Race: Max Verstappen cruises to record-breaking Mexico City Grand Prix victory

Max Verstappen leads. Mexico City Grand Prix October 2022. Credit: Alamy
Max Verstappen leads. Mexico City Grand Prix October 2022. Credit: Alamy

Max Verstappen converted pole into a comfortable win at the Mexico City Grand Prix, taking his 14th race victory of the year – setting a new record for the most of any driver in a single season.

The two-time World Champion rarely looked troubled throughout the race as he eased clear of second-placed Lewis Hamilton, with home hero Sergio Perez rounding out the podium in a repeat of 2021’s top three.

George Russell took fourth for Mercedes, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc a distant fifth and sixth for Ferrari in Sunday’s Mexico City Grand Prix.

The longest run of the season down to Turn 1 left the start as something of a lottery ahead of the race, with plenty of opportunities to slipstream and be bold into the first braking zone.

There was a mixture of strategy from the off too, with both Red Bull drivers opting for soft tyres and the Mercedes pair on mediums, and the extra grip from the softs in part helped Verstappen to a clean getaway, holding onto first place as Hamilton darted past team-mate Russell around the outside to take second.

This left the second Mercedes vulnerable to the chasing Perez behind, who was able to leap past Russell at the second chicane and send the home crowd into raptures as he moved up into the podium positions.

Russell was the one to lose out at the start, but Charles Leclerc moved past Valtteri Bottas to make an all-Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari top six as the race settled in.

As was the case in Austin last time out, Verstappen was unable to fully drop Hamilton when he was giving chase but, crucially, the Mercedes driver could not get himself within DRS range of the race leader – with the gap hovering largely between the 1.2-1.5s range in the first 10 laps.

Verstappen upped the pace at the front as Perez began to get dropped at a rate of a few tenths per lap, but Hamilton was able to go with the lead Red Bull – prompting a call from race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase for Verstappen to try and break the tow behind him – but the seven-time World Champion taking some budging.

In return, the Dutchman reported problems with bouncing and not being able to ride the kerbs in the way he wanted – a message which has been more closely attached to Mercedes’ drivers so far this season.

Elsewhere, Pierre Gasly was punished with a five-second penalty for forcing Lance Stroll off track as he passed him into Turn 4 which, given he has nine penalty points on his Super Licence until at least May next year, any additional punishment would edge him perilously closer to the 12-point threshold which would prompt a race ban.

Red Bull were out in the pit lane in lap 23 and, instead of Verstappen coming in, Perez blinked first for a set of mediums – but a slow change of his left-rear gave him a rare five-second stop that did not help his causes.

Verstappen was only able to last a couple of laps longer, bringing him in after the World Champion reported “my left front is dead, guys”. Meanwhile, “my tyres are okay, mate” was the call from Hamilton on his mediums.

But while Verstappen also reported trouble with his gear shifts, his lap times were significantly quicker than his Mercedes counterpart – prompting Hamilton to come in by lap 30.

Hard tyres were the call from Mercedes, giving Hamilton the chance to run to the end, with Red Bull more than likely needing a second stop on the face of it, but a two-second gap between the two leaders had extended to around 6.5 seconds with Verstappen’s earlier move.

Hamilton voiced his concerns that the compound was not performing as well as the mediums, while Perez was closing in behind and Verstappen edged further clear at the front, pushing his lead beyond the 10-second barrier.

In the lower reaches of the points, Esteban Ocon pulled off a daring move on Bottas as he launched around the outside of the Alfa Romeo at Turn 1, doing well in managing to keep his Alpine on track in an overtake worthy of more than the 10th place he was taking at the time.

Daniel Ricciardo was a man on a mission as he looked to make a swap to soft tyres work, and had been closing in quickly on the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda in front.

A dice in the first sector culminated in the Australian having a look up the inside at Turn 6, but Tsunoda looked to take the apex as normal and the Japanese driver was launched into the air when the pair tagged wheels.

“He was able to make his way back to the garage, but the team spotted damage which forced him to retire from the race – much to Tsunoda’s understandable frustration, with a simple: “What the **** was he doing?”, coming on team radio, and a 10-second penalty heading Ricciardo’s way for causing a collision.

This only seemed to ignite Ricciardo’s pace even further though, who went on to catapult his way into P7 and ‘best of the rest’, quickly moving ahead of team-mate Lando Norris, Bottas and the Alpine pair of Alonso and Ocon as he looked to make up for the time he would be losing.

“What a season” was the message from an exasperated Alonso as he dropped a couple of places, before having to retire completely with an engine failure before the end of the race. Only a brief Virtual Safety Car intervention was required, with none of the leaders gambling on another pit stop at the end.

But it was all smooth sailing for Verstappen at the front of the Mexico City Grand Prix, who set a new record in surpassing Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher and standing alone in now being the only driver in Formula 1 history to win 14 races in a single season – and there are still two more to go.

Mexico City Grand Prix classification

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:38:36.729
2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +15.186
3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +18.097
4 George RUSSELL Mercedes +49.431
5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +58.123
6 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +68.774
7 Daniel RICCIARDO McLaren +1 lap
8 Esteban OCON Alpine +1 lap
9 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1 lap
10 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1 lap
11 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri +1 lap
12 Alexander ALBON Williams +1 lap
13 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1 lap
14 Sebastian VETTEL Aston Martin +1 lap
15 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1 lap
16 Mick SCHUMACHER Haas F1 Team +1 lap
17 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1 lap
18 Nicholas LATIFI Williams +2 laps
DNF Fernando ALONSO Alpine
DNF Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri

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