From bus rides and table football to the top step of the podium, Max Verstappen cruised to victory in Mexico, on a day which saw Lewis Hamilton crowned F1 World Champion for a fourth time – a record for a British driver in the sport. Mobil 1 The Grid reports on a weekend which ended in the sweet taste of champagne for Red Bull Racing.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen clinched the third victory of his Formula One career with a scintillating drive in the Mexican Grand Prix that included a bold and brilliant pass on title contender Sebastian Vettel at the start.
Starting second on the grid, Verstappen made a strong getaway and attacked pole sitter Vettel into Turn 1. The two made light contact, as Ferrari’s Vettel tried to hold position, but Verstappen escaped unscathed before powering away at the front.
The team at Red Bull Racing soon found themselves in the unusual position of telling Verstappen to slow down in a bid to manage temperatures and protect the car amid a series of engine failures across the grid at high altitude in Mexico City, which is 2,200m above sea level.
Verstappen’s performance in Mexico, where he comfortably held off the threat from the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, strengthened Red Bull Racing’s claim to having the best chassis on the grid, and further enhanced his reputation as one of the sport’s stars of the future.
It came after a brilliant performance in qualifying, which saw Verstappen miss out on his first F1 career pole position by just 0.086 seconds.
“I think Max got a bit bored out there at times,” said Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner. “We kept trying to slow him down and he was getting a bit frustrated.
“He loves wheel to wheel racing. You could see after qualifying yesterday – he turned up at the race track and he wanted to win this race more than any other driver out there.”
Verstappen’s victory came just a week after a controversial ruling cost him an eleventh career podium finish that left the Dutchman furious but, rather than get downbeat, the 20 year old used it as motivation to bounce back in Mexico.
“After last week, I was very fired up and very motivated to do well,” he said. “I missed out on pole, but I was very determined to win this race and I gave it all in the start, in Turn 1, and it feels great.
“The start was very crucial, I went around the outside, so that worked out well. From there on, I was just basically looking after the tyres and the car, which just performed brilliant in the race.”
In contrast, his teammate Daniel Ricciardo had a frustrating afternoon. The Australian started 16th, after penalties for component changes, but fought his way up to seventh within a couple of laps.
However, an engine component failure just five laps into the race forced him into his second successive retirement.
“It’s not so fun,” he said. “I just hope now that we won’t have to take more penalties in Brazil.
“I don’t know how I’m smiling. I’m definitely hurting inside, but what can I do? I can’t change the situation.”
The Mexican Grand Prix has fast become one of the highlights of the F1 season, despite having only been on the calendar since 2015, with fans getting into the spirit with face painting and costumes to celebrate the country’s Day of the Dead festival.
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was packed to the rafters, with its iconic stadium section providing a stunning setting for Lewis Hamilton to celebrate winning his fourth F1 World Championship.
Verstappen sampled the local cuisine and got involved in a singalong when he hitched a lift to the circuit on a local bus. He also showed off his table football prowess when he challenged global TV crews to matches, organised by Mobil 1, in the Mexico City paddock.
Formula One now heads to Brazil, with the next Grand Prix taking place at Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit on 10-12th November.