Mexico Grand Prix driver ratings – plus my pick for driver of the day
As you will know by now, this season I’ve been looking back on the Grands Prix from a slightly different angle. I’ve said all I’m going to say about the cars and the future of F1 with my top 11 suggestions for how to fix the sport, so I’ll say no more and wait for the Ross Brawn revolution.
Meanwhile in my pre-season column back in March I made my predictions as to how I reckon the intra-team qualifying rivalry is going to shape up – so now it’s time to see how those rivalries develop.
There might only be one winner of the Grand Prix but for the drivers your biggest opposition is your team-mate so there are actually ten winners and ten losers!
Although in Mexico there was something a little extra for one winner as Lewis Hamilton finally crossed the line to pick up his fifth World Championship after what was probably his most accomplished season.
He has truly matured into an all-time great and Michael Schumacher’s record numbers no longer look quite as out of reach as we all thought!
However the drive of the day came from the young pretender who should have been given it in USA had it not been for Kimi, as Max Verstappen drove another awesome race.
MY DRIVER OF THE DAY: MAX VERSTAPPEN 10/10
The only thing that spoilt it being a perfect weekend for Max Verstappen was when he was shocked to find his teammate Daniel Ricciardo had stolen his age record-breaking pole position by just 0.026secs.
Once again the teenage tantrums returned as he bemoaned braking issues, but the perfect start saw him take the lead and he simply sailed into the distance and controlled the race from then on.
For Daniel it was his third pole and the only one outside of the confines of Monte Carlo. I’m not sure even he knew where the time came from, but everyone loves to see him smile! Too much wheel spin at the start dropped him back but he was doing a great job hanging on to second place when his car let him down again.
Another Class B win for Renault and once again it was Nico Hulkenberg behind the wheel. The only problem was that the team that wants to turn the Big Three into a Big Four was lapped not just once but twice!
OK, Mexico is one of the shorter tracks, but I actually prefer it that way. Mexico fans get the see the cars flash by 71 times while here in Britain we get only 52. Not sure the Big Three were so keen though as they forever seemed to be lapping cars!
Having been forced to start on the much maligned Hypersoft tyres, Nico managed to make them last sufficiently long to do a one-stop race and finish well clear of the rest.
Although outqualified by his teammate, Carlos Sainz got ahead on the opening lap and was still in front when his engine decided to shut itself down.
After three rather lacklustre weekends, Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc was back to his best in Mexico. Both Saubers decided to go for Q3 with the Hypersoft tyres that they would then have to start the race on and they lined up 9th and 10th albeit 0.325secs apart which is a lot on such a short track.
Both followed Renault on a one-stop tyre conservation run and were rewarded with two top ten finishes at the end. The only downside being that Marcus, hobbled by team tactics and a slow pitstop, was nearly half a minute behind his teammate and there was McLaren in-between them – and it wasn’t driven by Fernando Alonso!
Quite why it’s all gone so wrong for Stoffel Vandoorne no-one knows. Being matched against one of the greatest has been a hard task. He’s arguably done as well against Alonso as Bottas has against Hamilton this year, yet he is set to join the Formula One refugee circus in Formula E for next year.
A long professional career will doubtless follow, just not the one that so many predicted. So, it was good to see him have a solid weekend in Mexico. Still outqualified by Alonso but only by 0.109secs, a strong one-stop race brought him a well deserved 8th placed finish while poor old Fernando’s race was finished not long after it had started with debris blocking his airways and boiling his engine.
Being third best in Mexico was not quite what Ferrari might have expected after their win in the USA but that’s where they looked like being after qualifying.
However strong races by both drivers saw them battle past the Mercedes with their cars seeming to come alive when fitted with the medium, Supersoft, tyre. Kimi seemed to suffer more that Seb with the Ultrasofts they started on, but he also lost ground stuck behind the tardy Bottas.
Whether Seb would have got past Ricciardo we’ll never know but the Ferrari pair ended the weekend happier than they had started it with two drivers on the podium.
I can never make my mind up as to whether I like all this Pirelli compound malarkey or not. If everyone had the same durable tyre that could last all race if you wanted it to, I fear the racing would be more processional - but then I don’t really like gimmicks to improve the show in our sport’s premier division!
As it is, Mercedes had a weekend to forget, whatever colour there was on the sidewall, their cars simply destroyed the tyres leaving both drivers to hobble to the finish – not quite the way Lewis Hamilton would have dreamed of picking up his fifth world title!
For Valtteri Bottas things were even more embarrassing: 0.266secs down in qualifying and then lapped before the finish – while there’s still an Ocon about, I’d be checking the small print in his contract!
It all seems to be getting a little tense down at Toro Rosso with Brendon Hartley feeling the need to claim Gasly’s car wasn’t slowed by damage in USA and he was the faster driver while the Red Bull hierarchy have pissed off Nissan big time by approaching Formula E contracted Alexander Albon with a view to him taking the Kiwi’s seat next year.
While Pierre simply smiles his way forwards dreaming of his Red Bull future and fighting back from a grid penaltied 20th to a point scoring 10th, Brendon failed in his effort to get into Q3 – after Gasly had been 8th in P3 – dropped to the back after flat spotting his tyres on the opening lap and then ended the day where he started, in 14th thanks partly to a five second penalty for clouting Ocon.
Both Williams drivers did their best and you have to be impressed by the cars' reliability if not outright speed. Lance Stroll was the one to come out on top this weekend, a couple of tenths up in qualifying and a couple of seconds ahead by the end of the race – they even had a couple of cars behind them.
If it’s not Ocon alongside George Russell next year I hope Sergey Sirotkin will get another chance as, with Lance being measured against Perez, the Russian would be a good benchmark for our young British hopeful. Please let it not be Esteban Gutierrez who was shopping around with his Mexican pesos or we’ll just have another journeyman in F1 who’s already had his chance and failed to impress.
Force India had a weekend to forget trying to be too clever with tyres and then struggling to make much of an impression in the race. Trying to qualify 11th and 12th on the Ultrasoft tyre in order to avoid starting on Hypersofts, the duo ended up finding Fernando Alonso in-between them going for glory on the faster tyre.
Esteban Ocon was the one in front and made a great start to move up past both Saubers before wiping his nose on the back of Hulkenberg’s Renault, sending himself pit bound and on a miserable run to 11th.
By contrast, Perez gradually worked his way forwards to the delight of his home crowd, climbing to 8th before a broken brake seal meant it was siesta time along with fellow Spanish speakers Alonso and Sainz.
If Force India had a bad weekend, I’m not sure quite how to describe fellow occasional top ten team Haas’s!
Radio messages turning blue all weekend with rants about their tyres falling apart and even when the tyres were new in qualifying the best they could do was 16th and 18th.
Magnussen was a massive 0.688secs down on Grosjean, claiming every new set had a different balance, and only ahead of the first of the two Williams by 0.09secs! A feisty start saw Kevin leapfrog his French teammate to end the first lap 14th and both of them hung around mid-pack for a while before both faded fast when they pitted to swap Supersofts for Ultrasofts that wouldn’t work, and they ended the day propping up the field with Grosjean the only one to be lapped no fewer than three times.
So, the FINAL TABLE looks like this.
10/10 - Verstappen
9/10 - Hulkenberg, Leclerc, Vandoorne, Ricciardo
8/10 - Vettel, Hamilton, Gasly, Sainz
7/10 - Raikkonen, Stroll, Perez
6/10 - Ericsson, Sirotkin
5/10 - Ocon, Alonso
4/10 - Bottas, Magnussen, Hartley
3/10 - Grosjean