8 things we learnt from the Mexico GP

Recap the Mexico GP with eight talking points from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez.

Hamilton won but Rosberg moved within a victory of the title. Verstappen finished in third, was demoted to fifth and then promoted to fourth. While Vettel thought he had a deserved podium before a post-race pen took it away.

1) Hamilton eases to victory

Without a win since Germany, Hamilton went Stateside and controlled the United States Grand Prix to pick up his first win since the summer break. But what next for Hamilton in Mexico?

Another dominant race.

Practice had shown Mercedes to be on top, Ferrari to be on top and then Red Bull came out on top. But in qualifying, Hamilton was on top. Storming Q3 to leave his rivals far off his provisional pace. And continued his form into the race.

He may have got lucky at the first corner when he skipped across the grass without a penalty. But he did heavily lock his tyres and have to run with the flat spots come the restart. Yet even from here, he was away with race-winning pace.

Hamilton also has now reduced Rosberg’s championship lead in back-to-back weekends – leaving him now 19-points down on his team-mate with two races to go.

Two races to go, however, may prove to be too short of a window for Lewis to turn things around.

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Nico Rosberg during the 2016 Mexico GP Drivers’ Parade. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

 

2) Rosberg within a win of glory

In America, a Virtual Safety Car handed Nico a free pit stop over Ricciardo and almost handed the German second place. And in Mexico, Verstappen’s single attempt at getting ahead proved unsuccessful and Rosberg came home second to Hamilton once more.

Finishing in second place also ensured Hamilton would not reduce Nico’s championship lead by more than the minimal seven points as well. Meaning should Rosberg win in Brazil in a fortnight’s time, the title is the German’s, as he would hold at least a 26-point lead with just 25 to play for.

Hamilton, on the other hand, would have to win in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, while hoping Rosberg finishes both in third place. Or that over the course of both races, he wins while Rosberg scores 20-points fewer than he is able to.

3) Corner cutting double standards?

The rulings of corner cutting in Mexico came under scrutiny with different drivers fairing differently to the stewards’ decisions.

Particularly on the opening lap, when the leading two – Hamilton and Rosberg – were handed no penalties for their corner cutting. But later into the race, when defending from Vettel, Verstappen was handed a time penalty that would strip him of his podium position.

For Hamilton’s incident, he locked up heavily into the first corner when tyres and brakes were cooling and entry speeds would differ to a racing lap. With his lock up ensuring he would not be able to slow for the first corner. And rather than cut back and try to emerge onto the crowded track, he cut across the grass and retained his lead.

But for Hamilton to be penalised, a clear advantage would have had to be gained. But with Rosberg cutting turn two while racing Verstappen, it was not clear how much time – if any – Hamilton actually made up.

Yet Rosberg’s incident, which also did not see him receive a penalty, was slightly more clear-cut in terms of an advantage being gained.

For Rosberg had run deeper into the first corner, allowing Verstappen to come alongside. And when Nico initially turned right to position himself for T2, he made slight wheel-to-wheel contact with the Red Bull who had not left any room for Nico to return into. Not that he was required to, however, as he had his nose ahead.

Yet, despite Verstappen being a nose ahead on the apex, Rosberg cut across the grass – less so than Hamilton – and returned ahead of Verstappen, seeing Rosberg retain second place.

Then during the final stages, the third key incident occurred when Verstappen defended from Vettel.

For like Hamilton, Verstappen locked up at the first corner and cut across the grass before re-emerging ahead of the Ferrari at turn three. But unlike Hamilton, Verstappen received a five-second-time penalty for leaving the track and gaining a lasting advantage. With this penalty initially taking third-place away from Verstappen and awarding it to Vettel.

Ricciardo and Vettel collide during the 2016 Mexico Grand Prix. Copyright @F1.

Ricciardo and Vettel collide during the 2016 Mexico Grand Prix. Copyright @F1. 

4) Contact penalty double standards?

Like the corner cutting stewarding, certain decisions on contact made during the Mexican Grand Prix showed a potential level of double standards.

For while drivers such as Vettel and Sainz were handed penalties during or after the race. Drivers such as Gutierrez and Raikkonen did not receive any form of punishment. Despite Esteban’s contact leading to a driver being forced to retire.

Starting with Gutierrez, the Mexican enjoying his first home Grand Prix started the race with a great initial launch. But as he became boxed in, he was unable to gain any positions down the main straight or into the first corner. Then heading into turn three, Esteban made contact with the rear of Pascal Wehrlein – sending the Manor into Marcus Ericsson and forcing Pascal to retire while Ericsson was left with front wing damage. However, the stewards investigated and deemed no driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for the collision.

As for Raikkonen, he too did not receive any form of punishment or even an investigation for his overtake on Hulkenberg. As when Kimi made his way around the outside of the Force India, Nico was sent into a spin.

On the other hand, Carlos Sainz was handed a five-second-time penalty for forcing Fernando Alonso off track in the exit of turn three.

And then the biggest penalty of the race was handed to Sebastian Vettel after the race.

For after Verstappen had retained P3 from Vettel by cutting across the grass at turn one, Verstappen then began to coincidentally hold the Ferrari up and allow his Red Bull team-mate to gain time over the pair. And then when Ricciardo made a lunge down Vettel’s inside at turn four, Vettel made a defensive move after already braking. A breach of the new Race Director’s note that was enforced in America to stop drivers moving in the braking zone after a heated driver’s meeting following Verstappen’s defence of Hamilton in Japan.

Vettel was then handed a 10-second-time penalty hours after the race concluded. Taking the podium position back away from Ferrari and handing it to Red Bull. But in the hands of Ricciardo, rather than Verstappen. Despite Daniel crossing the line in fifth.

5) Fiery and fruity Vettel on radio

Having been unable to get ahead of Verstappen when the Red Bull drove across the grass, Vettel let out a tyrant of rage over team radio. Swearing at Verstappen, F1 race director Charlie Whiting and inciting violence against “someone”.

The indirect messages to Charlie particularly caused controversy. As while his anger at Verstappen showed his emotion, swearing at Formula One’s ‘referee’ could see Vettel heavily penalised by the FIA for bringing the sport into disrepute.

For context, Vettel’s rage was related to Verstappen not allowing Vettel ahead after the Red Bull cut across the grass. But while Red Bull suggested Max should give the position to the German, Max agreed to once an official order was made. Something Ferrari did not tell their driver. In fact, Ferrari told Vettel that Verstappen had been told to move aside.

Following the outcome of the race, and Vettel’s radio rant, Verstappen then spoke to SkySportsF1. Where he described Vettel as “a very frustrated guy”.

“It’s ridiculous what he did,” Verstappen told Sky F1. “Daniel was alongside him and he just turned into him. Then he is shouting and l don’t know how many times he is using very bad language. I think he needs to go back to school. It’s just ridiculous. I will speak to him. He is always frustrated. He is just a very frustrated guy.”

6) Super durable medium Pirellis

While the Virtual Safety Car was enforced on the opening lap when Wehrlein was forced to retire, Marcus Ericsson pitted for a front wing change and Jolyon Palmer pitted following his pit lane start – with both taking on a set of medium tyres.

And while Pirelli suggested a limit of 22 laps on softs and 18 on supersofts, no limit was suggested for the ‘back-up’ mediums. A limit both Ericsson and Palmer lived to as they completed the entire duration of the race on a single set of tyres. Seeing both complete a 69-lap stint each, while multiple other drivers also carried out 50+ laps on a single set of mediums.

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Marcus Ericsson during the 2016 Mexico Grand Prix. Copyright Sauber F1 Team.

7) Sauber comes so close yet so far

Having stopped on the opening lap, Marcus Ericsson’s one-stop strategy saw the Swedish driver carry consistent pace throughout the race as he brought his Sauber car home in 11th place. Just one place outside the points.

Had Marcus been able to catch the scrap between Massa and Perez for ninth – a fight that ended just half a second apart – he may have been able to claim his first point(s) of the season. Having finished just outside the points on three previous occasions.

Had he been able to score his, and Sauber’s, first point of the season, Ericsson would also have moved Sauber above Manor in the Constructor’s Championship. With Manor still on just a single point, but Sauber would have had the better non-points finishes.

But while Ericsson ended the day in Mexico just one place outside the points, Marcus came home 41-seconds behind Perez.

Hamilton and Mercedes celebrate victory at the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Hamilton and Mercedes celebrate victory at the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

 8) Mercedes nearly pitted Hamilton from the lead

Following Lewis’ severe lock up at the start of the race, Mercedes contemplated bringing Hamilton into the pits for a change of tyres due to his severe flat-spots causing critical vibrations.

Had the team carried out an unscheduled pit stop, this could have had dire effects on Hamilton’s thin title retention hopes. As it would have taken the lead of the race away from him – and potentially leaving Lewis stuck in traffic like McLaren found themselves in once they carried out their first stops.

“I had a glazed right front so it locked up and I had no choice but to go across the grass,” explained Hamilton to SkyF1. “After this the vibration was so big I was like ‘there is no way I am going to make, I’ll have to pit’. That would have been my race over.”

Toto Wolff also explained to Sky that: “The vibration metrics were scary from the beginning.
“Simon [Cole, Mercedes’ track engineer] and I had a private conversation on the radio whether we should pit him for safety reasons.
“In any other race we would have pitted him and lost the race. We kept him out there in order to not throw away the championship for him.”