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Mexico Grand Prix Highlights

Posted on 31 October 2016

Mad Max’s major mistake

Shortly after having a rule created to prevent drivers from repeating the sort of defensive manoeuvres for which Max Verstappen has become notorious, the Dutch teenager found himself on the wrong side of the sporting regulations at Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.

The closing laps of a largely processional race were livened up by a charging Verstappen trying to snatch second place from Nico Rosberg. For much of the final stint, Verstappen had been giving chase to Rosberg, the two cars separated by a second or less for ten laps or more. On lap 50, the Mercedes driver locked up under braking, reducing the gap behind to a manageable 0.3s. Verstappen took the opportunity that was offered to him, and pounded to pass. But it was not to be, and the Red Bull ran wide after executing the overtake, giving Rosberg the opportunity to reclaim the position.

From that moment onwards, with Rosberg 2.3s ahead of Verstappen on track, the Dutch racer was running ragged, driving with a desperate edge in an attempt to make up for his earlier error. By lap 67, Mad Max was visibly rattled. And it was at this point that the Red Bull driver locked up and ran wide, passing Vettel off track and counter to the rules. The Red Bull pit wall instructed their driver to hand the position back, while Vettel was spitting bricks over the radio.

But Verstappen ignored the instructions, and crossed the finish line in third place, even making his way to the pre-podium green room to celebrate his success. It was not to be, however -- the stewards were quick to issue the teenaged racer with a five-second time penalty for unlawfully gaining a position off track, and it was Vettel who lifted the third-place trophy when all was said and done.

Several hours after the podium, Vettel was issued with a ten second time penalty for dangerous driving in the approach to Turn 4 while defending against Ricciardo; the decision promoted the Australian to third place, pushed Verstappen up to fourth, and left the four-time world champion languishing in fifth.

Perez on the prowl?

The second running of the rebooted Mexican Grand Prix at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez was a less than thrilling affair until the final laps, when on-track battles between Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull driver pairing finally brought the race to life.

Evidence of the lack of excitement could be found on the world broadcasting feed, which kept returning to a “battle” for tenth place between Felipe Massa and local hero Sergio Perez that began on lap 25 and saw no lasting change of position before the chequered flag fell at the end of lap 71.

Despite being a critical race for the outcome of the drivers’ championship, it was hard to develop a clear narrative of the Mexican Grand Prix from a broadcasting point of view -- at one point the on-screen graphics referred to a five-man battle for first place, despite the fact that the top five cars at that time were split by more than 30 seconds. Race leader Hamilton had an eight-second advantage over second-placed Rosberg when the graphic appeared.

For much of the 71 laps run, little of substance was taking place on track. Despite minor rearrangements of position further down the field, the pace advantage held by the leading Mercedes pair was strong enough that the only option for the team’s rivals was to try and outsmart the Silver Arrows by adopting unusual pit stop strategies in the hopes that an alternative approach would bear fruit.

It was not to be. Mercedes were able to pull off a one-stop strategy on both cars that resulted in a one-two finish for the team, while Sebastian Vettel -- who briefly led the race during the pit stop window -- was only able to manage third place in the wake of a time penalty for Max Verstappen.

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