Max Verstappen rode out a chaotic 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix with supreme confidence to add yet another record to his collection, while Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc also picked up hard-earned podiums.
It was arguably the best modern race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez – which also serves to underline how poor some previous editions have been – but that excitement was limited to battles behind Verstappen.
Alfa Romeo had been pencilled in for the losers having let a double-Q3 appearance evaporate into 0 points and losing a position in the constructors’ championship.
However, they probably didn’t have the race pace for the top 10 even if Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu should’ve put up a better fight.
But enough about who didn’t feature – who was included?
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton was trending towards the losers after a qualifying session where Mercedes looked ultra-competitive right up until it really mattered, then finished fifth and eighth.
But he changed all of that around in the race despite a frustrating 11 laps behind Daniel Ricciardo in the first stint. With overtaking at such a premium in the thin air of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, that didn’t seem so bad as the afternoon wore on though and he was much swifter in dispatching Charles Leclerc after the red flag restart.
George Russell‘s late-race struggles showed what Hamilton could’ve lost if he’d not made that crucial overtake, but from there the gap to Leclerc grew practically every lap.
He even had enough performance left to grab the fastest lap and slash his deficit to Sergio Perez from 39 points to 20.
Just as important for both next season and the remainder of 2023, Hamilton continues to look at home in the direction Mercedes are taking their car development.
If Hamilton can outshine Russell at his adopted home race in Brazil then he should be very confident of taking his current advantage at Mercedes in 2024.
Loser: Sergio Perez
Perez has been upbeat ever since landing in North America ahead of the US GP, and even after this latest catastrophe he seemed pretty optimistic that his form would turn around in Interlagos.
Perez claims he’s worked out where his gaping, almost season-long chasm to Verstappen has come from. And with enthusiasm that could put Blackadder‘s Baldrick to shame, Perez also apparently knows how to solve it.
It’s difficult to see why though. Yes he was closer to his teammate in qualifying on one of the shortest laps of the year, but that was far from Verstappen‘s best lap and the Mexican had still looked a step behind throughout the weekend.
And while his shot for glory at the opening corner was courageous, it was objectively ill-advised. Perez said he had no regrets about the move but he’d got a brilliant start to put a first podium in five races within easy reach, then was on the verge of tears in the Red Bull garage just a few minutes later.
Winner: Lando Norris
Not too much explanation needed here. Worked his way from 17th to 10th by the first red flag – admittedly with a slice of luck with pit stops – before losing over half of that gain with a very poor restart.
But when the going gets tough, the tough get going and Norris climbed back up to a stunning fifth-place finish, overtaking a despairing Russell with three laps to go to cap a performance worthy of Driver of the Day.
And a word for Oscar Piastri, things didn’t go his way in the grand prix but he made way for Norris without any complaints to further underline the harmony at McLaren.
Loser: Mexico City GP crowd
It’s one of the most passionate crowds on the Formula 1 calendar, but that boiled over in ugly fashion during the race.
Some fans had inexplicably already left the track following Perez‘s DNF, but one lout unfortunately stayed to land several punches on a pair of Ferrari fans.
After wading up several rows, his attack lasted for 14 shocking seconds before another supporter pulled him away.
Both race organisers and teams had taken steps to reduce fan intrusion in the paddock, after Pierre Gasly reported his rucksack and passport had been opened by fans in 2022, but this video showed behaviour worse than any of that.
Scenes like Perez‘s Sky Sports interview after qualifying, where Natalie Pinkham and co. were effectively swallowed by the supporter ball around their idol, are electric. But after there’s been several cases of football culture impinging on F1 from European Red Bull fans, it was disappointing to see that repeated in Mexico City.
Winner: Daniel Ricciardo
The most consistent driver of the weekend, Ricciardo had plenty of doubters after a mediocre showing on his AlphaTauri return in Austin given what Liam Lawson had managed in his absence.
But driving just his fourth grand prix of the season, Ricciardo silenced all the dissenting voices and catapulted his team off the bottom of the constructors’ championship and into eighth.
His top-ten pace in every free practice session felt like a potential red herring – see Williams‘ downfall – but Ricciardo was never lower than fourth on Saturday afternoon.
It was always going to a tall order to hold onto that in the race with plenty of firepower behind, but it says a lot that Ricciardo could be disappointed with seventh given he let Russell slip by at the restart and couldn’t recover the position.
Still, this was a major statement by Ricciardo only amplified by Perez‘s struggles for Red Bull.
Losers: FP1 rookie drivers*
*Except Oliver Bearman.
Bearman made a good showing for Haas underlining the precocious talent he’s shown at every step of his junior career, and will deservedly get another chance in Abu Dhabi.
However, the same couldn’t be said for Frederik Vesti, Jack Doohan and Isack Hadjar while Theo Pourchaire never even got the chance to drive a lap in anger thanks to a brake-by-wire issue.
Both Doohan and Vesti are in their second seasons of F2 which is usually the jumping-off point for drivers destined for F1, but were hamstrung by uncompetitive run plans.
They finished over two and three seconds off the lead respectively, while Hadjar did better on the timesheets but would still have hoped for more in a demon AT04.
Winner: Max Verstappen
Couldn’t keep him away from this. Even trying to avoid putting him in the winners every week – for the sake of keeping it interesting more than anything else – he’s still featured nine times.
This was one of his best wins too, Verstappen was unflappable on a Sunday afternoon where he definitely didn’t have it all his own way.
He made the rest of the grid look like they were racing through quicksand at the start, zooming past Carlos Sainz before the Spaniard knew what was happening, and making it impossible for Leclerc to hold the lead at turn one.
It looked like Verstappen might be on the receiving end of a similar surge at the restart but he was perfect once again, and was barely seen outside of that, easing to victory with superior race pace.
Loser: Fernando Alonso
Back-to-back retirements for Alonso, for only the second time since his McLaren days – an ominous signal indeed.
Aston Martin seem to have put 2023 on the back burner at this point having already been leapfrogged for fourth in the constructors’ championship by the flying papaya.
But if they are working on developments for 2024 then track-time becomes all the more important, so missing over 30 laps in the space of a fortnight isn’t ideal.
He did at least make Q2 this time, but for that to even be listed as a positive shows just how far this season has derailed for Aston Martin.