Two-time world champion Max Verstappen continues to impress this season by winning the Mexico Grand Prix with ease and achieving a record-breaking 14th victory.
After acing the start from pole and once it became clear well ahead of the final laps that his medium tyres would hold on, Verstappen dominated to take victory and set a new record for single-season wins.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton had to settle for second position as the team tried an aggressive strategy but wasn’t fast enough to challenge or beat Verstappen.
Home hero Sergio Perez finished third position ahead of George Russell, with the Ferrari drivers a minute behind by the finish in fifth and sixth.
At the start, Verstappen launched well in front of Russell and swung right in front of the Mercedes on the very long run down to the first corner – with Russell gaining from the Red Bull’s slipstream to run ahead of Hamilton and Perez.
Just before they braked for Turn 1, Russell moved left to the outside line but ended up just following Verstappen through the right-hander and deep towards the grass runoff on the outside.
As Verstappen scampered through unopposed, Russell bounced over the kerbs at Turn 2, with Hamilton by this top alongside his teammate and getting ahead with better drive out of Turn 3.
There, Russell came along Hamilton but ran out of room and had to climb over the kerbs, therefore losing momentum and being jumped the quickly arriving Perez into Turn 4 at the end of the second straight.
Verstappen immediately moved out of DRS threat at the end of lap one of 71, with Hamilton giving chase having started on the medium tyres, as did Russell, compared to the used softs fitted to the two Red Bulls.
Over the next phase of the race, the gap between the leaders fluctuated slightly, but generally held around 1.5 seconds as Perez and Russell ran a few seconds further adrift and falling further behind over the course of the first stint.
Approaching the end of the race’s first quarter, Verstappen upped his pace in a bid to break the tow to the Mercedes, but Hamilton was able to hang on just over two seconds behind before the leader’s softs began to give up.
From a maximum of 2.4 seconds, Verstappen’s advantage was down to 1.6 seconds by the time he came in at the end of lap 25 – one lap after Perez had pitted and suffered a slow left-rear change that left him stationary for 5.0 seconds.
Running the more durable tyre, Mercedes left Hamilton out – his mediums showing none of the dark wear patches that had been evident on Verstappen’s left-front soft before he stopped.
But Hamilton only remained out for another four laps before he was brought in to switch to the hard tyres, with Mercedes instead leaving Russell out to complete a much longer first stint.
He therefore led until the end of lap 34, Verstappen cycling back into the lead at half-distance with a near seven-second lead and Hamilton under more pressure from Perez running closely behind – Checo having cleared the off-the-pace Ferrari pair after his slow stop.
Hamilton suggested the hards were not performing as well as the mediums he had given up, with Mercedes in turn implying performance drop-off logged at the end of his first stint might give him a chance to catch Verstappen late on.
That looked a mighty ask 15 laps into Hamilton’s second as he faced a near 10 seconds gap to the dominant leader, but at least able to keep Perez at arm’s length just a few seconds behind.
Indeed, the status quo continued to hold, with Hamilton questioning whether his hard tyre set was the right compound to be on and Mercedes insisting it was due to its added durability on a one-stopper.
But with Verstappen continuing to edge away by a few tenths each lap as the leaders made their way through traffic, with 15 laps left he had a lead of 12.1 seconds.
As it turned out, the Mercedes team’s hoped-for dramatic pace drop off for Red Bull never happened and Verstappen romped home to win by 15.1 seconds having completed a massive 46-lap final stint on the mediums.
A late race stoppage for Fernando Alonso, who had been running comfortably in seventh before an engine issue caused him to lose pace and eventually stop in the Turn 1 runoff, did not cause much of a disruption other than a short virtual safety car activation on laps 65-66 as the Alpine was quickly moved behind the barriers.
Perez ended up 2.9s behind Hamilton having fallen further behind shortly before the VSC, with Russell fourth and also vocally frustrated about having to run the hards in his second stint.
That ended up only being his middle stint as Mercedes pitted Russell to take the softs for a final lap shot at the fastest lap bonus point, which he duly secured with a one minute, 20.153 seconds.
Carlos Sainz led Charles Leclerc home in an anonymous race for Ferrari – the Spaniard ending up 58.8 seconds adrift of Verstappen and the only action for the pair involving Perez’s post-stop passing and Sainz doing likewise to Alonso after his own service to go from softs to mediums.
Leclerc the last car on the lead lap and 10 seconds behind his teammate, the drama to the finish concerned McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
He had produced the second-longest opening stint on the mediums in staying out until lap 45, after which he was rapid on the softs but made a bad error hitting Yuki Tsunoda at Turn 6 a few laps after his pitstop.
With the AlphaTauri retiring in the pits, Ricciardo was handed a 10s-time addition penalty, which he overcame with a sterling drive up the field after being waved by teammate Lando Norris, who was completing the medium-hard strategy.
Ricciardo produced pass after pass – including being part of a double move on Alonso into Turn 1 shortly before the Spaniard retired, with his teammate Esteban Ocon going by ahead of Ricciardo into Turn 1 before in turn being caught and passed by the honey badger.
In clear air from there, Ricciardo charged and eventually finished 12.1 sconds ahead of Ocon to negate his penalty.
Norris and Valtteri Bottas, who had dropped back on lap one after his fine qualifying and then battled the Alpines in the first and middle phases of the race before falling back, completing the top ten.
Tsunoda and Alonso were the race’s only retirements.
So not the most thrilling Mexico Grand Prix as Verstappen was in a different league compared to his rivals. To achieve 14 wins this season is unbelievable. Max is on fire this season with his winning form. Just two races left in this season of Formula 1 racing.
Mexico Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:38:36.729
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +15.186s
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull +18.097s
4 George Russell Mercedes +49.431s
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +58.123s
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +68.774s
7 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1 lap
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 lap
9 Lando Norris McLaren +1 lap
10 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1 lap
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +1 lap
12 Alex Albon Williams +1 lap
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1 lap
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1 lap
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1 lap
16 Mick Schumacher Haas +1 lap
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams +2 laps
– Fernando Alonso Alpine DNF
– Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri DNF