I have missed a couple of Grand Prix since commenting on F1 so I would like to start this post with a brief overview of what I missed in the Far East Double bill before delving into the second part of the America’s double bill; starting with Malaysia:
• Having been off the pace in Practice, Lewis Hamilton claimed a surprise pole position for Mercedes while Sebastian Vettel did not take part due to an engine issue. It meant he started the Grand Prix 24th and last but he carved his way up to a 4th place finish.
• Hamilton led the early stages of the Grand Prix and was untroubled into turn 1 with Kimi Raikkonen failing to start but found himself passed by Max Verstappen on lap 4 and the Red Bull man went on to take victory for the final race in Sepang
• Williams secured a double points finish with Lance Stroll finishing the race 8th and Felipe Massa 9th but the Canadian was involved in a rather odd clash with Sebastian Vettel on the cooldown lap.
• Force India secured their 12th double points finish of the season with Sergio Perez finishing 6th and Ocon 10th
• Stoffel Vandoorne finished 7th for the second successive race weekend.
• In Suzuka the following weekend, Lewis Hamilton was near untouchable in terms of pace as he stormed to another pole position and broke Michael Schumacher’s ultimate track record in doing so.
• The race was not so comfortable for him in the end as lapped traffic and a loss of temperature in his tyres made for a very finish as Max Verstappen came close to finding a second victory in a row.
• Carlos Sainz ended his spell at Toro Rosso after only 7 turns as his car ended in the wall after it had been announced by Jolyon Palmer that Japan was his final race for the team over the weekend. Palmer finished his final Grand Prix 12th
• Lance Stroll finished the race in the wall after suspension failure in the esses brought his race to an end.
• Sebastian Vettel’s title challenge took a huge hit as after qualifying second, a sparked plug issue in the race forced him to retire only four laps in
All of that meant the 6th running of the US Grand Prix at The Circuit of the America’s and 17th round of the season was the first weekend the Championships could be decided. Lewis Hamilton came into the weekend leading Vettel by 59 points with 100 left to play for while Mercedes would be Constructors Champions for the fourth consecutive year if either of their drivers won the Grand Prix.
Hamilton was top of the timesheets in every session going into the race and had set a new track record in securing pole position. However, the race was not so comfortable initially as Vettel got a slightly better start off the line than Hamilton and took the lead of the race at the top of the hill; turn 1. It took Hamilton though only 6 laps to regain the lead from Vettel. The battle was far from over though despite hamilton’s comfortable pace on the super-softs tyres.Ferrari attempted the undercut which was very effective in Austin resulting in Vettel being right on Hamilton’s tail when he emerged from his pit stop on lap 21 having been 6 seconds behind. Verstappen with his blistering pace was the first driver to pit for a second time. This prompted Ferrari to do the same with Vettel in a bid to force Mercedes into a move themselves. Mercedes did not blink as they kept both drivers out while Ferrari kept Raikkonen out to potentially aid Vettel. The pair began to close down the two Finns at a rate of knots but the controversial moment occurred on the final lap. Verstappen managed to get past Raikkonen as well on the inside of turn 17 for 3rd place. Verstappen found himself penalised almost immediately but was already in the podium cool down room when the decision was announced by the stewards he had a five-second time penalty for exceeding the track limits and gaining an advantage. That meant 3rd was Raikkonen’s who was ushered into the room while the quietly devastated Verstappen was escorted out. The podium, once it was decided, was Raikkonen along with Sebastian Vettel in 2nd and Lewis Hamilton who celebrated his 62nd Grand Prix victory in F1. Olympic legend Usain Bolt conducted the podium interviews with Hamilton doing the bolt and even pouring champagne down the legends back.
I will cover the race in more detail as I review the America’s double bill in my next planned F1 post. However, this is what it did to the Championships as the F1 season moves on across the border to Mexico…
In terms of the Drivers Championship, Lewis Hamilton had not secured his fourth Championship but had edged nearer. He now holds a 66 point lead over Sebastian Vettel with 75 points available after they finished 1st and 2nd in Austin. Valtteri Bottas’s failure to win in Austin took him mathematically out of the title equation. Despite failing to finish, Daniel Ricciardo remains 4th on 192 points with Max Verstappen 6th. In the battle for best of the rest, Esteban Ocon is now only 13 points behind Sergio Perez with three races remaining while only four points sperate Felipe Massa in 10th, Nico Hulkenberg in 11th and Lance Stroll in 12th. Stoffel Vandoorne remains three points ahead of Fernando Alonso in the standings while 10th for Daniil Kvyat in Austin means he is eventually off 4 points and is level with Pascal Werhlein on 5. The Germans Sauber teammate remains the only permanent driver yet to score points.
Victory for Hamilton did, however, secure the Constructors Championship for Mercedes for the fourth year in a row. Ferrari needed to outscore Mercedes by 17 points to keep it alive until Mexico but they failed to do so. Red Bull remain comfortably third and surely, surely by now, Force India have consolidated 4th. The real battle in the Constructors to look out for is the battle in the lower midfield. Williams in 5th to Haas in 8th are separated by just 25 points meaning a good weekend for either of them or Renault or Toro Rosso could secure them a higher place in the Constructors Championship. McLaren and Sauber remain as they were coming into Austin in 9th and 10th with 23 and 5 points respectively.
Mexican Grand Prix
The Mexican Grand Prix takes place at the 4.304km Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit which was built in a public park in 1962 in the southwest Mexico City. The original circuit took its name from the park, Magdalena Mixhusa and has held all 18 of the previous Mexican Grand Prix which is now in its third spell of hosting F1 Grand Prix. The current circuit name has been in place since 1986.
It inspired by two of Mexico’s finest racers; Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez who both raced in Formula One in the 1960’s. Ricardo was first into F1 as a trialist for Ferrari in the 1961 Italian Grand Prix where at the age of 19, he became the youngest front row starter in Formula One History. He is now third in that category having been beaten by Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll in
recent years. Although Mexico did not host a Championship Grand Prix until 1963, it held a trial like non-Championship race in 1962. Ferrari did not attend prompting Ricardo to race in a Lotus24. However, the weekend would end in tragedy as he suffered a fatal incident at the final turn (Pareltada). Pedro moved into Formula One the following year with his second race being his inaugural home race.The younger Rodriguez brother established himself in Formula One and was still racing in the sport for the final race of the circuits first F1 spell in 1970. Such was the Mexican’s popularity that over 200,000 attempted to watch the race. It was more than the facilities at the circuit could accommodate leading to dangerous overflowing with supporters literally sitting by the circuit with no protective barriers.
That was enough for F1 in an era where safety was not the greatest of concerns. Pedro never won his home Grand Prix before he too had a fatal incident in 1972, racing sports cars in Germany. The Mexican Grand Prix had the season-finale spot for the most part in the 1960’s but only decided the Championship twice. John Surtees won in 1964 after Ferrari used team orders to elevate him to second after race leader and Championship rival Jim Clark fell out of contention. Graham Hill won his Championship there in 1967.
Formula One did not return to Mexico City until 1986. In the early 1980’s, the circuit underwent redevelopment with turn 1 being redesigned and new facilities built. Mexico’s return saw Gerhard Berger and the Bennetton team win their maiden Grand Prix while the 1987 race saw Nelson Piquet win on aggregate time following a lengthy delay owing to the horrific crash involving Derek Warwick. Warwick survived and so did Ayrton Senna when he veered off at Pareltada in 1991 while the turns most memorable moments was a dramatic late overtaking move by Nigel Mansell on Berger on the final lap in 1990.
Mexico’s race was moved to an early season March slot in the F1 calendar in 1992. It would be the final race held in Mexico before it’s second hiatus. The city’s continuing air pollution issues, financial issues for the circuits owners and the events profitability combined with the increasingly unpopular bumpy surface meant the race was untenable. Other racing Championships still raced in Mexico City and the path to its return to F1 started in 2011. Group Casco chairman Carlos Sim Demit initiated the process and with additional government funds eventually got his wish. The Mexican Grand Prix returned in 2015 but only after a year delay as Hermann Tilke’s redevelopment of the circuit (which for instance see’s the circuit go under the baseball stadium grandstand containing 30,000 spectators) took longer than expected. It was worth the wait with such excellent views of the F1 cars on the circuit and with it proving to be a success, is on the calendar to stay until 2019.
Last time in Mexico: 2016
Last Year, Lewis Hamilton arrived in Mexico with a 26 point deficit to teammate Nico Rosberg in the Drivers Championship with three races to go. Hamilton took pole position and victory to reduce the gap to 19 points as Rosberg finished 2nd. Behind the Mercedes pair, the final step on the podium was decided by the stewards. Max Verstappen received a five-second time penalty for leaving the circuit and gaining an advantage after he had run wide at turn 1 in battle with Vettel and retained the position. This gave 3rd place to Sebastian Vettel and he was duly escorted to the podium while Verstappen was ushered out; sound familiar? Vettel then lost the podium to Daniel Ricciardo after the stewards gave him a 10 second time penalty for the same reason as Verstappen plus a charge of driving dangerously. Vettel was evidently infuriated by this and gave an expletive-laden rant aimed at race director Charlie Whiting upon finishing the race.
2016 Mexican Grand Prix Result
1st Lewis Hamilton, 2nd Nico Rosberg, 3rd Daniel Ricciardo, 4th Max Verstappen, 5th Sebastian Vettel, 6th Kimi Raikkonen, 7th Nico Hulkenberg, 8th Valtteri Bottas, 9th Felipe Massa, 10th Sergio Perez, 11th Marcus Ericsson, 12th Jenson Button, 13th Fernando Alonso, 14th Jolyon Palmer, 15th Felipe Nasr, 16th Carlos Sainz, 17th Kevin Magnussen, 18th Daniil Kvyat, 19th Esteban Guttierez, 20th Romain Grosjean, 21st Esteban Ocon, Pascal Werhlein DNF
Drivers: Lewis Hamilton 25, Nico Rosberg 18, Daniel Ricciardo 15, Max Verstappen 12, Sebastian Vettel 10, Kimi Raikkonen 8, Nico Hulkenberg 6, Valtteri Bottas 4, Felipe Massa 2, Sergio Perez 1
Constructors: Mercedes 43, Red Bull 27, Ferrari 18, Force India 7, Williams 6
Mexican Grand Prix in Facts, Numbers and Stats
First Race: 1963
Previous Editions: 17
Number of Circuits: 1
Circuit Name: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
Circuit built: 1962
Number of turns: 17
Gear changes per lap: 52
Full Throttle: 54%
Average Speed: 196km/h
Circuit length: 4.304km
Number of laps: 71
Race Distance: 305.354km
Distance to turn 1: 970m
Low point circuit: 2226.5m above sea level (start/finish straight)
high point circuit: 2229m above sea level (turn 6)
Elevation change: 2.5m The Mexico City circuit at 2229m above sea levels is the highest altitude raced on in Formula one this season
Lap record: Nico Rosberg 1:20.521 (2015)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton 1:18.704
2016 Fastest lap: Daniel Ricciardo 1:21.134
2016 Winner: Lewis Hamilton
Times won from Pole Position: 8
Pole conversion rate: 47.06%
Lowest winning position: Alain Prost 13th (1990)
Most wins (Drivers): Jim Clark, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost (2 each)
Most Wins (Constructors): Lotus, McLaren and Williams (3 each)
Most Pole Positions (Drivers): Jim Clark 4
Most Pole Positions (Constructors): Lotus 6
Most Podiums (Drivers): Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese (4 each)
Most Podiums (Constructors): Brabham 10
Mexican Grand Prix Winners board
Drivers: Jim Clark 2, Nigel Mansell 2, Alain Prost 2,
Dan Gurney 1, Richie Ginther 1, John Surtees 1, Graham Hill 1, Denny Hulme 1, Jacky Ickz 1, Gerhard Berger 1, Ayrton Senna 1, Riccardo Patrese 1, Nico Rosberg 1, Lewis Hamilton 1
Constructors: Lotus 3, McLaren 3, Williams 3,
Ferrari 2 Mercedes 2,
Brabham 1, Honda 1, Cooper 1, Bennetton 1
Mexican Grand Prix Pole Positions
Drivers: Jim Clark 4,
Ayrton Senna 3,
Nigel Mansell 2,
John Surtees 1, Jo Siffet 1, Jack Brabham 1, Clay Reggazoni 1, Gerhard Berger 1, Riccardo Patrese 1, Nico Rosberg 1 Lewis Hamilton 1
Constructors: Lotus 6,
Williams 3, McLaren 3,
Cooper 1, Brabham 1, Ferrari 1
Mexican Grand Prix Podiums
Drivers: Jack Brabham 4, Denny Hulme 4, Ayrton Senna 4, Nigel Mansell 4, Riccardo Patrese 4,
Gerhard Berger 3, Alain Prost 3,
Jim Clark 2, Richie Ginther 2, Dan Gurney 2, John Surtees 2, Jacky Ikcz 2 Nico Rosberg 2, Lewis Hamilton 2,
Lorenzo Bandini 1, Mike Spence 1, Graham Hill 1, Bruce McLaren 1, Jackie Oliver 1, Clay Reggazoni 1, Nelson Piquet 1, Michele Alboreto 1, Michael Schumacher 1, Valtteri Bottas 1, Daniel Ricciardo 1
Constructors: Brabham 10,
BRM 1, Honda 1, Cooper 1, Tyrell 1, Red Bull 1
Mexicans in F1
Number of Mexicans on the current grid: 1
Number of Mexican’s in F1 history: 6 Ricardo Rodriguez (1961-62), Moises Solana (1963-68), Pedro Rodriguez (1963-71), Hector Rebaque (1977-81), Esteban Guttierez (2013-14, 2016), Sergio Perez (2011-present)
Number of Grand Prix starts by Mexicans: 296
Number of Grand Prix wins: 2 Pedro Rodriguez (1967 South African Grand Prix and 1970 Belgian Grand Prix)
Best Championship finish: 6th Pedro Rodriguez 1967 & 1968
Number of Podiums by Mexican drivers: 14 Pedro Rodriguez 7, Sergio Perez 7
First Podium by a Mexican driver: Pedro Rodriguez (South Africa 1967)
Last podium by a Mexican driver: Sergio Perez (2016 European Grand Prix)
Number of pole positions: 0
Mexican Constructors on the current grid: 0
Mexican Constructors in F1 history: 1 Rebaque (1978-1979)
Best Race Finish: Hector Rebaque 6th German Grand Prix 1978
Developments coming to Mexico
• In the aftermath of his grid penalty in Austin, Max Verstappen escalated the row by claiming ‘It’s just one idiot steward who always makes the decisions up there against me’. FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting defended the decision insisting, ‘The point is the stewards felt he had gained an advantage, had shortened the track, clearly, he was off the track, and he passed another car. There was no other incident at that part of the track, I can say, hand on heart, there was complete consistency there’. Verstappen has apologized coming into Mexico, ‘After a race, emotions always run high, especially when you have been taken off the podium…It was quite normal that I got angry. I could have used different words but I still think the decision wasn’t correct’.
• McLaren announced during the US Grand Prix weekend that Fernando Alonso will be remaining with the team for 2018 and will again race alongside Stoffel Vandoorne. Speaking of the announcement, the two-time world champions said, ‘It’s fantastic to be able to continue my relationship with everybody at McLaren,” said Alonso. “It was always where my heart was telling me to stay, and I really feel at home here. This is a fantastic team, full of incredible people, with a warmth and friendliness that I’ve never experienced elsewhere in Formula 1. I’m incredibly happy to be racing here. There was also a reference to McLaren’s switch from Honda power units to Renault as he expressed it is, “Just as important, McLaren has the technical resource and financial strength to be able to very quickly win races and world championships in F1. Although the last few years have not been easy, we have never forgotten how to win, and I believe we can achieve that again soon’.
• Staying with McLaren and Alonso, it has been announced coming into Mexico that he will be participating in the Daytona24 in January racing for the United Autosports team. He will be sharing the car with Lando Norris (McLaren development driver) and experienced sportscar racer Phil Hanson. Speaking about the news, Alonso reaffirmed his desire to win the ‘Triple Crown’-Monaco Grand Prix, Indy500 and LeMans24, ‘The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic US endurance race and one of the world’s great races, Everyone knows it. It’s not part of the Triple Crown but, as I have always said, my aim is to be a complete driver and this experience will help me in the preparation for any other endurance race I might take part in. Before I went to Indy, I had never driven on an oval, now I know what an oval is and how to deal with it. I am excited to go back and race in America. After the great time I had during the month of May for the Indy 500, I am looking forward to taking part in another legendary race that will bring back all those amazing sensations that US fans gave me’.
• Toro Rosso became the first team since Lotus in 1994 to name a completely different driver line-up for the second consecutive race weekend with Daniil Kvyat and Brendan Hartley taking to the wheel in Austin. They were left with a decision to make on the driver line-up for Mexico and have opted to keep Brendan Hartley in the car while Piere Gasly returns.
• That means Daniil Kvyat misses out and will likely not race in F1 for Toro Rosso again following comments from Dr Helmut Marko. Marko is quoted as saying by Auto Bild, ‘Kvyat will not return again. We do not believe he can make the turnaround in the long term. Gasly and Hartley are finishing the season. Then we’ll see what happens’. There has been no comment from Toro Rosso but it seems that the Russian’s spell in F1 may be about to end with Williams and Sauber the only other teams with decisions to make on their driver line up.
Things to look out for in the 2017 Mexican GP…
1. Will Lewis Hamilton seal his fourth Championship in Mexico? The British driver only needs 5th to claim it in Mexico City but both Hamilton and Mercedes wish to do it in the right way and will still be gunning for victory.
2. Mexico is a circuit thought to be more suited to Ferrari, could the Scuderia achieve a 1-2 in Qualifying and even take their first win since Hungary?
3. Max Verstappen had blistering pace having started 16th in Austin and with Daniel Ricciardo set to start near the back of the grid with penalties; could we see another Red Bull carving through the field performance?
4. Sticking with Red Bull, both of Max Verstappen’s Grand Prix victories have come after Daniil Kvyat has been replaced, could that coincidence continue?
5. Watch out for the home support for the only Mexican on the grid and can it help Sergio Perez to a first podium of the season?
6. Staying with Force India and with 4th place in the Constructors Championship surely all but secured, will the team retract the team orders policy that has been in place since Belgium?
7. Williams expect to make a decision on their 2018 line-up before the Brazilian Grand Prix and with his future uncertain; expect a big performance from Felipe Massa
8. Could we see a driver announcement for the driver line-ups for 2018 from Toro Rosso and Sauber who have neither driver confirmed?
9. In their first race as teammates, who will win the battle at Toro Rosso between Piere Gasly and Brendan Hartley?
10. Will the McLaren-Honda be vulnerable on the long start/finish straight or will the altitude negate the lack of horsepower?
11. Will Haas be able to achieve a better result in Mexico than last year and across the border in the US.
12. Carlos Sainz had a fantastic debut for Renault, can he muster a repeat and will Nico Hulkenberg get some much-needed lick as the team are yet to secure double points finish this season.