Lewis Hamilton reigns and Max Vertsappen puts his foot in it. As always there were plenty of things to discuss after the Mexican Grand Prix. So let’s take a look at five of them.
Less than seven days until a new six-time champion is crowned
Lewis Hamilton, you superstar. What a superb drive by the Brit to claim a race he really had no right in winning. I mean, come on – who predicted Hamilton was going to win this race 24 hours ago?
The Mercedes team seemingly were well off the pace all weekend and looked to be the third best out of the top three teams, but somehow he did it. Hamilton’s skill in preserving his tyres after his pit stop obviously was the key in keeping the win in his sights and – despite his constant criticisms during the race – he had it all under control to take his 83rd career victory.
What is even more spectacular about his victory is that he did it in a race where he could’ve walked away with a championship that has been his now for nearly six months – and he didn’t even seem phased that he didn’t get it. Surely this has to come down to a feeling that he has had it in the bag for a long time now, but let’s be 100 per cent clear here – he will walk away from Austin this weekend as a six-time world champion.
Mature Verstappen is still buffering at 98 per cent
Max Verstappen has come a long way in Formula One in the maturity stakes. It always seemed apparent that no matter what levels of skill the Dutchman possessed – which is obviously a large amount – he wasn’t able to possess the same amount of skill in handling certain situations with a level, calm head. Sure you can put this down to his age, but there had to be a lot of growing up done since he burst out into the Formula One scene to really give him an absolute complete package in the champion driver status of the sport.
After things looked likely to be going down the drain fast in early 2018 Verstappen turned things around to not only put in a strong case as the best current Formula One driver on the grid – but also showed a new level of maturity that most people had never seen from him. Gone were the constant radio rants and constant moments of throwing toys out of the pram. In came calm Max, who used it to his advantage to showcase even more talent. It seemed as though he was finally becoming complete.
But then came this weekend. Wow, Max – what happened? From looking all but a certainty to claim his third consecutive Mexican Grand Prix with a stunning pole lap on Saturday to an ill-timed press conference in which he all but gloated that he had not lifted during a yellow flag after Valtteri Bottas crashed out on the final corner of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. It was evidence enough for the stewards, and he was soon demoted three grid places.
What is even more painful for Verstappen is the pace he showed in the Grand Prix – as well as his level of tyre management – was comparable to Lewis Hamilton. There is no question that he would’ve won the race had he just kept his mouth shut, and perhaps also more importantly kept his foot just a bit lighter in the dying seconds of the last lap of qualifying. Hopefully that loading phase will be complete soon and these moments will be all but forgotten.
Don’t hold your breath about 2021
Once again we are talking about how new improvements to the sport can help improve racing. New regulations are set to be announced in mere days and – though all the hard work and research has been put in by all the smart experts who are paid to be smart experts – everyone expects the racing to be closer, the overtakes to happen more and all the races to be amazing. But isn’t this familiar? Haven’t we heard this pretty much every single time regulations change in this sport?
The Mexican Grand Prix had all the makings of an incredible finish in the closing laps, however once again the issues around following other cars and trouble overtaking reared itself once more as the grandstand finish never eventuated. And while this was disappointing, it really shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. This is Formula One – it’s as every bit a game of chess as it is a gung-ho action packed chariot-racing spectacle.
The point here is that while yes, it would’ve been great to see some overtaking in the closing moments – it still turned out to be a fairly decent race with some great drives and strategic management to help secure a great win by Mercedes.
It also shouldn’t be something that we always have to assure will need to be fixed, because go back to every single major regulation change this century – and what was the common theme? “It will improve racing and increase overtaking”. Right, great. So if that’s the case, why are we about to do it all over again in 2021?
It’s great for the sport to get a kick every couple of years to change things up, but think about what we want versus what will happen when it comes to getting your hopes up completely.
Let’s talk about that podium
Giant video screens with driver pictures, a guy dressed in a white helmet, Mexican suit and holding a selfie stick, Dutch DJ Tiesto and Lewis Hamilton emerging from the ground like Britney Spears at Madison Square Garden. It certainly was interesting.
It’s great to see Liberty Media trying to engage fans by putting on a show, but is this how we really want it? I mean it looks great, but surely that kind of podium isn’t going to play too well everywhere and with everyone. Think about it – how would that have gone down had Kimi Raikkonen won the race? It would’ve been comedy gold don’t get me wrong, but do you really think Kimi is going to strike a pose and pretend he actually enjoys it?
Theatricality is great on a small scale, but this is still a sport with a high level of prestige around it that needs to be preserved. There needs to be a fine balance between keeping Formula One on a certain level and not steering it too far away and into something more likeable to a WWE event.
This Lance Stroll fan gets his hopes dashed again
I’m happy to admit I’m probably the only Australian Lance Stroll fan living in New Zealand. It’s a badge of honour I’ll gladly wear and wear with pride, and for the second consecutive race I had a last lap dash of hope taken away from me. In Japan it appeared Stroll was destined for points before a timing error took it away from him. Sure he got points eventually after the Renault disqualification, but that doesn’t fit well with this story.
This time around – with Daniil Kvyat back to his torpedo best in taking out Nico Hulkenberg on the final corner – I was quick to punch the air in celebration at the return of my man Lance to the points. Sadly though, I hadn’t seen that he had dropped to 12th and wasn’t in 11th anymore. So that makes two races of sadness for this lonely Stroll fan. I felt that was important to at least let you all know about. You’re welcome.
The circus now heads to Austin this weekend for one of the most entertaining weekends of the year. They say everything is bigger in Texas – and one thing is for sure is that Lewis Hamilton’s world championship trophy case will definitely need to be.
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here