Rosberg converts frustrations into victory in Mexico, Ham the Champ second; Bottas P3 for Williams despite another scrap with Raikkonen
Nico Rosberg was desperate to put last week’s dreadful US Grand Prix behind him, where he threw away both the race win and simultaneously handed his nemesis and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton his second consecutive Drivers’ Championship. With his own championship dreams extinguished, Rosberg channelled his immense frustartion at coming out second best to the Englishman yet again into a superlative race weekend at the tricky Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez near Mexico City. Rosberg had the first race treble of his career at F1’s return to Mexico after a 23-year absence with pole position, the race’s fastest lap and the win. After his hat-throwing tantrum post-race in Austin, it was Rosberg who happily donned the sombrero of victory by turning teammate Hamilton into the also-ran, if only for this one weekend. It was Rosberg’s fourth win of the season against Hamilton’s dominant 10 victories and, while Hamilton could be heard second-guessing his team’s trie strategy at times, it definitely looked like Rosberg had the measure of the circuit just that little bit more so than Hamilton. But the question that will be always be asked of Nico until he can win a championship of his own is: why can’t he perform as flawlessly when the pressure’s still on?
All even went Rosberg’s way in terms of the overall driver standings when Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who was uncharacteristically flustered all race long after a first lap coming together with Red bull’s Daniel Roccoardo left him seriously behind the 8-ball with a puncture. The normally self-assured German former 4-time World Champ then succumbed to the temptation to overdrive his car to make up for his lost positions, which was courting disaster on the treacherous newly laid asphalt of Hermanos Rodríguez and the downforce-robbing thin air of the 7500-foot-above-sea-level circuit. Sure enough, after an earlier spin Vettel completely lost the back end on Lap 53 and crashed his Prancing Horse into the barriers on Turn 7, dealing the car terminal damage. To make matters worse for Ferrari, their other driver Kimi Raikkonen had another coming together with his countryman, Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, on Lap 24 eerily similar to their race-ruing tussle in Russia a few weeks back. This time it was Raikkonen’s car that was immediately ruined with a broken rear suspension while Bottas was left miraculously unscathed. With Vettel & Raikkonen both failing to finish, it was Ferrari’s first double-DNF since Australia in 2006. And Vettel’s failure to score points put him at a 21-point disadvantage to Roseberg for second in the Drivers’ standings with only two more Grand Prix remaining. All in all, a lost weekend in South of the Border for the legendary team from Maranello.
On the flip side, Bottas not only survived his encounter with Raikkonen but he thrive. He used clever tire strategy and the Williams excellent straight line speed to fight his way onto the podium with a very strong 3rd place finish. His teammate Felipe Massa was not quite as successful despite being very fast through the speed trap all weekend long and had to settle for P6. Still, after their double retirement at COTA last Sunday it was a much-needed points haul for Williams and should set them up nicely to hold off Red Bull for 3rd in the Constructors’ standings as the contests dwindle to two. Red Bull managed a pretty good day for themselves, however, with Daniil Kvyat just bested by Bottas and finishing fourth and Daniel Ricciardo a scrappy P5 despite the opening lap incident with Vettel. Force India also did well, though perhaps not quite according to script, with German Nico Hulkenberg recovering from last race’s front wing-related crash to take P7 and Mexican native son Sergio Perez slightly behind his teammate in P8. Nevertheless, the packed grandstands resounded with cheers for their countryman all weekend long and no doubt this is a race that the talented “Checo” Perez will remember all his life.
Rounding out the top 10, rookie Max Verstappen was 9th for Toro Rosso and Romain Grosjean was P10 for Lotus.
Top 10 finishers in Mexico:
|4||DANIIL KVYAT||RUS||RED BULL RACING||+16.572s||12|
|5||DANIEL RICCIARDO||AUS||RED BULL RACING||+19.682s||10|
|7||NICO HULKENBERG||GER||FORCE INDIA||+25.860s||6|
|8||SERGIO PEREZ||MEX||FORCE INDIA||+34.343s||4|
|9||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NED||TORO ROSSO||+35.229s||2|
With over 130,00 fans in attendance for yesterday’s race and huge crowds for practice & qualifying, as well, the Mexican Grand Prix made a triumphant return to the F1 schedule. While the expected rain never materialized on Sunday to make it two wet race weekends in a row, it was still a very challenging contest as teams struggled to come to grips with cooling issues and the loss of downforce, both caused by the high altitude, as well as the very slippery freshly laid asphalt. Coming as it does one week after Austin, the two GPs just feel like a well-matched tandem, not to mention the two races’ timing in terms of their potential as Championship deciders near the end of the grueling F1 season. Here’s hoping Bernie and the teams keep Mexico right where it is on the schedule for next year. It certainly deserves to be.
In other news, Mexican national and current Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez has been signed to be second driver for the debut of US-based Haas F1. The 24-year-old last competed in F1 in 2014 for Sauber and will join Lotus’ Romain Grosjean on the Haas team for next year.
The next race is the penultimate one of the season and the race weekend is from November 13-15 at the always challenging Interlagos in Brazil. Hope to see you then!