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Formula 1

Verstappen wins Mexican GP amid harsh Perez and Ricciardo contrast

by Ben Anderson
5 min read

Max Verstappen overcame both Ferraris to win the Mexico City Grand Prix, claiming his 14th victory from the past 15 Formula 1 races as Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez heaped more pressure on himself by colliding needlessly with Charles Leclerc and retiring on the first lap.

Both Red Bulls got away well from the grid as the Ferraris bogged down slightly. Verstappen launched himself successfully between Leclerc (on Verstappen’s outside) and Carlos Sainz, while Perez jumped Daniel Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri then attempted to come around Leclerc’s outside into Turn 1.

Leclerc was hemmed in between both Red Bulls in the braking zone. Verstappen took the lead with a clean pass on Leclerc’s inside, but Perez thought his superior momentum gained in the earlier slipstream would carry him cleanly around the Ferrari’s outside and into the lead.

Perez turned in even though he was nowhere near clear of Leclerc, launching himself over the left-front wheel of the Ferrari and breaking its front-wing endplate.

Leclerc continued in second place, while Perez limped his Red Bull back to the pits - beating the steering wheel in frustration when Red Bull decided his car wasn’t safe to continue.

Later, Perez told TV crews he would have been “disappointed” in himself if he’d stood on the podium with a chance to go for the lead that he didn’t take. He also admitted he was surprised that Leclerc braked as late as he did for Turn 1, perhaps expecting the Ferrari to disappear from the picture.

Perez was proud of himself for giving his all in front of his home crowd, but in truth it was an overly-ambitious move that did nothing to alleviate the pressure building around him and what looks to be an increasingly precarious position within Red Bull’s driver line-up.

The more reliable part of that duo did what he always does. Once into the lead, Verstappen assumed complete control of the race and was leading comfortably when Kevin Magnussen’s Haas appeared to suffer a left-rear suspension failure in the high-speed esses on lap 33 of 71.

Magnussen extracted himself from the car, but the crash impact damaged the barrier to such an extent a red flag stoppage was required to effect repairs, meaning a standing restart after that work was eventually completed.

Verstappen aced the restart on lap 36/71, despite being on the hard compound tyre, and from there completed what looked to be a comfortable victory.

Behind the Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton came through to finish second for Mercedes.

Hamilton started the grand prix down in sixth after a difficult qualifying session, but the W14 was relatively more competitive in the higher temperatures of race day.

Hamilton gained a place thanks to Perez’s antics, overtook Daniel Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri with a forceful move into Turn 1 and had split the Ferraris before the red flag disruption.

Hamilton’s standing restart was strong too, taking the benefit of using a medium-compound Pirelli compared to the hards fitted to the Ferraris.

Leclerc held on for a few laps, but eventually fell victim to a well-judged lunge from Hamilton on the brakes into Turn 1 - the rear of the Mercedes almost over-rotating as Hamilton balanced on the absolute limit of adhesion.

Ferrari expected the hard tyres to come into their own as this final phase of the race wore on, but that turning point never really arrived in a grand prix that is always dominated by extreme tyre and car temperature management at such high altitude.

The mediums held up well and Hamilton eased away from Leclerc, finishing over nine seconds clear and even using those ageing tyres to set the race’s fastest lap right at the end.

Sainz held on to fourth, as George Russell couldn’t quite get himself into position to pull off the sort of aggressive pass that Hamilton managed on Leclerc - Russell complaining at times that Sainz was weaving on the straight, though the stewards took no notice.

Russell eventually lost his grip on fifth place too, as his tyres cried enough and McLaren’s Lando Norris completed a storming recovery drive after making a silly error in Q1 and starting the race down in 17th place.

Norris looked to be making fine use of an offset strategy in the early part of the grand prix, being the only driver to start on the soft tyre, but he was temporarily undone by an unfortunately timed pitstop just before the red flag and then a poor standing restart that dropped him well outside the top 10.

But he charged back through to fifth, helped by team-mate Oscar Piastri allowing him through to successfully attack Daniel Ricciardo with a brilliantly-judged pass around the AlphaTauri’s outside at Turn 4.

Norris then applied pressure to Russell’s Mercedes over the final 10 laps, eventually mugging Russell by cutting underneath the Mercedes exiting Turn 5 and diving down the inside on the brakes into the Turn 6 hairpin with just a handful of laps left.

Russell’s mediums, unlike Hamilton’s, were clearly giving up the ghost at this point and Ricciardo was next in the queue to attempt something. He got very close to making a move over the final two laps, but Russell held on.

After qualifying an impressive fourth for AlphaTauri, Ricciardo survived two slightly shaky standing starts to finish seventh - securing AlphaTauri’s best result of 2023 so far, enough to vault the team off the bottom of the constructors’ championship table.

Oscar Piastri twice survived contact (at Turn 2 and then in the braking zone for Turn 1) with Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri team-mate Yuki Tsunoda to finish eighth, while Alex Albon’s Williams and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine completed the points scorers.

Albon made his own luck with two well-judged and opportunistic early passes on the Alfa Romeos then a strong standing restart after the red flag, while Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas was clinging on to the final point until Ocon eventually made good on his radio broadcast promise to attack as the race neared its end.

Hulkenberg slumped to 13th at the flag, behind the second Alpine of Pierre Gasly and Tsunoda - who told his team to stop giving him information over the radio after that second bump with Piastri.

Alfa Romeo slumped from a double top-10 start to end up last of the cars still running at the finish, Valtteri Bottas ahead of Zhou Guanyu after surviving a late collision in the stadium section with Lance Stroll, who joined team-mate Fernando Alonso in retirement to complete an utterly miserable race for Aston Martin.

Race Results

PosNameCarLapsLaps LedTotal TimeFastest LapPitstopsPts
1Max VerstappenRed Bull7102h2m30.814s1m21.644s025
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes710+13.875s1m21.334s019
3Charles LeclercFerrari710+23.124s1m22.332s015
4Carlos SainzFerrari710+27.154s1m22.539s012
5Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes710+33.266s1m21.944s010
6George RussellMercedes710+41.020s1m22.780s08
7Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT710+41.570s1m22.679s06
8Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes710+43.104s1m22.760s04
9Alex AlbonWilliams-Mercedes710+48.573s1m22.773s02
10Esteban OconAlpine-Renault710+2.879s1m22.976s01
11Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault710+6.208s1m23.230s00
12Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT710+18.982s1m22.501s00
13Nico HülkenbergHaas-Ferrari710+20.309s1m23.222s00
14Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari710+20.597s1m23.166s00
15Guanyu ZhouAlfa Romeo-Ferrari710+21.676s1m23.567s00
Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes700DNF1m23.003s00
Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes660DNF1m23.257s00
Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes470DNF1m23.531s00
Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari310DNF1m23.146s00
Sergio PérezRed Bull10DNF0s00
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