MEXICO CITY (AFP) — Red Bull’s Max Verstappen claimed a record 14th victory of the Formula One season by winning the Mexico Grand Prix on Sunday, Oct. 30.
World champion Verstappen finished a comfortable 15.186 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes while Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez finished third on home soil.
It was the second win inside a week for Dutchman Verstappen, who also triumped at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
Verstappen has now beaten the record previously held by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel for the most wins in a single season.
“It has been an incredible year so far, we are definitely enjoying it and we’ll try to go for more (victories),” said Verstappen.
Hamilton lamented his team’s decision to choose medium and then hard tyre compounds while Verstappen went from softs to medium.
“I was close in the first stint, but the Red Bulls were too fast today and they probably had the right tyre strategy,” Hamilton said.
Perez was cheered loudly by a sell-out crowd.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out today, but it is great to get third place here and be on the podium,” Perez said.
George Russell finished a frustrated fourth for Mercedes, but clocked the fastest lap ahead of the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, both unable to find the pace to make any impact on the leading quartet.
Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for McLaren, after a mid-race collision for which he was given a 10-second time penalty, ahead of Esteban Ocon of Alpine, Lando Norris in the second McLaren and Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo.
As the lights went out, Verstappen made a near-perfect start from pole position while, behind him, Hamilton fought his way past Russell to take second.
To the delight of his fans, Perez also passed Russell to take third.
After lap one, the Dutchman held a lead of 1.39 seconds which he gently extended to 1.6 by lap 10 and 2.2 by lap 20 as the leaders ran in consistent formation, the race only punctuated by Stroll taking the first pit stop on lap 18.
Verstappen reported his soft tyres were deteriorating shortly before Perez came in after 23 laps to switch from soft to medium compounds, but his stop was hampered by a sticky rear wheel change and took five seconds.
He rejoined sixth.
Two laps later, Verstappen came in and out in 2.5 seconds, passing the lead to Hamilton, who was 5.5 seconds clear of Russell as the Dutchman re-joined third behind him.
Hamilton came in on lap 30 to switch to hards and re-joined third, Russell taking over as leader until lap 35, when he also pitted to take hard tyres. He came back in fourth and the leading group were back as they had been.
“This tire is not as good as the medium,” Hamilton said on team radio, prompting Mercedes to reply suggesting it would last longer than the medium, as taken by Red Bull.
Hamilton, however, was struggling for grip and impatient as he slipped 9.5 seconds adrift of the champion with Perez, third and pressing, only 1.9 seconds behind.
By lap 40, both Mercedes men were grumbling in unison about the hard tyre’s lack of performance.
Verstappen extended his lead to more than 10 seconds by lap 50, but Hamilton clung on.
“Are we on the wrong tyre?” Hamilton asked his team. “No, Lewis, we think we’re on the right tyre and it’ll get to the end. No sweat,” replied his race engineer, Pete Bonnington.
With six laps to go, Mercedes’ hard tyre gamble appeared to have failed when two-time champion Fernando Alonso pulled off at turn one in his Alpine.
It was a brief pause without any pitstops, leaving Russell frustrated in his requests for new rubber.
“Stay out,” said Mercedes, only relenting on lap 70 to give him a chance to go for fastest lap
Red Bull have already claimed the constructors’ championship.