A beautiful fall afternoon in Mexico City provided the backdrop for the second race at the newly redesigned Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in front of 135,026 fans today for a 1pm start, but the official results would change twice after the checkered flag waved, and take over 5 1/2 hours to confirm from the time the lights went out on the grid.
After a good start off the line the Mercedes front row was ready to enter into turn one unhampered until pole sitter Lewis Hamilton realized he was carrying too much speed, locking up his right front tire trying to brake too late for the right hander. Missing the entry, he careened across the grass to rejoin the track at turn 3 ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg who was busy making contact with Max Verstappen as slippery track conditions caught most of the grid out. Farther back, the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein made contact with Esteban Gutierrez’ Haas into turn two, launching Wehrlein into Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber, spinning Ericsson off the circuit facing backwards and ending Wehrlein’s race.
Farther along on lap 1, Carlos Sainz, Jr. made contact with the McLaren of Fernando Alonso along the back straight, forcing Alonso entirely on the grass at speed. In an impressive save, Alonso put the car back on circuit, and Sainz would later be penalized 5 seconds for his unsafe maneuver on the circuit.
The majority of teams employed a one stop strategy, opting to complete the majority of the distance on the Pirelli medium tires, which were rated for the entire race distance. Ericsson, who dove into the pits on the first lap after Wehrlein’s contact, was released after a long stop to examine his Sauber for damage, going back out on a Pirelli medium tire compound which he made last for 69 laps to finish 11th.
Hometown favorite and Force India driver Sergio Perez spent much of his race battling Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, initially for 5th position, and later for 10th, ending up behind the Williams drivers for a point.
Both Haas drivers struggled this weekend with slow speed grip, as well as electrical and aerodynamic issues, and finished 19th and 20th, while Jolyon Palmer finished 14th ahead of his teammate Kevin Magnussen after starting from 21st on the grid with a new Renault chassis after a crack had been discovered in his car over the weekend.
Lewis would lead most of the race, trading off with Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel briefly as they came in for medium tires, and in the closing laps a battle ensued for the final podium position as Vettel’s Ferrari was held up by Verstappen’s Red Bull. Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo was on fresher tires and applying pressure from fifth position when Verstappen outbraked himself 4 laps from the end at turn 1, going off onto the grass where Hamilton had done earlier to rejoin ahead of Vettel and Ricciardo. The incident was put under investigation by the race stewards, and Verstappen continued on in 3rd place, refusing to give up a place gained against the advice of his team.
Vettel, who had been pleading with his team to ask the race stewards to allow him past the Red Bull driver, became enraged at a lack of response from the race stewards, and proceeded to have an heated exchange over team radio prompting team principal Maurizio Arrivabene to call for calm at one point after Vettel began to invoke the FiA Race Director Charlie Whiting’s name in a verbal tirade. (Penalties for race incidents are issued after the finish if they occur during the final 5 laps.)
Hamilton and Rosberg took first and second handily, and shortly after crossing the line in 3rd ahead of Vettel, Verstappen left his car in parc ferme, continuing on to the podium staging room. He was then asked to leave after a 5 second penalty was applied by the race stewards, giving the position to Vettel. Timing and scoring was immediately adjusted before the champagne was opened, placing Verstappen 5th behind his teammate Ricciardo. At about the same time, Vettel was said to be out of his car and apologizing to the race director for his comments on team radio, and upon hearing the news of Verstappen’s penalty, Vettel then ran to the podium to join the Mercedes drivers for his 3rd place celebration.
That would have been the end of the story, normally, but yours truly was still here later this evening, when at 5:53pm local time, media was alerted to a report from Mr. Whiting regarding statements from team drivers and representatives in the following memorandum:
— F1 in America (@F1US) October 31, 2016
In short, Vettel was deemed to have driven in a ‘dangerous or erratic’ manner approaching turn 4 while moving under braking during his battle between the two Red Bull drivers, and the FiA stewards announced that Vettel was discovered to be in breach of regulations, given a 10 second penalty as well as two penalty points for his actions on the circuit. The net result has now put Daniel Ricciardo in 3rd place officially, and word is that the trophy was delivered to the Red Bull team.
This sequence of documents shows the final outcome as determined by the race director, and the official results were announced at 6:40pm local time:
— F1 in America (@F1US) October 31, 2016
Race winner Lewis Hamilton still trails points leader Nico Rosberg by 19 points, Rosberg (329) has two more races in which to seal his title hopes, with 50 total points left to be decided between Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Hamilton’s win has broken AMG Mercedes F1’s own 2015 record for most race wins in a season with 17, and ties Alain Prost’s record for all time Formula 1 victories with 51.
Current driver’s standings:
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 31, 2016