Martin Brundle: Max Verstappen reaches new level of F1 dominance as Red Bull ousts Mercedes in Mexico – Sky Sports | CarTailz

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Highlights of the Mexico City Grand Prix from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Highlights of the Mexico City Grand Prix from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

There’s a lot of hype and energy surrounding the Mexican GP and there’s always a festival atmosphere created by the fiercely partisan crowd, which Sergio Perez willingly joins in.

When you take that away along with the 55,000-seat stadium area and dramatic podium, we have to admit that racing at this track hasn’t been great lately.

In fact, the top 3 finishers of Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez were identical to last year’s with very similar and unexciting gaps. To underscore this further, Ferrari were again fifth and sixth, albeit this time with Sainz ahead of Leclerc.

With the six fastest cars in the top 6 getting rid of Valtteri Botta’s impressively qualified early Alfa Romeo doors, it promised quite a lot, but sadly there was little excitement.

Ahead of the Mexico City Grand Prix, Sky F1's Martin Brundle drove Mexican legend Pedro Rodriguez's 1970 Formula One car, the BRM P153.

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Ahead of the Mexico City Grand Prix, Sky F1’s Martin Brundle drove Mexican legend Pedro Rodriguez’s 1970 Formula One car, the BRM P153.

Ahead of the Mexico City Grand Prix, Sky F1’s Martin Brundle drove Mexican legend Pedro Rodriguez’s 1970 Formula One car, the BRM P153.

Verstappen skillfully fends off the early threat from Mercedes

Verstappen was very clever away from pole, going to the dusty but more defendable right-hand side of the track. This played well into the hands of second-place qualifier George Russell, who happily accepted the slipstream until he was forced to go left and partially alongside.

After a few skirmishes recently, not least at Austin seven days earlier, George was generous with space on the inside of turn one for his teammate Lewis Hamilton and again at turn two, but didn’t receive the same courtesy as he swerved right through turn three when he was crushed wide and hopped over the curb.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen stayed ahead on the first lap of the Mexico City Grand Prix while Lewis Hamilton passed Mercedes teammate George Russell for second.

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen stayed ahead on the first lap of the Mexico City Grand Prix while Lewis Hamilton passed Mercedes teammate George Russell for second.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen stayed ahead on the first lap of the Mexico City Grand Prix while Lewis Hamilton passed Mercedes teammate George Russell for second.

The Ferrari boys flew side-by-side trying to make up some places, but in reality those first few corners decided the starting order for the rest of the day: Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Russell, Sainz and Leclerc. The 800 meter run to and through the first chicane determined the race.

The main fascination was that both Red Bulls were on the starting grid on used soft tires and both Mercedes on new medium tyres, and for a while when the Red Bull tires started to cry enough it seemed like Mercedes could stick with it for much longer drive at a reasonable pace and take the initiative.

Lewis Hamilton believes he could have challenged Max Verstappen more for the win if he had started on the soft tires early in the race in Mexico.

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Lewis Hamilton believes he could have challenged Max Verstappen more for the win if he had started on the soft tires early in the race in Mexico.

Lewis Hamilton believes he could have challenged Max Verstappen more for the win if he had started on the soft tires early in the race in Mexico.

Meanwhile Ferrari just wasn’t at the races, they didn’t have the pace despite having plenty of downforce and were clearly protecting something on that 7200ft elevation course as they were destined to finish a minute late.

It has to be said that the Ferrari powerplant in Bottas’ Alfa Romeo flew relatively well, although he would have been disappointed with just one championship point in 10th place from sixth on the grid.

Why the strategy battle ultimately fell flat

Red Bull would pit Perez on lap 23 for medium tires and Verstappen on lap 25. This left Mercedes in the lead and two big questions. How far could Mercedes go competitively on their original medium tyres, and could Red Bull finish about 48 laps away on their freshly fitted medium tyres?

“Not very” and “Yes” were the two answers that tended to take the sting out of the four-in-hand race. Hamilton pitted on lap 29 for hard compound tires which turned out to be a poor decision.

Toto Wolff and George Russell look to Brazil, where Mercedes will hope to close the 40-point gap between them and Ferrari in the Constructors' Championship.

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Toto Wolff and George Russell look to Brazil, where Mercedes will hope to close the 40-point gap between them and Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.

Toto Wolff and George Russell look to Brazil, where Mercedes will hope to close the 40-point gap between them and Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.

Despite his protestations that he would drive long and later fit a set of soft compound tyres, Russell pitted on lap 34 for new hard compound tyres, which was strategically no man’s land.

The 39 F1 races during the pandemic saw a need to simplify tire selection procedures and each driver has since been allocated eight soft tire sets, three medium tires and just two hard tire sets. You must not confuse them. This means that if you plan to run hard compound tires in the race, there is minimal preparation you can do in the practice sessions.

Relive all 14 of Max Verstappen's wins this season for Red Bull and break the previous record set by Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher.

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Relive all 14 of Max Verstappen’s wins this season for Red Bull and break the previous record set by Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher.

Relive all 14 of Max Verstappen’s wins this season for Red Bull and break the previous record set by Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher.

At both Austin and Mexico, Free Practice Two was extended to 90 minutes and became a Pirelli test for the 2023 tire specs. On top of that, many teams are quite late in meeting the requirements to have a rookie in at least one FP1 in each car to ride which taken together has disrupted the normal flow and preparation for the last two GPs and is certainly not ideal for the show.

Sometimes the hard compound tires prove to be a surprising ace, but as the temperatures dropped on this low-abrasion track they didn’t really bite the tarmac and didn’t reach an appropriate temperature and grip level.

Alonso and Ricciardo the stars in midfield

We saw a lot of brutal action in midfield but Fernando Alonso was without a doubt the best of the others until his power failed. Such was his determination and attack mode that as he got out of the car, he desperately rested his head on a tire lock. Not the kind of emotion we often see from him, but he’s lost a lot of points this year due to unreliability.

Fernando Alonso had to retire in Mexico City after suffering an engine failure in his Alpine on lap 65.

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Fernando Alonso had to retire in Mexico City after suffering an engine failure in his Alpine on lap 65.

Fernando Alonso had to retire in Mexico City after suffering an engine failure in his Alpine on lap 65.

Daniel Ricciardo was an interesting case. He had a decent weekend and races while nursing his mid-size starting tires until lap 44 and then did what Russell wanted to do by running soft tires. Then he took off like a man possessed. In his frustration at overtaking Yuki Tsunoda, he drove his McLaren up the inside of the double apex of turn six, hoping he could distract the Japanese driver from going too far.

Instead, they made contact and Tsunoda’s Alpha Tauri left the stage on two wheels and retired. It was all a bit clumsy and the race stewards decided that Ricciardo was solely to blame and presumably when Tsunoda had to retire Daniel was given a 10 second penalty which had to be added to his race time as he failed to rejoin the box would go.

Daniel Ricciardo feels his collision with Yuki Tsunoda was not 100 percent his fault and also shares his plans and goals for the future.

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Daniel Ricciardo feels his collision with Yuki Tsunoda was not 100 percent his fault and also shares his plans and goals for the future.

Daniel Ricciardo feels his collision with Yuki Tsunoda was not 100 percent his fault and also shares his plans and goals for the future.

This was the trigger for Daniel to ride as we remember him best and finish sixth despite the penalty, along with the Driver of the Day title from the fans. It will be interesting to see where he will appear next year and especially in 2024.

Aside from some scuffles in midfield, that was all for the action as Verstappen serenely clinched his 14th win of the season and Red Bull claimed their ninth straight win. Happy birthday to you all.

Now a short breather before the last two races of the season.

MB

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