Tuesday 20 February 2018 / 04:44 PM


“Simply lovely” was how Max Verstappen described his victory in the Mexican Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton had his worst race of the season but did enough to clinch his fourth Drivers Championship title.

The first practice session saw the cars struggling for grip as the cool conditions, tricky track and altitude worked against the cars. Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes was the fastest ahead of teammate Hamilton, with both Red Bulls and Ferraris behind. Force India’s reserve driver Alfonso Celis stepped in for Esteban Ocon in front of his home crowd, but his joy was short-lived as he crashed into the wall and damaged the rear of the car which briefly brought out the red flags.

Kiwi Brendon Hartley, in his second Grand Prix, continued to be dogged by reliability issues in his car in FP1.

Daniel Ricciardo set a new track record in Free Practice 2 with Hamilton and Verstappen very close behind. It was another tricky session for the cars, with Hamilton, Hartley and Lance Stroll all having spins, while Romain Grosjean’s Haas had a tyre failure causing him to spin and littering the track with debris which brought out the red flags. Max Verstappen suffered reliability issues once again and had a limited session, but his car was rectified without any component changes required.

Day 2 again saw cars struggling with tyre temperatures causing all cars to ease into their session, with some having slips and small spins. Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso was hampered by engine issues, restricting him to a handful of laps. Verstappen topped the lap times with Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas and Ricciardo all hot on his tail, with just a quarter of a second separating the five cars.

The first qualifying session saw both Saubers and Haas cars fail to advance to Q2 while Gasly’s car didn’t even get out of the garage. Hamilton and Bottas led the times from Verstappen and Vettel. Reliability hampered the second qualifying session with both McLarens failing to set a time while Hartley’s Toro Rosso failed to set a time. Both Williams cars failed to do enough to advance to Q3. Verstappen was the quickest with Vettel the only one coming close to him. Verstappen set a very strong pace and briefly looked set to be the youngest Pole sitter, however the holder of that record, Sebastian Vettel pipped him with a stunning lap to claim Pole.

Vettel, Hamilton and Verstappen were three wide approaching the first turn, Verstappen won out while Vettel and Hamilton touched, causing Vettel some front wing damage while Hamilton picked up a puncture, requiring both to pit. Vettel returned in second last place while Hamilton was further back in last place.

Ricciardo’s Red Bull received a grid penalty for replacing the turbo and dropped down to 16th place for the start. He climbed to 7th place after just 4 laps, but 2 laps later his car was retired for the second race in succession, due to an issue with the new turbo.

On lap 22 the first-placed Verstappen lapped the last-placed Hamilton, which was the first time Hamilton had been lapped in a race since Spain in 2013.

On lap 26, Hulkenberg’s car retired for the fourth time in the last five races. That saw Vettel climb into the top 10. Five laps later Vettel was up to eighth after Ericsson pitted and then Vettel passed Alonso. Hamilton also began his move through the field at the back.

Hartley’s engine gave up on lap 32 which brought out a Virtual Safety Car, which saw a lot of activity in the pit lane, with Verstappen and Bottas changing tyres which ensured the Red Bull

On lap 51 Vettel passed Perez and four laps later he passed Stroll to move into fifth place, while Hamilton passed Vandoorne to move into 11th place. He then passed Massa on lap 57 to move into the points. Vettel passed Ocon soon after to move into fourth place, 23 seconds behind his third-place team mate Raikkonen; he needed to finish second to keep his Championship hopes alive.

With three laps remaining, Hamilton and Alonso had a great battle, with the Brit winning out to move into ninth, where he remained to become a four-time world champion, making him the most successful British driver, surpassing Jackie Stewart. He’s now one of just five drivers to win at least four world titles.

Final Standings (Top 10)
1 – Verstappen (Red Bull)
2 – Bottas (Mercedes)
3 – Raikkonen (Ferrari)
4 – Vettel (Ferrari)
5 – Ocon (Force India)
6 – Stroll (Williams)
7 – Perez (Force India)
8 – Magnussen (Haas)
9 – Hamilton (Mercedes)
10 – Alonso (McLaren)

Drivers Championship (Top 10)
1 – Hamilton – 333 – Champion
2 – Vettel – 277
3 – Bottas – 262
4 – Ricciardo – 192
5 – Raikkonen – 178
6 – Verstappen – 148
7 – Perez – 92
8 – Ocon – 83
9 – Sainz – 54
10 – Stroll – 40

Constructors Championship
1 – Mercedes – 595 – Champions
2 – Ferrari – 455
3 – Red Bull – 340
4 – Force India – 175
5 – Williams – 76
6 – Toro Rosso – 53
7 – Renault – 48
8 – Haas – 47
9 – McLaren – 24
10 – Sauber – 5

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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