In F1, the first person you have to beat is your team-mate. Andrew Davies’ Team-Mate Wars returns.
Star of the Race: Lewis Hamilton
Overtaking Move of the Race: Lap 70: Daniel Ricciardo on Sebastian Vettel for P4. One of the longest overtaking moves in GP history, it only came off two hours after the race.
Season: Lewis Hamilton 11 – Nico Rosberg 8
He didn’t mess the start up, and despite the 800-metre run to Turn 1 he didn’t lose the lead. He may have missed the first corner because of a glazed brake, and he most certainly gained a short-term advantage, but at the time Lewis wasn’t under threat of being overtaken and the Safety Car soon neutralized any gap that he might have got.
Daniel Ricciardo thought that Hamilton should have been penalised for his trip off circuit, but that kind of thing happens at Les Combes in Spa and the stewards don’t raise an eyebrow. Similarly, Nico Rosberg should figure out that he is always likely to have a Red Bull on his inside going into Turn 1 if he starts from P2 on the grid. Again, Nico was bounced onto the grass and couldn’t do anything about his imposed short cut.
To drive 17 laps with a massive vibration shows that Lewis’s mind is in the zone. The only problem is that it should have been more in the zone at Suzuka, where a better qualifying performance and start would have given him a 17-point swing. That would have put the title within his grasp without even considering Malaysia.
Season: Vettel 11 – Raikkonen 8
Ferrari looked a lot better in the race than they did in qualifying, but it was a bit of a weird weekend in terms of judging the relative competitiveness of the Mercedes/Red Bull/Ferrari cabal as their fortunes waxed and waned through free practice.
Raikkonen outqualified Vettel, but Vettel had the better race – and (big fanfare now) the strategy that the Scuderia chose for Seb was masterly.
Okay, he probably shouldn’t go round the track yelling on team radio that other drivers are stupid. And he’s admitted that telling the Race Director to bleep off is not a great career move and apologized. But that whole sequence of events at the end of the Mexican GP was by far the most gripping end to any we’ve had this year. The rest of the race was dire.
Everyone keeps saying that F1 is devoid of characters, not like it was in the old days, but when we get a character – and a character he surely is, let’s not censure him. We don’t get to speak to footballers the second after they’ve been denied a clear-cut penalty, or rugby players after being penalised for a dubious infringement. Kimi’s at his best when he’s playing Forrest Grump, the rest of the time he’s an I-speak-your-weight machine, with a single montonous tone. Rant on.
Season: Ricciardo 9 – Verstappen 6
Max won the battle of qualifying and almost squeezed through into P2 at the first corner. Toto Wolf may not like his aggression, but there’s a global F1 TV audience who will disagree.
Daniel rolled the dice and having lost out to VSC tyre changers in Austin, decided to see if he could make one work for himself in Mexico. It didn’t really, but he worked wonders to close on Vettel in the final laps of the race. He would have been in a position to overtake the Ferrari whether Vettel had been let through by Max or not.
And when Sebastian moved clearly under braking, right after the stupid ****ing race director’s pre-race warning about moving under braking, and bumped tyres with Ricciardo, it seemed pretty natural that Vettel would get a penalty. In the closing stages of the race I was surprised that Red Bull Racing weren’t yelling at Daniel to stay closer to Vettel for that very reason.
Watching live on C4 with the F1 timing screen to one side, it was interesting to see after the race the positions magically switch round. Once Vettel had been promoted to P3, I expected Daniel Ricciardo then to jump up to P3 and take the podium. It didn’t happen then, but at least it got sorted out before the bars opened and Dan could have a proper drink from a proper glass.
Season: Bottas 12 – Massa 7
Bottas qualified in front and stayed in front of Felipe, who must have spent the largest part of his GP staring at a fractional image of a Force India bobbing around his mirrors. The Brazilian did a pretty good job because Checo had all the motivation he needed at hand.
Season: Button 7 – Alonso 11
The strategy worked out for Jenson, not quite so well for Fernando, who had his own little team-radio rant, this one directed at his engineer who said he could ‘push’. With someone like the Spanish Terminator that instruction is normally superfluous but in this case it probably meant ‘you have our permission to shag the tyres’. Whataver, El Nano was not impressed.
Jenson did a canny bit of overtaking on Carlos Sainz. As the battle of Rosberg vs Verstappen came through to lap them, Jenson used the moment to snip past the Torro Rosso, making it 1-1 in the intra-McLaren battle to overtake Carlos in unlikely places.
Season: Perez 8 – Hulkenberg 11
Hulkenberg produced a monumental qualifying performance that his race pace couldn’t quite live up to. Daniel Ricciardo passed him fair and square, though. Given the lack of tyre wear at the circuit Hermanos Rodriguez Perez’s progress was only good until he got to the brick wall that was Felipe Massa’s rear wing.
Season: Sainz 12 – Kvyat 3
Carlos was a long way ahead of the still struggling Kvyat. With the pressure of next season’s drive lifted from Kvyat it might be expected that he could make inroads to Sainz’s overwhelming domination, but we’ve yet to see it.
Season: Gutierrez 6 – Grosjean 13
More moaning from Grosjean about the state of his Haas and the lack of confidence he has with the brakes. Even though many of the component structures of the car have been bought from Ferrari, this season’s debut has been a salutary experience for anyone contemplating a move into F1 about how difficult the systems can be. And next year brakes will be even more at a premium with speeds set to rise by five seconds a lap.
Esteban outqualified Romain again, but both drivers described this race as the worst of the year with the car wholly inconsistent. It may not be a comfort, but the combination of 22% less dense atmosphere and smooth asphalt made it a weird weekend for everyone.
Season: Palmer 9 – Magnussen 10
Palmer won this on strategy by hanging on with a set of badly worn tyres. In many respects that’s like the situation with his drive for Renault, he’s hanging on.
Season: Wehrlein 4 – Ocon 2
Wehrlein was the innocent victim of a Gutierrez nudge on the opening lap and so any team-mate comparison stopped on Saturday afternoon.
Season: Nasr 7 – Ericsson 11
Thanks to an unlikely early tyre stop, Marcus Ericsson managed to hold on to P11 until the end of the race. He described it as his greatest race, and nursing the tyres that distance must have been a supreme achievement, but it’s not exactly white knuckle entertainment.
Arse of the Race
This is a tough one… who misbehaved a little too much in Mexico…? Unlike Kimi’s fabulous rant in Abu Dhabi when he was at Lotus, I don’t think: “Here’s a message for Charlie, _____ off!” is going to make it onto a T-shirt. We love all this, though. It may be that the commentators have to take the moral high ground, but let’s ignore them. Deep-seated frustration and animosity is a far better watch than good-natured acceptance.
Eddie Jordan proving he knows what today’s teenagers are up to talking about Max: “I love his clarity, his mind. And his mind is so clear. He’s a young boy, it’s not full of discos and nightclubs.”
Or Game Boy and the Sega MegaDrive.
David Coulthard talking about Kimi Raikkonen: “He’s 36 years old. He’s getting into the twilight of his potential.”
Daniel Ricciardo interviewed by Lee McKenzie after qualifying and struggling to answer a question “To be Frank, you lost me at hello.”
David Coulthard finding the most elegant way of describing Juan Pablo Montoya as FAT. “He’s really embraced the American lifestyle it has to be said.”
Ben Edwards, starting a sentence and then realising half way through it’s rubbish, but still carrying on regardless: “This has been a good couple of races for Kimi Raikkonen…except for his non-finish at the US Grand Prix last week.”