Mexico won’t agree to US date switch request

Date published: November 2 2017

Mexico Grand Prix organiser Alejandro Soberon has ruled out moving the race to June and being paired with the Canadian Grand Prix.

The initial idea came from USA Grand Prix promoter Bobby Epstein, who has repeatedly put on record that the race in Austin needs to separated from Mexico.

“It would certainly be better for the promoter if the races were further apart on the calendar,” Epstein said via Reuters. “Mexico with Canada. We’d be with Brazil.”

But Soberon has said doing that would put the Mexico Grand Prix at risk.

“Bobby is a fantastic guy and I love him. I think he has a good idea to separate the races, but I think Bobby should move back to June, which would be great for him,” he said.

“It would make more sense to have Canada and the United States together, because they are closer. They can do it in June and they can even make a package together to sell tickets for both races.

“I have a lot of respect for Bobby and what he is doing in Austin, but for us it is impossible to move to June because it is rainy season We are happy with the date we have. I have a lot of sympathy for him but we cannot move to June.

“It [the October date] has become a big festival in the city, and overall you cannot have a good experience if the weekend is so rainy.”

Team-Mate Wars: Mexican Grand Prix

Max Verstappen was mightily impressive in Mexico, while Sebastian Vettel is the recipient of the Pastor Maldonado award.


Hamilton 15 – Bottas 3
Race: Hamilton

There were signs that Valtteri Bottas was going to have a good race from the practice sessions. And though he couldn’t outperform his team leader, at least after Qualifying there was no-one in between himself and Lewis for a change.

After the first corner clash between Verstappen and Vettel it looked like this could be a Mercedes 2-3 result, Max being untouchable out front, even if Hamilton’s tyre had held it together.

The fact that Lewis had an almighty struggle to get past Fernando Alonso in the McLaren-with-the single-use-engine showed that this was not the greatest of tracks for Mercedes to burn from the stern. Neither would have found a way past a Red Bull, indeed it was odds-on that Daniel Ricciardo might have made it a Mercedes 3-4.

Bottas will have been relieved to be back on the podium, though, with a 2018 contract safely in his pocket he knows he has 6 or 7 more races before critical decisions are made at Brackley.


Vettel 10 – Raikkonen 8
Race: Vettel

This was like Austin all over again, a fantastic final lap in Q3 from Vettel and a less than perfect one for Lewis Hamilton. Except this time they had a Max Verstappen in between.

In the race, Seb got aced by Max, and going into Turn 1 he knew what was going to happen. And it happened.

The onboard camera showed the end of Vettel’s front wing come crunching off as Max hit it. In those vital seconds, as Hamilton cruised through on the outside, Vettel had the presence of mind to steer across the track and spear the broken wing into Hamilton’s rear tyre, thus preserving his title chances for at least the rest of the race. Hamilton picked up the intended puncture.

The rest of the race was a vain chase, laced with the slight apprehension that any moment he would get a call from his race engineer to tell him that the stewards had worked out what he did.

I read on one website that Vettel’s response to Hamilton’s World Championship win was “classy”. It certainly was. It was vintage.

Red Bull

Max Verstappen 13 – Daniel Ricciardo 5
Race: Verstappen

Verstappen did his talking on the track this weekend, and it was mightily impressive. He may have been shepherded out of the podium room in Austin, but over the next 15 years he will be returning many times.

What was extraordinary, was not that Red Bull were brilliant at a high downforce track. That’s been a given ever since Adrian Newey put pen to drawing board. It was that Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t get it together in Qualifying. And he didn’t know why.

For once the God of Reliability smiled on Max. On a weekend where anything badged with a Renault looked destined to expire before 71 laps, Max’s roared on. Even when he hit Vettel with a hefty clunk nothing came off the car.

Force India
Sergio Perez 9 – Esteban Ocon 9
Race: Ocon

The one race that Sergio Perez really wanted to outqualify his team-mate, must have given Esteban the added incentive to perform well. In the race he was up to P3, and might have held on to more positions if the timing of the VSC had been different.

Sergio wasn’t quite on it at his home race, especially on a surface that is so smooth that managing the tyres was no real factor.
Felipe Massa/Di Resta 14 – Lance Stroll 4
Race: Massa

Though Lance took what seemed an unlikely sixth place (given the asthmatic difficulty of overtaking in Mexico City), it was Felipe Massa who looked the best chance to score serious points having. That all went up into dust in the opening laps when a slow puncture forced him back to the pits for an early switch to sluggish Softs.

Williams weren’t good at the high downforce circuits this year, so to get a sixth place is almost as good as the Baku podium. Rob Smedley said on the grid that the team were going for reliability over performance in the set-up of the cars, but you couldn’t tell that from Stroll’s result.


Fernando Alonso/Button 15 – Stoffel Vandoorne 3
Race: Alonso

With all the hardware that is regularly put on and taken off the McLaren-Hondas, it’s difficult to know who started with what impediment to their performance. For the record they started 18th and 19th, which thanks to multiple Renault-engine retirements gave Alonso a 9th place until Lewis Hamilton finally caught up with him.

Before the race Honda engine boss Yusuke Hasegawa said he was “very ashamed” at the fact that they had yet to reach season end and they were on the 10th and 11th engine unit. So it was deeply ironic that at the race where the sound of Renault engines expiring was a regular occurrence, both Hondas made it to the flag.

Alonso showed that he is prepared to make both three-times and four-times world champions work for an overtaking move. McLaren always knew that they would be good at high-downforce circuits like Monaco and Hungary, and Alonso’s P5 in Q1 backed up the theory.

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz 11 – Daniil Kvyat/Pierre Gasly 5
Kvyat 1 – Hartley 0
Hartley 1 – Gasly 0
Race: Hartley

 The Toro Rosso TMW scoresheet is beginning to look like the football results. So, farewell Daniil Kvyat.

The guillotine has finally fallen on the Russian’s haphazard career at Toro Rosso; Daniil was sometimes able to match Carlos Sainz’s pace, though sometimes he was able to match Pastor Maldonado’s ability to cosy up to other cars. Whether he is a serious contender for the Williams seat only time (and a little bit of sponsorship) will tell.

The race turned out to be more like a component test that Toro Rosso were running throughout the grand prix weekend. Franz will not be happy.

Romain Grosjean 8 – Kevin Magnussen 10
Race: Magnussen

Kevin – suck my mintoes – Magnussen may have qualified at the back with the usual suspects, but he hauled his Haas up the order.

Team-mate Romain Grosjean found the lack of grip particularly tricky and took time out to explore the margins of the Circuit de los Hermanos Rodriguez. Kevin got into the points and managed to hold off the best driver in what the best driver claimed was “the best car” in Mexico (though with the worst engine).


Nico Hulkenberg 15 – Jolyon Palmer 1
Nico Hulkenberg 0 – Carlos Sainz 2
Race: Sainz

Sainz qualified his Renault hand grenade in front of Nico Hulkenberg. Both had to make swift exits before they went off.


Marcus Ericsson 2 – Antonio Giovinazzi 0
Marcus Ericsson 7 – Pascal Werhlein 9
Race: Ericsson

One of the better aspects of the Mexican Grand Prix was that the Saubers looked just a little bit competitive, with good old Marcus Ericsson maintaining 9th place as late into the race as Lap 14. Marcus is doing Pascal Wehrlein’s chances of a 2018 Williams seat no good at all.

Star of the Race: Max Verstappen (this is becoming the default)
Overtaking Move of the Race: Lewis Hamilton on Fernando Alonso – gritty stuff  
The Maldonado Award: Sebastian Vettel

The Last Words: Alan McNish talking about Kimi Raikkonen as he approached a bunch of slower cars: “”Raikkonen should be able to plummet through these cars.”

BBC’s Jack Nicholls, searching in vain for the word ‘respectful’: “Hamilton and Alonso weren’t the easiest of team-mate at McLaren. They’ve repaired their differences and today they are mutually exclusive of each other.”

Andrew Davies

Race: Verstappen wins race, Hamilton the title

Date published: October 30 2017

Max Verstappen won the opening lap battle against Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton to set up the victory in Mexico while Hamilton wrapped up the title despite his P9 on the day.

Vettel lined up for what could be his last stand in the championship on pole position while Hamilton, champagne on ice to celebrate his fourth World title, was third.

Verstappen separated the protagonists on the grid – and the Dutchman was the only one of the three to come through the opening lap scrap unscathed.

Vettel got a great start but Verstappen pulled alongside him to have the better line. As the two tussled, Hamilton tried to take advantage only to get caught out in it all. Bits of Vettel’s bodywork saw him pit for a new nose while Hamilton had to come in for new rubber as his W08 suffered a puncture. They were P19 and P20 after the first lap.

Hamilton asked Mercedes if they believed Vettel “hit me deliberately?” The stewards looked at the two drivers, and Verstappen, and ruled “no investigation necessary.”

After his lap 1 antics Verstappen had a rather quiet afternoon in Mexico as he built up an eight-second lead over Valtteri Bottas – and lapped Hamilton on lap 22 of the 71-lap grand prix – before his one and only pit stop.

The Red Bull racer continued on unchallenge as he stormed to his third Formula 1 race win, beating Bottas to the chequered flag by 20 seconds and lapping everyone up to and including fifth place.

Kimi Raikkonen, who dropped to seventh on the opening lap, recovered to finish third with his final pass of the day being a leapfrog of Esteban Ocon in the pits.

As for Vettel and Hamilton, the Ferrari driver had an easier time working his way through the traffic and was running fourth with 12 laps reamining while Hamilton had only just made it inside the points in tenth place.

Mercedes put the Brit’s concerns to rest as they informed him that Vettel had to finish second in order to stand any chance of keeping the championship alive. Asked if P2 was possible for the Ferrari driver, Mercedes replied: “Negative.”

With 23 seconds separating Vettel and Raikkonen, the German said: “Mamma mia! That’s a little bit too much.” Vettel finished in fourth place while Hamilton was ninth after a late battle – and contact – with Fernando Alonso.

Esteban Ocon was fifth ahead of Lance Stroll as F1’s youngsters shone in Mexico City. They finished ahead of Sergio Perez, Kevin Magnussen and Hamilton.

Alonso, who had an early battle with Romain Grosjean that resulted in a five-second time penalty for the Haas driver and also contact between the two drivers, was tenth.

Five drivers did not reach the chequered flag. Daniel Ricciardo, who started P16 due to engine penalties, had a great start as he climbed to seventh only to retire the car on lap 6. Nico Hulkenberg retired on lap 25 with an ERS issue. Renault told the driver: “Stop the car Nico. The car is not safe. Not safe. Get out quickly.”

Complaining that he was “losing a lot of power”, Brendon Hartley added his name to the list of retirements on lap 32, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car, while Marcus Ericsson pulled into the pits with his Sauber on fire on lap 57. Carlos Sainz parked his Renault with nine laps remaining.

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:36.26.550
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +19.6
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 54.0
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 70.0
5 Esteban Ocon Force India 1 lap
6 Lance Stroll Williams 1 lap
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1 lap
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1 lap
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1 lap
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1 lap
11 Felipe Massa Williams 1 lap
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1 lap
13 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1 lap
14 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 2 laps
15 Romain Grosjean Haas 2 laps
Did not finish
Sainz Renault
Ericsson Sauber engine
Hartley Toro Rosso engine
Hulkenberg Renault ERS
Ricciardo Red Bull MGU-H

Hamilton: ‘Horrible way’ to wrap up the title

Date published: October 30 2017

Lewis Hamilton admits finishing P9 having spent much of the Mexican Grand Prix running at the back of the field was a “horrible way” to wrap up his fourth World title.

Despite only needing fifth place to secure the title, the Mercedes driver went into Sunday’s race adamant that he was going for the win.

He tangled with title rival Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap, both drivers forced to pit and dropping to the back of the field.

Hamilton had a tough time working his way into the top ten, eventually finishing P9.

But with Vettel only recovering to fourth, the title was Hamilton’s.

It wasn’t, however, the way Hamilton wanted to do it with the Brit insisting he was not at fault for the opening lap drama.

“It was a horrible way to do it, to be honest,” he said. “But what can I do?

“I told you I wasn’t going to go easy at Turn 1. And I don’t think I was too aggressive or anything like that, I placed my car in the perfect position.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the replay, but I left a lot of space for the car behind. So, you know, still I rise, that’s all I’m going to say.

“I kept going, I kept going back, and… I think really I want to say a big thank you to all the guys back at Brixworth and Brackley. Guys, thank you so much for all your hard work.

“Winning the Constructors’ Championship was already a huge feat, and helping me achieve this incredible accomplishment, I’m so grateful.”

Kimi and Max try hard to be happy for Hamilton

Date published: October 30 2017

Put on the spot after Lewis Hamilton’s championship triumph in Mexico, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen tried really hard to congratulate the Mercedes driver.

Verstappen claimed his third Formula 1 race win in Mexico City on Sunday while Raikkonen was third.

That, though, had little impact on the championship with Hamilton’s P9 securing his fourth World title.

Asked for a “few words” on Hamilton’s achievement, that’s exactly what Raikkonen and Verstappen gave.

KR: I think you have to go and talk to him.

The reply: We will do, but the achievement?

KR: Well, it’s great for him, a lot of wins, a lot of championships. Good, but what can I say? I think…

MV: Basically, you don’t care, right?

KR: No, I don’t! Can we be happy about it? In a way yes, but…

MV: I think we’d prefer to be in that position, right?

KR: You can be happy for him but inside, you know, you…

That’s fourth for Force India

Date published: October 30 2017

Force India will finish this year’s championship fourth in the Constructors’ standings after a strong double points-haul in Mexico.

Esteban Ocon was running as high as third but was leapfrogged by Kimi Raikkonen in the pits before falling to charging Sebastian Vettel.

Despite coming under pressure from Lance Stroll, he held on to finish fifth.

With 175 points on the board, Force India are officially fourth in the Constructors’ Championship for the second year running.

“It’s a great day for the team. Fifth place in the race and securing fourth place in the championship is a fantastic achievement after a strong season,” Ocon said.

“For a while I believed the podium was possible because I was sitting in third place for so long. 

“I made a great start and then I pushed as hard as I could in the free air. 

“Sadly the Virtual Safety Car gave Kimi an advantage during the pit stops and he was able to overtake us.

“The final few laps of the race with [Lance] Stroll behind me were not easy. He had fresher tyres and managed to catch me, so I had to give it everything to stay ahead.

“When you work so hard for a result it feels very satisfying so I look forward to celebrating.”

As for Perez, the Mexican racer finished seventh at his home event.

“The main objective of the weekend was to confirm fourth place in the championship so I’m extremely happy that we have done this with two races to spare,” he said.

“It’s been another special weekend with so much support from the fans and I have to say a huge thank you to all of them for the energy they have given me.”

Conclusions from the Mexican Grand Prix

Date published: October 30 2017

Lewis Hamilton was crowned the king of Formula 1 for a fourth time while Max Verstappen was “simply lovely”…

All hail King Lewis the Fourth
Number four wasn’t as dramatic as the first or as torturous as two and three, but in many ways it was the most challenging. The Mercedes wasn’t always the best or most consistent package, however quick it has been. And for the first time since his maiden title, Lewis Hamilton had to stand up to a threat from outside his team; this time in the shape of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.

There was the off-colour day weekend in Sochi, where both Valtteri Bottas and Vettel were faster than he. There was the disappointment of Monaco, and the ‘bumpercars’ and loose headrest in Baku. Yet Hamilton showed the fortitude developed over a decade in the sport to not only repel the challenge from Vettel but also revel in it. Some of Hamilton’s performances post-summer break have been exceptional – indeed, unmatchable. Just as Bottas.

It’s a bit of travesty that the Mexican Grand Prix is among Hamilton’s worst races since joining Mercedes. Yet his suggestion that Vettel deliberately made contact with him was laughable. Like many great champions of old – take your pick from Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher – Hamilton showed again that he is fallible. Bar the occasional missteps when playing mind games, Hamilton has been largely infallible. Yet since the summer break he has been infallible on track. And that is where it mattered most.

Valiant Vettel’s Mexican experience is a microcosm of his season
A highly motivated Vettel and a revitalised Ferrari have had a stunning campaign after the woes of recent seasons. The radical sidepods on the SF70H showed that Ferrari have left behind the conservatism of old and but for some bad luck with safety cars in early rounds could have bagged more than three wins in the first six races.

Vettel’s early-season form was formidable – taking those three victories and three second places in the first six races. But as the development war accelerated, the Scuderia could claim just one win in the next six races. Since then – and especially after the summer interval – the team’s season went from bad to worse. From its home race at Monza when it was obliterated by Mercedes, onwards to the well-documented lows in Singapore and Japan, these all represented a trough from which Vettel’s title aspiration could not recover.

Mexico was also representative of Vettel’s season: there was the sublime (qualifying on pole) and the silly (making contact with Max Verstappen and Hamilton at turn 3). Fighting back from second to last to fourth was an admirable achievement, but to beat Mercedes nothing less than perfect would do. And come next season, how much might Vettel rue the scruffy days that he and his team have had in 2017?

Max says it’s “simply lovely” and he is right
As Verstappen showed in Mexico, it seems highly likely that race wins next year will be contested between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. In the thin air of Mexico City, his was a masterclass in controlling the race from the front and yet another sign of his maturity and growing threat to the established title contenders.

Describing his start as “simply, simple lovely”, Verstappen is also capable of coming up with Fernando Alonso-type soundbites to entertain fans.  The youngster now has three race wins to his name – each coming after a Daniil Kvyat demotion. And you can be sure that there will be many more.

Renault reliability is rough on some
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner admitted he was concerned about the power unit in Verstappen’s car after Nico Hulkenberg, Brendon Hartley and Daniel Ricciardo all suffered failures that led to their respective retirements from the Mexican Grand Prix. Renault’s resurgence has been hampered hindered by a string of reliability issues, which means Hulkenberg has not seen the chequered flag in three races.

However, the reliability problem in Mexico will be all the more galling for Ricciardo, who took a grid penalty to change components and then had to retire after carving his way through the field in the early phase of the race. The Australian remains one of the best racers on the grid. However, Verstappen’s new contract with Red Bull and two wins in the last four races must be weighing on Ricciardo.

Other observations
Esteban Ocon not only beat team-mate Sergio Perez at Perez’s home race but also finish fifth, equalling the young Frenchman’s best-ever result in F1. It can’t be long before he becomes a candidate for a drive with Mercedes. Bottas, beware.

Lance Stroll bagged sixth in another fine performance for Williams. The Canadian is four points ahead of Felipe Massa in the standings.

Vettel’s move on Perez was brave as they come but the best battle of the race was between Hamilton and Alonso. It’s always a privilege to see Alonso in wheel-to-wheel action. It’s just a pity this was for ninth.

Richard F Rose