Verstappen blows a wonderful opportunity
It's not often that Max Verstappen has had a bad weekend in 2019, but that was certainly the case in Mexico.
He was superb in qualifying and looked set for pole position as he dominated Q3. However, the Dutchman failed to lift whilst passing Valtteri Bottas’ crashed car and was rightly awarded a 3-place grid penalty. His comments in the post-qualifying press conference were not his finest choice of words.
The race didn’t go well either. He awkwardly tangled with Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap, ended up on the grass and dropped to P8.
On lap 4, Verstappen seemed to have made a sensational move into the stadium section on Bottas, but unfortunately for the Dutchman, the front wing end fence of the Mercedes touched his right rear tyre and it resulted in a puncture.
He recovered from 20th to finish 6th, but this was a race he could and probably should have won. The pre-Monaco 2018 version of Verstappen appeared in Mexico.
Ferrari’s strategists get it wrong once again
Ferrari have a terrific car in qualifying thanks to the power modes available in qualifying and the drivers have been delivering great performances on a Saturday since the summer break.
When it comes to the race, however, they don’t have the advantage they do on a Saturday. For them to win, everything needs to be perfect. However, the strategy team ended up letting their drivers down yesterday.
Ferrari responded to Alex Albon’s stop on lap 15 by pitting race leader Charles Leclerc a lap later and making it a two-stop race for him. With a surprising lack of degradation on the tyres, this proved to be a bad decision and it took the young Monegasque out of victory contention.
Things got even worse with Sebastian Vettel, though. Hamilton was within 2 seconds of the German when Mercedes pulled the Brit in. Even if Ferrari responded, he would have rejoined behind Hamilton. That ultimately decided the race.
It was another bad day for the Ferrari strategists; it’s become quite a common theme since 2016.
Perez stars in front of his home crowd
At his home Grand Prix, Sergio Perez starred as he won the battle to be the best of the rest behind the dominant top three teams.
Starting from P11, he worked his way past the soft tyre runners and ran in P6 until he made his one and only stop at the end of lap 20 for a set of hards.
Whilst Verstappen unsurprisingly took P6 from him, the Mexican did a magnificent job to hold off a charging Ricciardo in the closing stages of the race; the Aussie was on 31-lap younger tyres and on the mediums.
His 7th place finish equals his best result at his home race and solidifies his place in the top 10 in the standings. A great job by Checo yet again.
A bad day for McLaren
2019 has seen McLaren take a big step forward in terms of pace and results, but yesterday’s race was a disaster for them on track and in the pits.
Qualifying had gone well with Sainz and Norris in P7 and P8 on the grid, albeit having to start on the soft tyre which was falling apart quite quickly.
Norris pitted first and was released with a loose wheel. That completely took him out of contention and eventually retired on lap 48.
While Sainz’s stop went far smoother, he had no pace following his switch to the hard tyres and quickly dropped down the field as his midfield rivals overtook him for fun. The Spaniard finished a very distant P13.
McLaren will want to bounce straight back at the United States Grand Prix this weekend and stamp their authority on the midfield pack.
Renault keep making life difficult for themselves
Renault are continually making their Sunday’s more difficult after poor qualifying performances.
Hulkenberg and Ricciardo were a very disappointing 12th and 13th on Saturday and it left them out of position on the grid; it was a very similar story in Japan.
Ricciardo almost secured the best of the rest victory after a storming first stint on the hard tyres, but the Australian couldn’t quite overtake Sergio Perez. With Hulkenberg finishing 10th despite Kvyat putting him in the wall on the final lap, they clawed five points back on McLaren.
However, they should be taking full advantage when McLaren have difficult days. They didn’t and that’s why they’ll only be 5th in the championship, at best.