, Lewis Hamilton had a second crack at sealing his fifth Formula One title at the Mexican Grand Prix.
Based at high altitude with each sector requiring different characteristics, this was always going to be an epic weekend but what lessons came out of this weekend?
Hamilton Seals Title
A week on from a difficult US Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton’s task to become a five time champion here was much simpler with just a seventh placed finish needed whilst Sebastian Vettel had to win the race.
Tyres might of ultimately been a defining difference between the title contenders as Vettel raced to second whilst Hamilton fell to fourth, but that ultimately was enough for the Brit to equal Juan Manuel Fangio’s five titles and clinch yet another title here at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Hamilton’s race engineer, Peter ‘Bonno’ Bonnington was right in saying that this title was won through a lot of hard work, although there perhaps is an argument that luck too was a factor given Ferrari’s numerous blunders which is another matter for a piece coming later this week.
Either way, the drivers’ title might not have been sealed with a win as Hamilton wanted but the big question now is, can he keep this momentum going or will he tail off as preparations for 2019 begin?
Verstappen on Fire
If there’s anyone who has carried their momentum from Austin down to Mexico City, its Max Verstappen who was metaphorically on fire throughout the weekend.
Right from the get go, Verstappen was on pace with nobody really able to match his speed around here whilst Ferrari and Mercedes struggled against Renault in opening practice sessions.
Speaking after Friday Practice, Verstappen put his performance down to the car having ‘good downforce and good mechanical grip.’ which certainly was evident in every session apart from last Q3 runs, when “the rear was locking whilst I was off throttle during cornering.”
That meant that teammate, Daniel Ricciardo denied him pole and the record of being youngest ever pole sitter.
Perhaps Ricciardo did a great thing in taking pole because Verstappen entered Sunday with extra motivation to win, which was evident at the start by his clever approach to Turn One of late braking on the inside before racing off to a comfortable win.
This win however is Verstappen’s second run of 3,2,1 results across three races so the pressure is on in Brazil to maintain that momentum, and avoid a repeat of Silverstone when he retired late on after winning the previous race in Austria.
After Friday practice, nobody would of predicted Sauber to be one of the weekend’s big shocks as they secured a stunning double top ten result in both Qualifying and Race.
Whatever changes Sauber made overnight from Friday into Saturday clearly worked because Marcus Ericsson described it as ‘a great team effort, by both the team at the track as well as in the factory.’
Despite qualifying on the hypersofts, both Ericsson and Charles Leclerc drove stunning races to improve on where they started race to record Sauber’s second double points finish of a campaign for first time since 2015.
Easily the most improved team throughout weekend but Brazil will bring a different test, especially if get rain.
Brilliant VandoorneEmbed from Getty Images
Having suffered yet another Q1 exit, Stoffel Vandoorne passed under radar after a brilliant drive to eighth which could be key come Abu Dhabi for McLaren in the constructors’ championship.
After his usual poor Friday and Saturday, its difficult to say exactly how he pulled off this incredible result after finishing the opening lap at back of field. Although various retirements played a part, Vandoorne puts his four points down to ‘good overtakes’ but considers the tyres to be the crucial factor.
Speaking after race about what ultimately helped him finish in eighth, Vandoorne said; “The crucial point was when we had to decide whether to go for one or two stops.
The tyres were looking very tricky, but we managed to recover them little bit and that was the turning point.”
With Force India on a roll, Sergio Perez definitely would of been expecting some success at his home race.
Sadly, this weekend proved rather difficult with the tyres being very difficult to manage and the team’s ‘long game’ approach ultimately didn’t pay off after Perez retired with brake failure from what could of been a brilliant mid top-ten finish.
Nevertheless, the Mexican was upbeat in saying that “Sometimes in racing you have these big disappointments when there is an issue with the car.” That is sort of the attitude to have despite the “big shame” of retiring from home race because there are others who are experiencing that type of disappointment on a regular basis.
Team Principal, Otmar Szafnauer however sees this as ‘a missed opportunity’ for a huge haul of points now that McLaren are 15 points clear in the race for sixth, as a result of Vandoorne’s eighth placed finish.
Missed any of the first ten race weekends and want to get up to date? Click on any of the hyperlinks below to go and check out my round up of the weekend/s.