Race Report: 2015 Mexico Grand Prix
Nico Rosberg won the first Mexican Grand Prix in 23 years with a lead of 1.9 seconds over teammate Lewis Hamilton who followed in second place. Williams driver Valterri Bottas followed in third place at the 71 lap race in Mexico City.
This was Nico’s fourth win in the season with his last win being in Germany in July. For Nico the current win puts him 21 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel. For Bottas it was his second podium of the season after the Canadian Grand Prix this year, and he has managed two overtake his Finn counterpart Kimi Raikkonen by three points after the third place finish.
The only first racing incident was a first lap collision between Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel. The incident involved contact between Daniel’s left front tyre with Vettel’s right rear tyre, resulting in a puncture for the latter and an early trip to the pits in the opening lap itself. The stewards investigated the incident but decided to not take any decision.
A second incident followed at Lap 22 when Bottas punted Kimi Raikkonen out of the race, while trying to overtake the senior Finn on the inside. In an attempt to pass Kimi on the inside, the left-front of Bottas car made contact with Kimi’s right rear tyre sending him straight into the gravel with a destroyed wheel. The reaction from majority watching this incident was as though it looked like a payback for the Sochi Grand Prix where it involved a similar battle between the two Finns and Kimi had sent Bottas out of the race. The race stewards investigated the incident and ruled it out as a racing incident with a decision to take no further action on it.
In total there were four retirements in the race Fernando Alonso (lap 1), Kimi Raikkonen (lap 22), Sebastian Vettel (lap 52), and Felipe Nasr (lap 59). The safety car was deployed once in the entire race after Sebastian Vettel spun off into the gravel and left debris on the track. The safety car lasted for a period of three laps and the race re-started on lap 57.
Mercedes: Nico’s Day
For Nico Rosberg, the entire weekend seemed to have worked out right from pole position to the race win. Nico’s race got tense when the safety car was out and the race had restarted as that had reset the entire gap he had pulled over team-mate Lewis Hamilton. However, he managed making a good restart and staying ahead. For triple champion Lewis, who started closing in on Nico in the closing laps it was getting to difficult to get close within DRS detection zone as the brakes get hot at times and the dirty air can make cornering a little tricky while following another car so closely. Nevertheless, a second place for the driver who has already sealed his third championship in Austin wasn’t much of a deal.
Ferrari: Double Retirement
Kimi suffered a gearbox issue due to which they had to change the gearbox before qualifying and was handed a further penalty when they changed the engine and switched to an older specification for the race. Despite starting at the back of the grid, he managed making it up to a sixth, when Valterri Bottas who was trying to overtake him on the inside and made contact with his car at Turn 3 of lap 22. The rear right wheel of Raikkonen’s car was destroyed and he got punted out in the gravel, making it his second DNF in a row and the fourth of the season. For Sebastian Vettel, who had qualified third a good performance in Mexico was key to retaining second place in the championship standings. However, the day unfolded differently for the German, when he made contact with Daniel Ricciardo in the first lap itself. The first lap incident involved Vettel’s right rear wheel making contact with the left front wheel, resulting in a puncture and him dropping to 19th. At lap 18 , when he had made it up the grid he spun off strangely at the Esses corner where replay videos showed him losing control of his car while going into Turn 8. Around lap 27 he was again seeing skidding around the tarmac and the final touch was at lap 52 when he spun out at Turn 7 and crashed into the barriers. A race where they needed a result turned out like a nightmare for the scarlet outfit.
Red Bull Racing:
Both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kyvatt finished the race a the place they started, with the former in fifth and the later in fourth place. Daniil Kyvatt had a similar run to Austin where he managed challenging the podium and showed his ability to chase the pole sitter, but an underpowered Red Bull did not assist him in achieving that podium. For Daniel Ricciardo, it was a decent recovery from the first lap incident with Vettel. Nevertheless it was a strong points finish for both the drivers without a retirement.
Williams: With Valterri Bottas finishing third, there were celebrations at the Grove based team’s garage. Brazilian driver Felipe Massa managed bringing the second car home in sixth place. That’s enough points for the team to seal the third place in the championship standings. They are currently 71 points ahead of rivals Red Bull Racing.
Force India: Force India who had brought a new aero package to Mexico had a decent double points finish. For driver Sergio Perez, it was a home grand prix and every time he passed the grandstands the crowd cheer was like a rising echo, similar to that in the Colosseum. Despite the home track, Perez managed finishing the race in eighth. Team mate Nico Hulkenberg however managed finishing ahead of the Mexican in seventh spot. Nico used a two stop strategy with one set of soft compounds and two sets of mediums, while Sergio was on a one stop strategy using one set of soft tyres and a final set of mediums for 53 laps out of the 71 lap race. A double point finish has put them ahead of other mid-field rivals like Toro Rosso, Sauber and Lotus.
Sauber: For Sauber the weekend had a mixed result with Felipe Nasr retired due to a brake failure at Lap 57. Jenson Button was heard complaining on the radio of Nasr struggling in front of him with brake issues during the previous laps. A struggle with the brake issues throughout the race made Nasr pullover and stop the car at turn 13. Marcus Ericsson too was struggling with brake issues in his car but managed a 12th place finish. However for the Hinwil based team it was zero points in Mexico, and brake troubles to iron out before Brazil.
Before the race begun, Jenson Button started the race with penalties and the team was heard saying they were problems with Fernando Alonso’s car before the start. In the first lap itself the MGU-H unit on Alonso’s car failed, making the Spaniard retire his car and unable to enjoy the Mexican circuit. This was Alonso’s seventh retirement of the season. Jenson Button finished the race in fourteenth but with no points to bring home and according to his post-race quote, they were losing power due to the high altitude and were only able to make up pace in the final sector.
Max Verstappen started the race sixth but finished ninth, reasons being heating issues which cost them lap time. Carlos Sainz who started the race in 11th finished it in 13th. Compared to previous races, the Red Bull junior team was unable to deliver their best at the high altitude circuit.
Lotus: Romain Grosjean who started the race in 12th made up two places by finishing 10th in the points. Team mate Pastor Maldonado who started the race 13th made up another two places and missed a points finish by bringing the car home in 11th place.
Manor Marussia: Alexander Rossi finished the race in 15th while Will Stevens finished the race sixteenth. Both the Marussia drivers were seeing battling each other in the race. But being a back-marker team, their best finish is usually ahead of the McLaren’s.
Overall the takeaway from the first Mexican GP of the 21st century was the enthralling atmosphere, and success in terms of the crowds and turnout. Further to make it even better was a different winner apart from the reigning champion Lewis Hamilton. For a return after two decades Formula 1 needed this push and great atmosphere to win back its appeal, which it managed by the end.
With two more races to the championship the result to look forward to is the battle for second spot in the Drivers’ standings between Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel and the battle for fourth place or the “Battle of the Finns” between Kimi Raikkonen and Valterri Bottas. The next race will be at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil on the November 15, 2015.