Could Mercedes Verstappen have stopped in Mexico? Our Verdict – The Race | CarTailz

The 2022 Mexican Grand Prix might not be long remembered by Formula 1 fans, but it was a significant race nonetheless as Max Verstappen set a new record for most wins in a single season.

But could Mercedes have stopped Verstappen from claiming a 14th win of 2022 this weekend, or was defeat inevitable?

Our authors judge:

Red Bull became opportunistic

Scott Mitchell-Malm

I really didn’t expect Red Bull’s early pit stops after I started on the soft and switched to a middle to build a one stop strategy.

I assumed a second stop would come until the realization dawned – also at Mercedes – that Red Bull would finish quite comfortably.

The slightly extended first stint on softs might have been a hint that this was possible, but regardless it looks like an opportunistic mid-race postponement from Red Bull and it was an absolute masterstroke.

Of course, Verstappen and Perez had to work hard to make that happen. And Verstappen did an absolutely magnificent job – Hamilton was almost incredulous at his pace late on.

Mercedes missed a trick by not being adventurous enough. Red Bull improvised and reaped the rewards, helped by Verstappen’s absolutely flawless execution.

Disappointment shows how far Mercedes has come

Ed Straw

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Mexican Grand Prix Race Day Mexico City, Mexico

Mercedes could have done more as the hard tires really didn’t work. But whether more would have been enough is another question.

When Verstappen kept the lead at the start and Sergio Perez got George Russell out of the way, things always got difficult. But with a Mercedes on softs instead of both on medium for the start, things might have turned out differently.

Red Bull and Verstappen made no mistake and should have taken a few hits even with the best strategy. But for Mercedes to be disappointed with second and fourth place shows how far they have come since the start of the season.

So things could have gone better for Mercedes, but unless they were a car or two ahead at the start, it was always a long way to go, whatever happened.

Verstappen always won after turn 1

Ben Anderson

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Mexican Grand Prix Race Day Mexico City, Mexico

When the Mercedes drivers decided they would rather fight for second place than collectively overtake Verstappen, allowing Perez to finish third in the process, it was always a win for Red Bull.

The first stint was deceptive. Yes, the medium tire on the Mercedes looked better than the soft on Verstappen’s Red Bull – but starting on that softer tire helped Verstappen defend his pole advantage and despite suffering from graining after around 20 laps he was able to basically still keeping pace with Hamilton’s pace, even though he was running on an inferior tyre.

After Verstappen capitalized on the medium, we saw the real Red Bull advantage hammered home. Hamilton followed a similar monster one-stop strategy here in 2019 to win the race, stopping on lap 23 and then going to the end, narrowly beating Charles Leclerc’s two-stop Ferrari. Tire wear is generally not an issue here. So if you let the rubber work in the right temperature range, you can do surprisingly long stints – a bit like Sochi.

Verstappen actually undercooked things and was told to accelerate so it always looked like he would run to the end with a stop once Red Bull got him in the right place. Mercedes was wrong to think otherwise and probably should have known better from their own experience!

The hard tire was a bad choice. Russell had the right idea to try and reverse Red Bull’s strategy and go medium/soft. It worked brilliantly for Daniel Ricciardo and probably would have gotten Mercedes closer to Red Bull – but I strongly suspect it still wouldn’t have been enough to put Mercedes in the hunt for victory. The Red Bull is simply the class of the field in racing trim, especially in Verstappen’s hands.

Mercedes’ strategy confused me

Gary Anderson

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Mexican Grand Prix Race Day Mexico City, Mexico

If everything went according to plan and he survived the first corner, Verstappen would always come out on top in his Red Bull in Mexico.

Mercedes helped him by putting on the hard tires during the pit stop. Even Pirelli admitted their tire choices were conservative, so why go for the toughest tire available?

Beats me.

Mercedes played it safe

Glen Freeman

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Mexican Grand Prix Race Day Mexico City, Mexico

When Red Bull realized it had the tire life to make a soft-medium-one-stopper work, there wasn’t much Mercedes could have done. But even with that in mind, it felt like the team played too safely.

If you’re heading for your first winless season in over a decade, it’s certainly worth trying something more adventurous than hanging around with both cars and expecting the Red Bulls to run out of tires.

I was surprised to see that Mercedes started both drivers on the same tire compound as there was little to lose by trying either of them on the soft tires just for variety. In this case, that would likely have meant following the Red Bull strategy and not being able to beat Verstappen in a direct fight, but Mercedes have limited their options by starting both cars on the medium.

And it was unimaginative to then follow the plan of putting both drivers on hard tires for a bankable one-stop strategy in what increasingly became little more than blind faith that Verstappen and Perez would eventually run out of tire life.

Mercedes didn’t waste a chance to win this race, but they also lacked the courage or imagination to try a little bit more with one of their cars. From afar it looked like a race where no one in a crisp white shirt with a three-pointed star was ready to override what a computer thought was the quickest way to finish the GP. Would a computer have suggested that Ricciardo’s loading strategy was the most sensible approach by numbers? Probably not.

Computers don’t really understand the concept of nothing to lose. Sometimes it pays to take a punt and see what comes of it.

Too much focus on the Ferrari battle?

Valentin Khorounzhiy

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Mexican Grand Prix Race Day Mexico City, Mexico

With second and fourth place and the fastest lap, Mercedes took 13 points from Ferrari to leave them 40 points behind in the battle for second place in the Constructors’ Championship.

Even against a Ferrari that’s spent the second half of the season turning into a pumpkin the second the lights go out on Sunday, that’s pretty much certainly unassailable.

But to say it was trying to maximize its win over Ferrari is the only charitable interpretation of the logic behind Mercedes’ strategy and particularly the confusing decision to deny Russell his preferred soft tires for the end of the race.

Ricciardo’s charge actually makes it look like a terrible call in hindsight, but you didn’t need to look back – the BBC 5 Live crew I followed spent the second half of the race scratching our heads together at how Mercedes played that , and apparently proved to be correct.

Perhaps Verstappen would still have proved too quick. Maybe there was data somewhere – clearly outdated data – that showed the Red Bulls were definitely not going to make it to the end. Ultimately, after Verstappen had taken his softs as far as he had and with many other cars successfully extending stints and none of the drivers complaining about the condition of their tyres, there was absolutely no reason not to pull the trigger, especially with Russell.

Let’s hope those 31 points pay off in the end and somehow prove crucial in overtaking Ferrari, otherwise Mercedes will end their first winless season since 2011 wondering if they missed a good opportunity to avoid that it will be one.

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