Mexican Grand Prix driver ratings: Max untouchable, Ricciardo resurgent, Albon under the radar

Max Verstappen celebrating. Mexico City, October 2022. Credit: Alamy
Max Verstappen celebrating. Mexico City, October 2022. Credit: Alamy

Max Verstappen added another record to his forever expanding honours list as he claimed his 14th victory of the season at the Mexican Grand Prix.

Starting from pole, Verstappen’s win was as much his as it was Hannah Schmitz’s as the Red Bull’s head of strategy plumped for the correct choice of soft-medium tyres over Mercedes’ call of medium-hard.

Elsewhere on the grid, Daniel Ricciardo produced one of the finest races of his season to finish in the ‘best of the rest’ spot that is usually reserved for his team-mate Lando Norris.

There was disappointment for Fernando Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda who were both forced to retire early. Alonso’s engine gave out while Tsunoda suffered terminal damage after being crashed into by the aforementioned Ricciardo.

Here are PlanetF1’s ratings for all 20 drivers at the Mexican Grand Prix:

Max Verstappen: It was not Verstappen’s most spectacular win of his 14 so far this season but it was one of the most assured. For all the talk of a potential challenge following the long straight into Turn 1, the Dutchman demonstrated that it was going to take more than a good start to snatch the race victory away from him.

In the lead, Verstappen faced the challenge of Lewis Hamilton behind him but the reigning World Champion kept the seven-time World Champion at arm’s length throughout. Mercedes knew their chance at victory would come with the better choice of strategy but once Verstappen had pitted onto the mediums, his pace proved the Silver Arrows had plumped for the wrong option.

Verstappen extended his lead to as high as 17 seconds over Hamilton at one point during the race and he would go on to finish 15 seconds ahead of the Mercedes man. His Mexican Grand Prix race victory may not live long in the memory but it serves as a just reminder of the complete driver he now is. 10

Lewis Hamilton: Another step forward for Hamilton and Mercedes, if not quite as long a stride as either would have been hoping for. He moved up into P2 early on as he breezed past his his team-mate George Russell but he was always kept just out of striking distance of Verstappen up front.

Hamilton’s whole race could be boiled down to one single moment and that was when the hard tyres went onto his car on lap 30. He started on the mediums, as opposed to the softs on both Red Bulls, and it proved to be a good tyre for the car but not one that Mercedes believed would have a long lap life.

With Verstappen having already pitted from the soft to the medium, Mercedes put the hards on Hamilton hoping that Red Bull would be forced into another stop later on but the lack of pace on the hard was soon pretty apparent.

Hamilton dropped further and further behind Verstappen and when the medium proved to be more durable than Mercedes had anticipated, the race was only ever going to go one way. 9

Sergio Perez: Hearing the roars for each driver on the podium, a casual fan could be mistaken for thinking it was Checo Perez who had secured victory and not his team-mate Verstappen.

With a crowd ready to cheer any appearance of their man on the big screen, Perez was not quite able to deliver the result they had all been hoping for. His best moment of the race came in the opening stages when he produced an excellent start to get himself past Russell but from there, he remained just out of reach of Verstappen and Hamilton ahead of him.

The Mexican would go on to finish third, as he did last year, but his 10th podium of the season gave him a lead of five points over Charles Leclerc in the Drivers’ standings with just two races to go. 8.5

George Russell: Russell said after the race that had it been anyone other than his team-mate Hamilton, he would have blocked off the overtake that proved so costly for him. The Brit moved off the line well but chose the wrong entry into the corner, soon finding himself with decreasing track space on one side and the car of his team-mate on the other.

He rode the unforgiving curve and in doing so, lost enough time to lose not only P2 but P3 too as Perez snuck by. From there, it was a case of damage limitation as the Ferraris behind never really looked like catching him.

Russell also seemed at odds with his team’s decision-making. Wanting to stay out on the mediums for longer then questioning the switch onto the hards. Finally, he was adamant he should come in and go for the fastest lap bonus point and after a few ‘no’s, he was allowed to do just that. 7

Carlos Sainz: If Carlos Sainz was choosing to look on the ultra-positive side, he could at least say he finished the race having not done so in the two previous grands prix, but the positives end there.

It was a dismal day for Ferrari as Sainz finished 58 seconds off Verstappen and his team-mate even further back, making it hard to remember a time when they looked like genuine title contenders.

The messages coming out of Ferrari going into the weekend were not optimistic and that proved to be the case with the car running on less power at the high altitude circuit to avoid failing. To Sainz’s credit, he outperformed his team-mate Leclerc in both qualifying and the race but a P5 finish that far behind is nothing to write home about. 6.5 

Charles Leclerc: The race in Mexico was Leclerc’s fourth P6 finish of the season, but none of the previous three would have made him feel this underwhelmed.

The once-Championship leader finished a minute behind the man who would eventually win this year’s title and the Ferraris lived in their own no man’s land, quick enough to hold the pack behind but too slow to challenge those up front.

Ferrari fans will hope the performance in Mexico was just a one-off, something Leclerc could not guarantee, but having not won a grand prix since July, there is little to suggest they and Leclerc will change that fact in the two races that remain. 6

Daniel Ricciardo: Start P11, drop to P13 on the opening lap, gamble and run on the same set of mediums for 46 laps, crash into opponent, receive 10-second penalty, charge up the pack, finish P7, secure third-best finish of the season and win Driver of the Day. All in an afternoon’s work for Daniel Ricciardo.

The Honey Badger no doubt exited the MCL36 in Mexico with his trademark smile running from ear to ear having produced one of the best drives of his season and a reminder of the driver that once was and not the driver we have seen in the last couple of years.

The gamble, which Ricciardo could allow given his lowly position, paid off as the soft tyres cut up the pack in the latter stage of the race.

The only blot on his copybook came when he ‘sent it’ a little too hard in a battle with Yuki Tsunoda and caught his front left wheel on the side of the AlphaTauri. Ricciardo was able to continue but the same could not be said of Tsunoda with the Australian being handed a 10-second penalty.

Still, this did not deter him as he passed his team-mate and the two Alpines to climb as high as P7 and finish in the ‘best of the rest’ spot that is usually reserved for his team-mate Lando Norris. Ricciardo also earned the Driver of the Day award, his first of the season. 8

Esteban Ocon: Given he was to be the only Alpine to cross the line in Mexico, his team needed him to keep at least one of the McLarens behind him and while it was a tough ask to stop Ricciardo on the softs, Ocon was able to keep Norris well in the distance.

As Hamilton further up the grid found out, switching to the hard proved detrimental to pace but given those around him had also opted for the same tyre, it meant Ocon was able to lead the pack of those chasing the final points-paying positions. 7.5

Lando Norris: In a rare occurrence for the last two years, Norris was upstaged by his McLaren team-mate. As he was higher up in the grid, Norris did not have the freedom Ricciardo had when it came to gambling on strategies and it came back to bite him.

He did have a good race of his own though, managing to move past Valtteri Bottas even if he was not able to the same with Ocon. A P9 finish represents his best result in Mexico and that, coupled with Ricciardo’s efforts, made sure it was McLaren’s day over Alpine. 7

Valtteri Bottas: The Finn produced an incredible performance to finish P6 in qualifying but that would prove to be the highlight of his week as he spent more time looking in his rear view mirrors than he did looking forwards.

At the start, he was eaten up by both Leclerc and Alonso and never found the pace to challenge again. Still, he will be pleased to have ended a run of 10 races without a point and will be hoping to rediscover that qualifiying pace in Brazil. 7.5

Pierre Gasly: The Frenchman may look back at one moment in the race and wonder what could have been after he received a five-second penalty for pushing Lance Stroll off the track on the 13th lap of the race. Had he acted and given the place back, he would have avoided the time penalty, as well as the penalty point that now threatens to put him on the sidelines.

It was not the best of starts for Gasly as he slipped down the grid from his P14 starting spot but the pace he showed to catch up with Stroll and then overtake him, albeit illegally, was good and an improvement on where the AlphaTauri car has been the last couple of races.

Two more races left for Gasly with the team and he will be hoping to add more points to their total. 6.5

Alexander Albon: Another excellent drive from Albon that does not result in the points that it perhaps deserves. Given the Williams’ performance on the straights, the Mexican circuit looked as if it was one their drivers could capitalise on and Albon did just that, rising from P17 on the starting grid to a P12 finish.

Granted, that result does come with the asterisk that both Alonso and Tsunoda, who were ahead of him, retired but Albon’s performance was in stark contrast to that of his team-mate. 8

Zhou Guanyu: Rather outshone by his team-mate, Zhou has scored points in just one of the last 11 races as he finished behind a Williams in Mexico. Only Albon and Latifi have scored fewer points that the Chinese driver this season. A really nice overtake on Sebastian Vettel the only highlight. 6

Sebastian Vettel: Outperformed his team-mate in what was one of few positives for Vettel over the course of the weekend. Exiting qualifying in Q1, the Aston Martin car proved to not have the speed Vettel would need if he was going to rescue a points score.

There are two grands prix left in the four-time World Champion’s career and when he does finally put his feet up, you can’t imagine it will be this outing that he remembers. 6

Lance Stroll: Was forced off the track by Gasly but the pace difference between him and the AlphaTauri meant the move was more a matter of when rather than if. Having finished sixth in Singapore, it has been a dismal run of form for Stroll since.

The P12 in Japan and retirement in Austin were joined by a P15 in Mexico as the Aston Martin looked well off the pace. 5.5

Mick Schumacher: Ended 11 seconds behind the next-placed Stroll and had an uneventful race towards the back of the grid. If Schumacher was putting together a showreel to convince Haas to keep him for next season, this race would be left on the cutting room floor. 5

Kevin Magnussen: With a five-place grid penalty as a result of a new ICE waiting for him, Magnussen needed a better performance in qualifying than the P15 he managed.

This meant he would start from the back and he found it tough to make any headway in moving up the leaderboard. A bad day at the office for the Dane. 4.5

Nicholas Latifi: The only driver to finish two laps behind the leader at a time when his team-mate finished P12. Latifi’s time in Formula 1 is almost up and with performances like this one, it is easy to see why. 3

Did not finish

Fernando Alonso: Once again, a race ends with Alonso bemoaning his luck. This time round, it was the engine that gave out on him, exploding into a puff of smoke during lap 65 and at a time when he had been running ahead of Norris and Bottas in P9.

Before that, Alonso was enjoying his drive, responding with compliments about the car when asked which tyre he would prefer before suggesting any would be fast. At one point, he was up in P7, just behind the Ferraris as it was looking like it would be his and Alpine’s day but that, along with his engine, went up in smoke.

The early exit in Mexico was Alonso’s third DNF in the last five races and the Spaniards’ fifth in the season as Alpine lost crucial ground on McLaren in the race for P4. 7.5

Yuki Tsunoda: The 22-year-old was in the battle for the points up until the 51st lap when a meeting with the charging Ricciardo ended his race early.

Tsunoda had looked good in his quest to earn what would have been only his second top 10 finish in the last 14 races and he had every right to be annoyed with Ricciardo following their incident.

The Japanese man had the lead going into the corner and looked to have shut the door on Ricciardo but the McLaren driver broke late and ran out of room, using Tsunoda’s sidepod as a buffer while the AlphaTauri was jolted up into the air.

He returned to the ground with a thud but there was optimism he would be able to continue, however, as the team worked to replace the front wing, they discovered terminal damage which made Tsunoda the first of two retirees in Mexico. 7

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