So, a few days on from F1’s return to Mexico, it’s time to ask whether it was a triumphant return!
The answer is an emphatic yes. Whilst the race was not an absolute classic, I can honestly say it was entertaining. The fast circuit played into the hands of the Mercedes powered teams, with a hardly-surprising Mercedes one-two, only for a change, it was Nico Rosberg winning, and doing so quite comfortably from Hamilton (I haven’t often written those words!).
Rosberg had qualified on pole, albeit just barely from Hamilton, but at the start he got away well and for once, was not bullied into the first corner. Whilst Hamilton would keep close to Rosberg in the first stint, he could not quite get into DRS range, and Rosberg was looking composed.
The same could definitely not be said of Sebastian Vettel. At the first corner he abruptly closed the door on Daniel Ricciardo, clipping the Red Bull’s front wing and sustaining a rear-right puncture in the process. He would fight his way back up the field (sliding off inexplicably at one stage but getting away with it), but he would trigger a safety car when he slid off for good, his Ferrari impacting the barriers. He admitted that he’d had a bad day, clearly unhappy with his performance.
It was a bad day for Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen too. In a reversal of his incident in Russia with Bottas, he was bumped off the track by the Williams driver when he slammed the door on his fellow Finn, and came off far worse, his race ended.
With Mercedes in complete control of the race, the team made the decision to pit both their drivers for a second time, prior to the safety car, for safety reasons (in theory, the medium compound tyres would last till race end, but as a precaution, Mercedes made the call).
Hamilton initially refused, questioning the call. He felt the tyres were good to the end and wanted the opportunity to do exact that. He was some 18 seconds clear of Rosberg with 24 laps to go, but Rosberg, on fresh tyres, was closing in at around a second a lap. The team pressed more forcefully for Hamilton to pit, which he did, a lap later than planned, and then the safety car brought the field back anyway.
It is my humble opinion that Hamilton would have lost the race anyway, with Rosberg catching him so quickly on fresh tyres, and with Rosberg having been quicker anyway. His desire to push, to fight for the win on his terms, is part of what makes Hamilton the champion that he is, but sometimes the team knows best!
So all in all, a good race, with some exciting moments, even if the end was somewhat processional, and a strong return for Mexico!
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