Three-time Formula 1World Champion Max Verstappen claimed a record-breaking 16th victory of the 2023 season, as teammate Sergio Perez had home heartbreak, and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen had a frightening crash.
Here's some of what you may have missed from the Mexico Grand Prix on Sunday.
Verstappen Makes It a Sweet 16
Max Verstappen broke his own record of victories in a season as he surpassed his 2022 benchmark by claiming a 16th victory of the 2023 season in Mexico City.
There were echoes of 2021 in Verstappen’s display, as he started in third place behind a front-row lockout by a rival (then Mercedes, this year Ferrari) yet emerged ahead from turn 1.
Verstappen surged off the line, swept past both Ferraris, and seized the inside line to take the lead. From there Verstappen managed a two-stop strategy, with his second stop effectively brought forward by the timing of the red flag, caused by Kevin Magnussen’s accident. That left Verstappen with a standing restart to contend with, at just over mid-distance, but he was once more perfect off the line and along the lengthy 800-meter drag to the first turn.
“It’s been an incredible season, the car has been unbelievable to drive,” said Verstappen. “After last year winning 15 races, now we are here with 16, so I’m just very happy.”
Verstappen’s win was his 51st, and puts him tied for fourth on the all-time list, alongside Alain Prost. Verstappen is is now just two wins behind another Red Bull legend, Sebastian Vettel.
Verstappen’s win tally since the start of 2022 alone—31—would put him seventh in the pecking order of all-time Formula 1 winners.
In the battle to be best-of-the-rest Lewis Hamilton beat Charles Leclerc after a stirring recovery drive from sixth on the grid. Hamilton passed Daniel Ricciardo, used the undercut to pass Carlos Sainz, and took a divergent tire strategy to eventually overhaul Leclerc along the main straight.
Local Hero Perez’s High-Risk Decision Fails
Sergio Perez is always the center of attention in Mexico City and as one of the country’s leading sports stars his every move is tracked and lauded. The mere appearance of Perez’s RB19 through the 30,000-seater Foro Sol stadium results in a cacophony of noise—but he didn’t even make it that far in the race.
Perez put in a much stronger qualifying display, within two-tenths of Verstappen, with the picture distorted negatively due to the presence of the standout Daniel Ricciardo in fourth.
Perez got a great launch off the line and from fifth judged his movements well to pick up a slipstream before striving to grab the lead into turn 1. Only Perez then made an overly aggressive chop on Charles Leclerc, who was in the middle of the track, with Verstappen on the inside. The Ferrari made contract with the Red Bull, sending Perez skywards, with the return to earth resulting in terminal floor damage for the RB19. A disconsolate Perez toured back to the pits and after a few minutes of inspecting the damage Red Bull decided to call it a day. It was a high risk approach for Perez and it backfired.
“I’ve had some really sad moments in my career, but certainly this is as a race, the saddest one, because of the end result,” said Perez. “We gave it all. I knew that today, a podium was not enough for me, and I really wanted to go for the win. I saw the gap and I went for it.”
There was a notable change in atmosphere once Perez was out of proceedings but he defended his decision.
“I felt to be honest I would have let [the fans] down more if I didn’t go for it, if I’m honest,” he said. “I saw the gap and I went for it. I decided to take a risk, I knew it was going to be very risky, and I ended up paying the price. Yeah. Risk, reward, it was pretty high risk to take, but it was worth taking it.”
Outstanding Norris Puts in Superb Drive
McLaren's Lando Norris failed to finish on the podium after a four-race trophy streak yet his drive in Mexico City was one of the most accomplished of his career.
Norris started 17th on the grid after a messy qualifying, but carved his way into the top 10 in the early stages of the race on an aggressive strategy. Norris took the standing restart from there but had to back off along the pit straight after being sandwiched and slipped to 14th spot.
An undeterred Norris gradually picked off rivals while still managing his tires at a circuit where passing is not overly easy due to the altitude, the requirements for cooling, and the reduced impact of the DRS. The cherry on the cake was Norris dispatching George Russell late on, setting up his compatriot before pulling off a move through Turns 4 and 5, to seal fifth place.
“His race engineer Will Joseph turned to me and said to me that’s one of the best of Lando,” said boss Andrea Stella. “I said, Will, that’s one of the best at all: so many overtaking (moves), while managing power unit temperatures, having to do lift and cost. I’m just impressed. One of the best races for a driver that I’ve been part of, let’s say.”
That’s high praise from Stella considering that during his illustrious career he has worked closely with Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.
“On one side we are excited, having seen this kind of masterpiece, on the other side like Lando said on the in-lap, like, guys let’s do a good job on Saturday and we can fight for podiums, so you know the pace was there to fight for podiums,” said Stella.
McLaren had Oscar Piastri in eighth place to ensure it inched further clear of Aston Martin in the battle for fourth in the Constructors' Championship.
F1 Mexico Grand Prix
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 71 laps
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +13.875 seconds
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +23.124
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, +27.154
Lando Norris, McLaren, +33.266
George Russell, Mercedes, +41.020
Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, +41.570
Oscar Piastri, McLaren, +43.104
Alexander Albon, Williams, +48.573
Esteban Ocon, Alpine, +1:02.879
Pierre Gasly, Alpine, +1:06.208
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, +1:18.982
Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, +1:20.309
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, +1:20.597
Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, +1:21.676
Logan Sargeant, Williams, +1 lap
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +5 laps
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, +24 laps
Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +40 laps
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +70 laps
F1 Constructors' Championship Red Bull 731
Aston Martin 236
Alfa Romeo 16