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Verstappen claims record win with Mexico GP triumph

Verstappen claims record win with Mexico GP triumph

FORMULA ONE: Max Verstappen has claimed a record-breaking 14th win of the season with a dominant victory over Lewis Hamilton at the Mexico City Grand Prix yesterday (Oct 30).

By Michael Lamonato

Monday 31 October 2022, 11:31AM

Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after his win at the Mexico Grand Prix yesterday (Oct 30). Photo: AFP

Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after his win at the Mexico Grand Prix yesterday (Oct 30). Photo: AFP

Verstappen started from pole and was only ever at risk off the line, when George Russell in second and Hamilton in third slipstreamed him down to the first turn.

But the Mercedes drivers tangled with each other rather than the Dutchman. Hamilton eventually jumped Russell with a robust move through turn 3, but by the time the order shook out at the end of the lap, Verstappen had more than a second in hand, enough to prevent a DRS move in the first stint.

A cagey opening stanza ensued, with Verstappen stretching the gap to around two seconds but unable to build a bigger margin without overusing his delicate soft tyres.

Hamilton had no such trouble keeping the leader in check with his more robust mediums, but they proved ultimately to be his downfall by forcing him into a switch to the unfancied hard compound at his first pit stop.

Mercedes new the hardest tyre was unlikely to be competitive but thought Verstappen, who switched to the medium tyre, wouldn’t be able to make it to the end without a second pit stop, handing Hamilton track position and a chance at victory in what would become a defensive race.

But the medium tyre proved more durable on Verstappen’s car than imagined, and at half distance it was clear he could make it to the flag without needing a new set.

Mercedes’s victory hopes evaporated on the spot, and Verstappen ran away to a 15-second victory.

“An incredible result,” Verstappen said. “The pace of the car was again every nice.

“We had to look after out tyres because it was a very long stint on the mediums, but we made it work.”

His 14th win of the year broke the record for greatest number of victories in a single season, bettering the previous benchmark jointly held by Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher.

“It’s been an incredible year so far,” he acknowledged. “We are definitely enjoying it and we’ll try to go for more.”

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Hamilton said that his team had chosen the wrong strategy but admitted that he didn’t have the pace to beat Verstappen in a straight fight.

“I was so close I think in the first stint but the Red Bull I was clearly too fast today and ultimately they had the better tyre strategy,” he said.

Sergio Perez completed the podium with a popular third place in front of a packed-house home crowd, but the Mexican felt there would’ve been more on the table had his sole pit stop not been slow, which prevented him from jumping Hamilton for second.

“I gave my best today at the start really pushed hard,” he said. “Unfortunately we had a little bit of a bad stop, which prevented us from undercutting Lewis, and overtaking is so difficult. As soon as I got behind him it was really difficult to follow.”

Russell finished fourth with a bonus point for fastest lap after a late pit stop for fresh rubber. The Briton had implored Mercedes to switch strategies in the middle of the race but was handed the same flat tactics as Hamilton.

Ferrari teammates Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished a woeful fifth and sixth and around a minute behind Verstappen. The Italian car struggled badly at the 2.2-kilometre altitude of Mexico City, where its power unit couldn’t cope with the thing air and the chassis had trouble riding the kerbs on the low-grip track.

Daniel Ricciardo finished seventh as the best midfielder after a cracking end to the race. The Australian ran long on the medium tyre before switching to softs for the final 27 laps and unleashing great pace on a midfield largely stuck with the slow hard tyres.

His charge was almost undone by a clumsy crash with Yuki Tsunoda. The McLaren driver made an ill-judged dive down the inside of the AlphaTauri and tipped it onto two wheels, for which he was handed a 10-second penalty.

Tsunoda retired from the race but Ricciardo charged up the road and up to seventh place, where his pace was so good that he put a 12-second gap on the rest of the field, negating the penalty and scoring points for just the second time since July.

He finished ahead of Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris and Valtteri Bottas as the last of the point-scorers.

Fernando Alonso was the race’s only other retirement, stopping on track after 63 laps with an engine problem.

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