Verstappen snatches F1 ‘gift’ as Mercedes gamble backfires amid Ricciardo crash
F1 Mexico GP 2021 – race analysis
Epic first-lap, five-car collision threatens to ‘destroy’ Ricciardo
Max Verstappen stunned Lewis Hamilton with an opportunistic move at Turn 1 to win the Mexico Grand Prix on Monday, and extend his world championship lead.
Mercedes had upset Red Bull in qualifying by locking out the front row with Valtteri Bottas on pole and Verstappen’s title rival, Hamilton, in second.
But disaster struck for Mercedes within seconds when a fast-starting Daniel Ricciardo span Bottas out of the lead at Turn 1, while Verstappen — who started in third — swooped on a snoozing Hamilton around the outside to snatch the lead.
Ricciardo was quick off the line but locked his brakes to tag the back of Bottas’ car, losing his rear wing in the process.
Bottas was, however, cautious into the turn, leading to speculation that he was trying to give Hamilton a boost in his battle with Verstappen.
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From there, Verstappen didn’t look back as he ruthlessly converted the move into his ninth win of the season by 16.555 seconds.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was forced into a late battle with hometown hero Sergio Perez but held onto second place on the podium.
He said after the race that there was little he could have done to stop Verstappen.
Race results. F1 Mexico GP 2021.
Pérez celebrates historic home podium
His pursuit of Hamilton sent the 140,000 who flocked to hermanos Rodriguez into visibilio. Good as always in tyre management, he took advantage of a very long initial stint to get back into the final laps with fresher tyres in the wake of Hamilton, managing to get to the DRS area but without ever finding a way to launch a really dangerous attack. His remains an excellent performance in support of Verstappen. Prophet at home.
Read the interview of Checo Pérez here!!!
Lewis Hamilton’s title defence
For the third consecutive F1 race weekend, Hamilton’s hopes of clinching a record-breaking eighth world championship were reduced.
An unlikely Mercedes front row lockout was quickly dissolved by Hamilton’s lack of confidence on the brakes, Bottas’s poor positioning and a superbly confident move from Verstappen.
WOLFF: MERCEDES MADE IT TOO EASY FOR VERSTAPPEN TO TAKE LEAD
Mercedes “seemed to open up the sea” for Max Verstappen to take the lead at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix and “that should not happen”, says team boss Toto Wolff.
Formula 1 championship leader Verstappen launched his Red Bull from third to first by using the slipstream of poleman Valtteri Bottas to get alongside the two Mercedes drivers on the outside and then braking later than the pair of them into Turn 1.
He swept around the outside to take the lead and went on to take a dominant victory, while Lewis Hamilton held on to finish second and Bottas finished outside the points having been spun by Daniel Ricciardo at the first corner moments after losing the lead to Verstappen.
Asked on Sky Sports F1 if there was anything Bottas could have done into Turn 1 after Verstappen was given space on the straight, Wolff said:
“Yeah, that should not happen. We had two cars in front and seemed to open up the sea for Max to come around the outside. The spin afterwards [meant] a big loss of points with Valtteri’s car. It could have been a third or fourth place is annoying to say the least.
These cars are very difficult to judge from the mirrors what is actually happening behind you,” Wolff acknowledged. But I think if they would have been more to the left he wouldn’t have passed, he would have been blocked. Bottas suggested that Mercedes’ loss of the lead was more down to Verstappen’s late braking than any poor positioning on his and Hamilton’s part. The start was I think OK, not too bad but obviously Max got a bit of a tow and he braked really late.”
Both Ferraris were beaten to the ‘best of the rest’ fourth place by Pierre Gasly, but the team will be delighted with its finishing positions in relation to its chief rival McLaren.
Leclerc suffered with the tyres in the second stint, particularly graining and this definitely didn’t help him in his search for performance to catch up with Gasly
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It allows Ferrari to move back into the third place in the constructors’ championship that it lost at Monza and is the latest sign of the benefit of its newly upgraded hybrid system.
The team even managed to do some clever swapping of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, which gave it a better – albeit long and ultimately failed – shot at overhauling Gasly for fourth.