Here we go again gear-heads, it is the Mexican Grand Prix in America’s largest metropolitan city, Mexico City. A shorter track than COTA in Austin so there are 71 laps this Sunday and because of the elevation adds an extra wrinkle into the mix. Reports going into the weekend favouring Mercedes to finally come good and get the victory that they have been fighting to get but have been unsuccessful. Tyre selection will be crucial as the weather in La Ciudad will be warm and sunny. Since everything is sown up at thetop the only battles are for the lower positions and an outside chance of 2nd and 3rd switching places. So would Mercedes finally get their maiden win of the season or would Ferrari prove too fast on Sunday? Not to be left out of contention for the top half is Valtteri Bottas, who was able to hit P6 on Saturday in between the two Ferraris. Would the Flying Finn have something to show this Sunday or would another mid-level driver come to the forefront and stake a claim?
He does it again folks! In a race where his team’s rivals were poised to mount an attack, the Dutchman and Red Bull emerged victorious. Max again dealt with a problematic pit albeit not as slow as in Austin, but enough to allow both Mercedes the positions at the top.
Patiently they gathered momentum so when Hamilton and Russell both pitted for hard tyres to finish out the race, Max took the bull by the horns and finished off Lewis and Toto’s hopes for a Mercedes victory this season. This is 14 race wins on the year, putting Max ahead ofSchumacher and Vettel for most wins in a calendar year. His car has been the best and his team has been second to none. There’s not much more to say other than we might be in the midst of something beyond special; a generation of talent has only seen a few times before. You might have to start to mention Max among the greats now.
On home soil, the Red Bull number 2 was really up for it. He didn’t put a foot wrong and was rewarded for his efforts. The gamble was from the pit crew and their strategy put each Max and Sergio on medium tyres and got very lucky none of the challengers thought to put on soft slicks. These guys are home and away the best team this year and are positioning themselves to start another dynasty run. It was a touching moment to see Checo in front of his people with his dad and family having genuine moments together.
Another all-star from the weekend was the Aussie, the Honey Badger himself, Daniel Ricciardo. It didn’t come easy for him and famously he made a huge error to put his day in jeopardy by causing a collision with Yuki Tsunoda resulting in a 10-second penalty later to be adjudicated after the finish. So Daniel being Daniel raced his tail off and proved that among the 20 drivers he still has a ton to offer. I for one am going to miss him for next season it looks like he going to take a sabbatical and re-join the grid in 2024. But let’s focus on today; McLaren made a bold call and for once it favoured Daniel. The team fitted him with soft tyres towards the latter stages of the race, which paid dividends. So much so that he went from P12 to P7. The gamble paid off and he looked majestic; so much so that the ten-second penalty didn’t do much of anything to prevent him from it as he gained 11 seconds on Esteban Ocon after the penalty was levied. It was vintage stuff and I loved it.
After weeks and weeks of suffering from crashes, spin-outs, or engine failures, Valtteri was among the points again. The Finnish driver has been having a bit of a hard go since moving to Alfa Romeo after being in Mercedes for so long. It must be a gut check to see if you are made for the sport and have what it takes or if you have been lucky in being part of one of the most dominant points of racing with Mercedes. Sitting here now and recalling the race I can’t say that I remember anything spectacular but I know that when his team felt the pressure from Aston Martin it was Bottas that led the charge. Hanging on to P10 from starting P6 on the face of it doesn’t seem like a victory but because the expectations for this team are what they are, it’s hard not to celebrate this. Good job Valtteri, now get some coffee and chill out before Brazil
Now gear-heads, off to the losers from the weekend!
As someone who actively roots for this team I am left struggling with positives from this weekend to say. This is ultimately why they are in this section. Starting P5 and P7, there was no charge towards the top and no real challenge from them to suspect that they are going to do much of anything to prevent Mercedes from snatching P2 in the constructor’s championship. And this felt like much of what the season has been wrapped in one race, meh. It is this if it’s not falling over themselves or engines exploding. I am sure they are looking forward to the end of the season to sort themselves out and attack 2023 and I hope they do exactly that.
It looked like the day was looking good for Fernando but as luck would have it for another time this season his engine exploded and it was all over for the Spaniard. This felt like another straw-breaking camel’s back moment for Alonso, he went from the tires beingfantastic and everything was grand to agony in the span of a few laps. He feels like he just wants to be somewhere else.
Another bad day at the office for Aston Martin on the way to sixth position, all the momentum they had going for them seemed to have slipped away. Having to start from P16 in Vettel and P20 for stroll certainly did put them in a prime position to do much of anything. Equally frustrating was the fact that Alfa Romeo was able to get more points through Bottas and that separated them ever so slightly ahead. For this reason, alone they lost out.
All right, gear-heads, this was a race where the tyres were all the story. The top six places all elected to stay on mediums in the case of Red Bull and hards for Mercedes. And for my money, the hards were just the wrong tyre to mount any sort of attack and the back of the pack with nothing to lose was the faster of the cars on the soft tyres. I wonder how Mercedes would have managed on the soft tyres for example. Credit McLaren for giving Daniel the softs and we saw what he was able to do even with the ten-second penalty.
This is a race left with too many what-ifs and not enough answers other than Max is on another planet with his perfect wingman in Perez and the others are left wandering the wilderness.
Now we head into another break to relocate to Sao Paolo and the Brazilian Grand Prix. Two more races for Lewis and the Silver Arrow to claim a victory at the site he went from P20 on Saturday going into the sprint race to P1 on Sunday. Certainly, Mercedes aren’t going to fumble the bag again and allow Max and company more glory. Have McLaren enough to snag the fourth spot from Alpine? Has Aston Martin done anything to challenge Alfa Romeo for the sixth position? Who knows but I can tell I’ll be ready to watch!
Check in next week to find out who left the track as a winner or loser. Till next week gear-heads!