Max Verstappen scored his 16th victory following a dominant drive at Mexico, setting a new achievement in Formula 1 with the most wins this season.
At the start, Verstappen shot off the line as the Ferraris ahead moved slowly away, the three-time champion carving between Leclerc and Sainz to easily claim the inside line for Turn 1.
There, Sergio Perez suddenly arrived on the far left of Verstappen and Leclerc, having got an even better getaway than his teammate and then gained from the slipstream coming off the other RB19 and then Leclerc’s Ferrari.
Perez’s run was so good his wheels were the furthest ahead when the trio reached the turn-in point for Turn 1, but with Verstappen swinging slightly back left just seconds before this, Leclerc got pinched between the Red Bull cars.
Contact was inevitable and Perez was pitched off and soon into retirement with major sidepod damage, while Leclerc sustained a broken front wing endplate.
He cut the remaining opening corners, but Verstappen was swiftly back ahead and took off into a lead of 1.5 seconds at the end of lap one of 71.
Verstappen edged well ahead of Leclerc over the next phase of tyre management driving to reach a three-second lead by the end of lap 11, with Leclerc also pulling clear of Sainz at the same time.
Daniel Ricciardo initially held Hamilton at bay, but eventually the Mercedes driver used DRS and a late switch to the inside run to Turn 1 just as Verstappen had reached that three-second gap in front of Leclerc.
That continued to climb to 4.6 seconds before Red Bull pitted Verstappen at the end of lap 19, where Leclerc enjoyed a five-second advantage over Sainz, who by this point had Hamilton swarming behind.
Verstappen rejoined back in the back and soon carved his way back to the podium place, aided by Mercedes attempting to undercut Sainz by stopping Hamilton for hards from behind on lap 24.
As Leclerc continued to pull away from his teammate even with his damaged car, Ferrari decided its best strategy was to stay out and build a tyre offset against both Red Bull and Mercedes – the leader staying in the high one munute, 23 seconds compared to one minute, 24 seconds for Sainz and one minute, 22 seconds for Verstappen and Hamilton.
Ferrari finally pitted Sainz on lap 30, one lap after Verstappen had easily got back ahead with a DRS run to Turn 1’s inside, with Leclerc brought in the next time by after his teammate, with both taking hards.
That left Verstappen with a massive 16.8 seconds lead, with Hamilton easily undercutting Sainz and now just three seconds back on Leclerc, but on lap 33 the race was majorly disrupted.
Kevin Magnussen crashed at Turn 9 – the Haas driver having lost the rear of his car after a sudden right-rear suspension failure thought to have been brought on by components overheating – brought out the red flags.
Magnussen was able to walk away from the high-speed shunt, despite looking a little sore from the impact, with Verstappen pitting again for more hards shortly before the full red flag was activated.
This was required because the barriers well inside Turn 9 needed assessing, which angered Verstappen, who faced a second standing start now providing a tow to Leclerc, Sainz and Hamilton.
When the five red lights went out again after a 22-minute delay, with the leaders lined up on the hards – other than Hamilton in third on the mediums – again Verstappen aced the start and was able to lead into Turn 1 unopposed.
Behind, Leclerc was able to keep Hamilton from Verstappen’s slipstream and after they swung right and left on the long run to Turn 1, the Ferrari took the outside line and swept into the right hander without contact with the Mercedes tight on the inside.
For the leaders, that was the extent of the drama as Verstappen immediately pulled a new 1.3 seconds lead, which he had almost doubled by the time DRS was activated again for the start of lap 39.
The first time through Turns 1 and 4 with Hamilton bearing down with DRS, Leclerc was able to defend, but on lap 40 his late move to the inside on the run to Turn 1 – putting his right-side wheels on the grass in the process – got him up to second.
Hamilton still having DRS on the run to Turn 4 meant Leclerc’s fightback went nowhere, Verstappen had a 3.2 seconds lead to his 2021 championship rival – but with a more durable tyre fitted and with 30 laps left.
Next, Verstappen carried on pulling away by a few tenths each time by as he lapped in the low one minute, 22 seconds, with Hamilton quickly dropping Leclerc by over five seconds despite Ferrari insisting their pace difference would soon swing around due to the hards lasting longer.
Heading into the final 15 laps, with Verstappen over 10 seconds clear in the lead, Ferrari’s prediction had not come true – with Hamilton able to maintain his five-second advantage in front of Leclerc.
With ten laps left Verstappen’s lead had reached 12.7 seconds, with Leclerc, rather than gaining on Hamilton, slipping back to over six seconds down, the final gaps between the top three ending up as 13.8 seconds and 9.2 seconds as the race at the front fully fizzled out to the chequered flag, where Hamilton set the fastest lap right at the end.
Sainz was 4.0 seconds adrift of Leclerc having initially defended hard against the medium-shod Russell after the second start before the second Mercedes fell back – Russell’s day transformed by gains against Oscar Piastri and Ricciardo at the restart.
But it was Lando Norris who came home fifth having produced a mighty, battling drive – the McLaren driver initially started on the softs from P17 and then was one of the first drivers to stop after he had made limited early progress.
Stopping under the safety car before the red flag was called hurt Norris’s day, as did losing several places with a poor second start, but then the McLaren driver charged through the pack.
He passed Ricciardo with a muscular move at Turn 4 with 11 laps left, then shot up to Russell and soon pressured him into running deep at Turn 4, which allowed Norris to shove his way through at the double-apex Turn 6 a few seconds later.
Although Ricciardo faded from starting fourth, he nevertheless scored AlphaTauri’s best result of the season, and had such pace on his hards late on he was able to pressure Russell up ahead.
Piastri ended up eighth having been involved in a late Turn 1 incident with Yuki Tsunoda that dropped the second AlphaTauri driver out of the points.
Alex Albon came home comfortably ahead of Esteban Ocon at the end of the top ten – this pair and Pierre Gasly in P11 finally overcoming the stout resistance Nico Hulkenberg had displayed for a long time in the remaining Haas.
Aston Martin had a nightmare race, with Fernando Alonso retiring in the pits shortly after the second start and Lance Stroll doing likewise after late contact with Valtteri Bottas – an incident that will be investigated now the race has concluded.
Leclerc also faces a trip to the stewards to explain why he drove on with his early front wing damage.
So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning the Mexico Grand Prix and achieving the most wins this season with 16, setting a new record in the sport. As for his Red Bull teammate, it was major disappointment to see Sergio Perez out of the race following contact with Charles Leclerc on the opening lap. This is racing but the next action is Brazil.
Mexico Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 49:23.531
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +13.875s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +23.124s
4 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +27.154s
5 Lando Norris McLaren +33.266s
6 George Russell Mercedes +41.020s
7 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri +41.570s
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren +43.104s
9 Alexander Albon Williams +48.573s
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine +62.879s
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine +66.208s
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +78.982s
13 Nico Hülkenberg Haas +80.309s
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +80.597s
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +81.676s
16 Logan Sargeant Williams DNF
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin DNF
Fernando Alonso Aston Martin DNF
Kevin Magnussen Haas DNF
Sergio Pérez Red Bull DNF