Verstappen Dominates and Perez Celebrates in Mexico


A full house saw Max Verstappen dominate to win the Mexico Grand Prix and increase his lead in the driver’s championship (Courtesy of Twitter).

Over the weekend, the 2021 Formula 1 season continued as they traveled south of the border to Mexico City for the Mexican Grand Prix. Heading into this race, Max Verstappen led the drivers championship in front of reigning champion Lewis Hamilton. As for the constructors’ reigning champions, Mercedes was leading from Red Bull. 

Heading into the weekend, Mercedes was slightly on the back foot. Verstappen won the previous race at the track that was largely considered a Mercedes stronghold. Now, they were headed to Mexico, which has been a Red Bull track in recent years. This meant that Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez were already favorites for the race win. In addition to the track layout, this is also Perez’s home race, which meant that Perez would be more motivated to perform in front of his home crowd.

Throughout the practice sessions, the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers constantly traded the top spot, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas being quicker than the seven-time world champion. When it came time for qualifying, Mercedes shocked the paddock and the crowd as they grabbed a front row lockout, with Bottas grabbing pole position and Hamilton in second. In their final qualifying lap, both Perez and Verstappen had to abort their laps due to the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda going off of the track. During qualifying, Tsunoda was told that the Red Bulls were rapidly approaching his part of the track. Tsunoda moved off of the track so that they could continue their laps. However, Perez saw Tsunoda go off the track and got distracted, forcing him off the track as well. Verstappen saw the two drivers go off and slowed down, expecting a yellow flag to be waived, which would have forced him to slow down. The flag never came, and Verstappen had to abandon his lap. This meant that Verstappen qualified in third with Perez in fourth.

One thing to note about the track is that it is a long straight until the first corner. This meant that the cars could get a slipstream from other cars that were ahead and possibly overtake them before turn one. This came to pass when the lights went out. Both Bottas and Hamilton got away well, with Verstappen getting an amazing start. Verstappen used the slipstream from Bottas and was quickly alongside both Mercedes as they raced towards the first corner. Verstappen, who was on the left and on the more traditional racing line, broke later than the Mercedes and swooped around the outside to take the lead. Hamilton remained in second. However, Bottas’ weekend was about to go from good to bad. Bottas was tagged on the back by the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, whose brakes locked up and forced Bottas into a spin, dropping him to the back of the grid. Perez used the Bottas chaos to go up into third where the safety car was called out. Amid the Bottas/Ricciardo incident, there was another incident in the first couple of corners. Tsunoda and the Haas of Mick Schumacher were out of the race. They were both taken out by the Alpine of Esteban Ocon. Ocon was between both cars as they headed to turn two and was sandwiched between them both, forcing them into their retirements.

This was perfect for Red Bull. Both cars were in the podium places while one of the Mercedes was in last place, and at that stage, getting no points which would be huge in terms of the constructors’ standings. After a couple of laps, the safety car was brought in and racing resumed with Verstappen immediately building a gap to Hamilton.

After a couple of laps, Verstappen had already built up a five second gap while Hamilton was only able to have a two second lead to Perez. Hamilton started to radio to his team that his tires were starting to go off while Perez radioed that his tires were getting better. Just like in the previous race, Red Bull had the tactical advantage in the race strategy. Red Bull could pit Perez, who was in undercut range for Hamilton. This would force Hamilton to pit immediately to cover off Perez, leaving Verstappen in the lead to manage his pace and tires. The possibility of a Red Bull 1-2 was definitely in the cards, and with Bottas only able to get into 12th at that point, meant that Red Bull would be able to leave Mexico leading the constructors’ championship.

Finally on lap 29, Hamilton entered the pits. It appeared that Perez was going to pit that lap with the mechanics in their positions, but it didn’t happen. Perez was probably told to do the opposite of Hamilton and with the Mercedes driver pitting, Perez stayed out. Perez didn’t immediately respond and stayed out. Red Bull didn’t react for a couple of laps and eventually called in Verstappen on lap 33. This meant that Perez was now leading the race. Perez eventually pitted on lap 40 and went back down into third.

At this point in the race, Bottas was still out of the points and was unable to overtake the car ahead. Ironically, it was Riccardo who was in front of Bottas, blocking his progress to enter the points. At the same time, Verstappen was dominating and making it look easy. Hamilton was in second, miles off of the pace of Verstappen and had a gap to Perez after the pit stops. Perez was now hunting Hamilton down with tires that were ten laps younger. Lap after lap, Perez was reducing the gap and eventually caught up to Hamilton on lap 61. Perez now had 11 laps to try and overtake Hamilton to secure a Red Bull 1-2.

Meanwhile at the front, Verstappen strolled to victory. After 71 laps, Verstappen won the Mexican grand prix with Hamilton able to hold Perez off to remain in second place. This was a dominating win for Verstappen and after taking the lead on the first lap, never looked back. Hamilton was off the pace and had to settle with second while also defending for his life from Perez. Perez also made history by becoming the first Mexican to lead or grab a podium at their home race, giving the 300,000 people who attended the weekend a reason to cheer.

With these results, Verstappen now has a 19 point lead over Hamilton in the drivers championship while in the constructors championship, Mercedes’ lead has been reduced to a single point. The next race is this week at Brazil where, like Mexico, bodes well for Red Bull. With four races to go in a season like no other, expect both championships to go down to the wire.