Verstappen dominates Mexican Grand Prix to extend F1 championship lead
- Red Bull’s Verstappen extends championship lead to 19 points with Mexican win
- Dutchman claims his ninth win of the season
- Hamilton defeated again as season finale draws closer
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen dominated the Mexican Grand Prix to further extend his lead in the 2021 Formula One World Championship.
The Dutchman qualified third but took the lead at the first corner and led almost every lap to take his ninth win of the season, a long way clear of title rival Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, with local hero Sergio Perez becoming the first Mexican driver to stand on the podium at his home race.
The race was pretty much decided at the first turn, as Verstappen launched from the second row and took advantage of the slipstream from pole man Valtteri Bottas and the Finnish driver’s Mercedes teammate Hamilton, to take the lead around the outside of the first corner
As Verstappen held the perfect line, Hamilton moved into second while Bottas was tagged from behind by McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and was spun down to the tail of the field. The incident forced the majority of the field into taking evasive action, but still there were casualties as Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Haas’ Mick Schumacher were eliminated.
Verstappen’s lead was wiped out as the safety car was deployed, but he made a perfect restart to establish an immediate advantage over Hamilton, while the Dutchman’s teammate Perez held third.
The championship leader’s pace advantage was obvious, lapping consistently quicker than Hamilton throughout the first half of the race to establish an eight second lead ahead of the pit stops.
Hamilton was the first to stop, and when he resumed, the advantage of the fresh tyres was made clear as he began to carve into Verstappen’s lead, despite being stuck behind Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc on his out lap. Thankfully for the seven-time champion, the Monegasque driver pitted a lap later, allowing Hamilton to really show the advantage of the new tyres.
With the prospect of a Hamilton pass for the lead being realistic within a few laps, Verstappen pitted his Red Bull while a comfortable advantage was still possible, and he resumed a few seconds clear of his rival.
That stop though created a bit of history, as his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez became the first Mexican driver to ever lead a lap of their home Grand Prix, as he stayed out longer than both Verstappen and Hamilton as he tried an alternate strategy.
When Perez stopped though, Verstappen retook the lead and pulled away easily from Hamilton again, who had no answer for the championship leader’s speed.
Clearly defeated, Hamilton was left to fend off Perez, who needed to take second place to give Red Bull the lead in the Constructor’s World Championship, and had much fresher tyres. The Mexican closed a gap of several seconds down to just under a second with 10 laps to go, which gave him use of the drag reduction system overtaking device. But after a couple of laps, Hamilton was able to re-establish a cushion above the one second barrier to give him clear air.
Perez, who was perhaps recharging his batteries, got back within range inside the last two laps, but Hamilton ultimately had him covered.
Neither though had an answer for Verstappen, who claimed his ninth win of the year, over 16 seconds clear of Hamilton and Perez, and moved 19 points clear in the world championship battle.
Hamilton’s second place was the 178th podium of his record-breaking F1 career, while Perez was on the podium for the third successive race for the first time in his career.
Pierre Gasly claimed fourth for Alpha Tauri, ahead of Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. The duo had briefly changed positions as they fought to catch and pass Gasly, but when Sainz failed to catch the Frenchman, the order was switched back.
Sebastian Vettel was seventh for Aston Martin ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen in eighth, with Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Lando Norris (McLaren) completing the top-10.
Poleman Bottas fought back to 15th, having made two late pit stops in an effort to take the race’s fastest lap and deny Verstappen from scoring the extra bonus point. His mission was successful, with the side effect of also keeping Mercedes at the head of the Constructor’s standings by just a single point.
The field heads to the famous Interlagos circuit in Brazil next weekend for the final event in the current triple-header, with races in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to follow after that.
Richard Randle is a motorsport PR professional working with the UK’s top racing circuits and the UK’s premier single-seater category, the BRDC British F3 Championship.