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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

10 issues we realized from F1’s 2021 Mexican Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen took one other step in direction of profitable his first championship with a dominant victory on Sunday as Components 1 made a vibrant return to Mexico.

Whereas the on-track occasion lacked the joy of some latest races, it however noticed the momentum swing backwards and forwards between Pink Bull and Mercedes throughout the course of the weekend.

Momentum, too, swung Ferrari’s approach within the battle over third within the constructors’ championship, whereas there was but extra stewarding inconsistency after a primary nook collision resulted in no sanctions.

Listed here are 10 issues we realized from the 2021 Mexican Grand Prix.

Verstappen managed the race after seizing the initiative initially

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Picture by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

1. Verstappen’s gorgeous drive and Flip 1 cross had been champion-worthy

On quite a few events this season, Verstappen has proved he has what it takes to turn into the 2021 world champion and at last finish Lewis Hamilton’s streak of title wins.

However Mexico was maybe his most convincing show thus far, with the headline second being his unimaginable double-pass across the exterior at Flip 1 to seize the lead, having began third.

Verstappen admitted afterwards that he was “really on the edge” making the move, however used the additional grip afforded by the racing line to depart it extremely late earlier than hitting the brakes. Pink Bull boss Christian Horner conceded afterwards he thought Verstappen had truly missed the braking level, so late was the transfer.

If that was Verstappen taking the race by the throat, then the stint that adopted was him squeezing the life out of it. He shortly opened a spot to Hamilton, dropping the Mercedes into the clutches of Sergio Perez behind, making second place the main focus for the workforce.

PLUS: Why Verstappen was untouchable after “crucial” Mexican GP Turn 1 pass 

Verstappen managed the race on the entrance completely, and even had the psychological capability to thwart Valtteri Bottas’s push to get the quickest lap, forcing Mercedes into an additional cease to search out observe place.

With 9 wins on the board, Verstappen is trying all of the extra like a champion-in-waiting.

Hamilton's target soon switched to fending off Perez rather than depriving Verstappen of the win

Hamilton’s goal quickly switched to heading off Perez somewhat than depriving Verstappen of the win

Picture by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

2. Mercedes stood no life like probability of profitable in Mexico regardless of scoring pole

Simply as Austin yielded a shock when Pink Bull beat Mercedes to pole on Saturday, Mexico appeared prefer it might yield an identical upturn of the shape guide after Mercedes locked out the entrance row of the grid.

Given Pink Bull had sat six-tenths of a second clear – to Hamilton’s astonishment – in remaining observe, the swing in qualifying got here as an enormous shock. Regardless of Pink Bull’s misplaced anger at Yuki Tsunoda (which we’ll get to later) the benefit was at all times with Mercedes when it mattered in Q3.

However the race was a distinct story. Pink Bull’s edge with regards to excessive downforce set-ups shone by way of once more, which means Verstappen had each a tempo and tyre benefit over Hamilton, who as an alternative needed to scramble to cling on to second in opposition to Perez within the closing levels.

Toto Wolff admitted after the race that Verstappen might have “pushed circles” across the Mercedes even with out taking the lead initially, saying Red Bull’s pace was on “another level”. 

Second place, when third was actually the utmost Mercedes ought to have gotten in Mexico, makes it one thing of a hit. However that’s little solace given the title image that has grown significantly bleaker in Mexico.

If Red Bull can continue its strong form, Mercedes will have cause for concern

If Pink Bull can proceed its robust kind, Mercedes may have trigger for concern

Picture by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

3. At this charge, Verstappen may very well be champion with time to spare 

Pink Bull is definitely the shape workforce in the meanwhile. Amid a season by which Pink Bull and Mercedes – and by affiliation, Verstappen and Hamilton – have continuously battled over the identical a part of the observe, Mexico displayed an amazing swing in direction of the workforce in blue. This wasn’t fully sudden, for the reason that high-altitude traits of the Mexico Metropolis circuit has continuously performed into Pink Bull’s fingers.

However within the context of the previous couple of races Red Bull’s advantage feels decisive, and F1’s go to to Brazil presents one other circuit at which the workforce ought to thrive.

Mercedes’ deficit at Interlagos should not be as huge because it was in Mexico and thus Hamilton might scale back the championship arrears – but when Verstappen continues to increase his present 19-point lead over Hamilton on the similar charge because the previous three rounds, the title may very well be wrapped up by Saudi Arabia.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the 2 wildcards within the combine, and the result of 2021 will depend upon which workforce they swing towards. The season, nevertheless, is quick approaching the purpose the place it is in all probability okay to say “it is Verstappen’s title to lose”.

In reality, that point might now be upon us, even if Wolff insists that there is still “all to win”.

Perez takes the applause of the massed fans after his podium finish

Perez takes the applause of the massed followers after his podium end

Picture by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

4. Perez has hit his stride on the good time

It has been a wild 18 months for the Mexican within the second Pink Bull. With the workforce previously often called Racing Level approaching its transition to Aston Martin, Lawrence Stroll needed a star title to steer the workforce – leaving Perez as the autumn man as Sebastian Vettel got here into the fold.

There was a really actual probability that Perez may very well be unnoticed within the chilly for 2021 however, as Pink Bull began to get chilly ft about retaining Alex Albon within the second automotive, the veteran burst into the type of his life and signed off from Racing Level with a win on the Bahrain outer loop to persuade Pink Bull to deliver him into the fold.

Like Albon and Pierre Gasly earlier than him, it took Perez time to wrestle with Pink Bull equipment. Designed for Verstappen’s driving type, Perez admitted that he needed to fully regulate his driving type to swimsuit the RB16B, which proved to be a reasonably prolonged course of and resulted in plenty of errors within the early season because the tail-happy bronco needed to be tamed.

On the proof of the previous few rounds, Perez has cracked it. A trio of third locations has been his reward prior to now three races, and he is been in with a shout of pole at Austin and Mexico – crucially giving Verstappen a wingman in his battle in opposition to Hamilton.

The Guadalajara-born driver put heavy strain on Hamilton on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, enthralling the Mexican crowds, and probably would have taken second off the seven-time champion had the race been a lap longer.

With a continued late-season surge, Perez might realistically pinch third off Bottas within the championship standings, such is his kind.

Ferrari seized back third place in the constructors', cementing the turnaround in form in recent events

Ferrari seized again third place within the constructors’, cementing the turnaround in kind in latest occasions

Picture by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

5. Beating Ferrari seems to be like an enormous ask for McLaren now

Daniel Ricciardo’s lock-up approaching Flip 1 wasn’t simply disastrous for his and Bottas’s races, but in addition for McLaren’s hopes of holding onto third place in its ongoing constructors’ championship battle with Ferrari.

The Australian had break up the purple vehicles in qualifying, however any probability of scoring factors was wiped away – alongside together with his entrance wing – when he clattered into poleman Bottas, permitting Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr a free run to fifth and sixth.

Their mixed 18-point haul, in comparison with the solitary level picked up by Lando Norris after his grid penalty left him mired within the pack initially, has given Ferrari third place again for the primary time since Zandvoort.

The 1-2 end at Monza had swung the pendulum again in McLaren’s favour, and its benefit might have been widened additional had Norris not been outfoxed by the late downpour in Sochi.

However Ferrari’s revamped energy models have turned the tide within the Scuderia’s favour, and over the previous six races it has averaged 17.16 factors, in comparison with the 14.3 of McLaren (with over half of the 86 factors it has totted up in that point, in comparison with Ferrari’s 103, drawn from the 45 it took away from Monza).

The 13.5 level benefit Ferrari holds is not insurmountable – but when present tendencies proceed, its trying like an more and more tough process for McLaren to carry onto its best-of-the-rest tag.

Gasly claimed a third top-four finish of the season to level Alpine's points tally

Gasly claimed a 3rd top-four end of the season to degree Alpine’s factors tally

Picture by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

6. “Lonely” Gasly excels as soon as once more to drag AlphaTauri degree with Alpine

You’d be excused for forgetting what occurred to Gasly within the Mexican race, such was the lonely nature of his afternoon.

However arguably it was the efficiency of the weekend, with the AlphaTauri driver main ‘the most effective of the remainder’ behind the Pink Bull and Mercedes drivers in each qualifying and the race – which is why he earned a most rating in our Driver Rankings.

PLUS: Mexican Grand Prix Driver Ratings 

After maximising his potential in qualifying with fifth place, aided by a tow from team-mate Tsunoda, Gasly prevented the first-corner tangle to maneuver as much as fourth the place he successfully held station to the chequered flag.

Gasly needed to be aware of a late Ferrari cost when the workforce switched positions for Leclerc and Sainz to permit the Spaniard to assault together with his brisker tyres.

However the French driver saved comfortably clear to seal fourth and draw AlphaTauri degree on factors with Alpine’s fifth place within the constructors’ championship. It marked Gasly’s seventh top-six end thus far this season and his 86 factors account for the overwhelming majority of his workforce’s haul, solely behind Alpine on countback because of Esteban Ocon’s Hungarian GP victory.

“It was the proper weekend,” Gasly stated. “The tempo was good from the primary laps to the tip and the Ferraris had been by no means actually capable of assault me. It was a bit lonely but it surely was nonetheless pleasant.”

It has saved the momentum firmly with the Faenza-based squad, for whom fifth could be an all-time excessive having beforehand peaked with sixth in 2008 and 2019. It will be a beautiful achievement for the Pink Bull junior workforce, combating in opposition to works squad Alpine and big-spending Aston Martin. And if it occurs, nearly all of credit score will go to Gasly.

Tsunoda incurred Horner's wrath after his slow Q3 inlap hampered Perez and Verstappen

Tsunoda incurred Horner’s wrath after his gradual Q3 inlap hampered Perez and Verstappen

Picture by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

7. Pink Bull was flawed to make Tsunoda the scapegoat over lacking pole

Horner actually did not mince his phrases when requested how qualifying had gotten away from Pink Bull – which satirically set Verstappen up for victory by placing him in place to get the tow right down to Flip 1.

“I feel we received Tsunoda’d,” was his response.

It is true that Perez had been distracted by the mud cloud thrown up by Tsunoda’s slow-moving AlphaTauri operating straight on forward of him at Flip 10, ensuing within the Mexican following him off in sympathy. And it is also true that Verstappen had backed off, in anticipation of a yellow flag that by no means got here.

However Pink Bull wasn’t innocent in its qualifying defeat both – having misplaced out to Mercedes on the primary delicate tyre runs in Q3.

Though Horner subsequently claimed that his comments had been ‘exploited’ by social media, the backlash that resulted was hardly stunning. Amongst these compelled to reply was AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost, who leapt to the defence of his driver in a uncommon occasion of the 2 sister groups at odds in public.

“We advised him on the radio that the Pink Bulls are coming, and he simply went off the observe so they might cross simply,” he stated. “Perez adopted him. It isn’t Yuki’s fault.”

As forensically detailed here by Adam Cooper, Tsunoda adopted the directions of his workforce to the letter.

Horner would, maybe, have been higher suggested to take his qualms up with Tost and the administration straight, somewhat than knock the arrogance of a rookie driver who might in the future discover himself in a Pink Bull cockpit.

Ricciardo wasn't punished for spinning Bottas at the start

Ricciardo wasn’t punished for spinning Bottas initially

Picture by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

8. No motion on Ricciardo/Bottas conflict once more questions stewarding consistency 

Mercedes might have lacked the tempo to battle Pink Bull on Sunday, however its trigger was hardly helped by shedding Bottas from the lead battle at Flip 1.

Hit from the rear by Ricciardo, Bottas was despatched right into a spin, whereas the McLaren driver sustained entrance wing harm that pressured him to pit.

The stewards famous the Flip 1/2 incidents, however finally determined there was no investigation required, leaving Ricciardo to get off scot free.

The Australian stated after the race that, after initially feeling dangerous concerning the collision, watching the replays made him feel better as he believed it was “only a first lap incident” as there was not a lot room.

Wolff stated post-race he was shocked the stewards didn’t examine, and it positively raises questions on consistency. The Gasly/Fernando Alonso conflict from Turkey that led to a five-second penalty for Alonso is the bar that has been set this season, and that certainly appeared like much more of a racing indecent than what occurred in Mexico.

The push for consistency is a continued battle for the FIA stewards, and a tough stability to strike. However to not even examine this conflict appeared like an oversight.

Poor strategy that dropped Giovinazzi into traffic thwarted his efforts to score points

Poor technique that dropped Giovinazzi into visitors thwarted his efforts to attain factors

Picture by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

9. Giovinazzi in limbo each on and off observe with Alfa Romeo

The primary 19 of the 20 locations on the F1 grid in 2022 have been confirmed for some time now. However the destiny of Antonio Giovinazzi has remained beneath nice uncertainty for the reason that finish of the summer season – when he had initially hoped to know what his future would maintain.

We’re now in November and Giovinazzi stays at nighttime on what he’ll be doing subsequent yr, however the workforce has hinted a decision will belatedly be made during the next race in Sao Paulo.

The delay has been entwined with Michael Andretti’s takeover bid of the Sauber-owned F1 squad, with Colton Herta linked to the race seat as an Andretti driver if the deal got here off.

Nevertheless, final week Andretti confirmed a late change to team control stakes “killed the deal” leaving negotiations to stall and duly drop Herta’s title from the equation.

Giovinazzi nonetheless has competitors for his place from a number of Components 2 stars – particularly factors chief Oscar Piastri and nearest rival Guanyu Zhou – whereas the Italian’s F1 outcomes proceed to point out hints of potential with out delivering.

That was the case within the Mexican GP, as for a 3rd consecutive race Giovinazzi completed an agonising eleventh place, however this time blame to ship his first factors for the reason that Monaco GP fell on his workforce’s technique.

The 27-year-old prevented first-corner carnage to leap as much as sixth place and regardless of dropping behind Sainz on the security automotive restart, a wholesome factors haul appeared on. However an early pitstop on lap 16 dropped Giovinazzi into visitors and wrecked his hopes as Vettel, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso all leapfrogged him by staying out, with Norris getting by too.

“I am actually upset as a result of we had the prospect to attain factors with two vehicles,” he stated. “However on my aspect, the technique was fully flawed.

“We pitted too early however I do not suppose [that] was the difficulty. The problem was that after I got here out, I used to be in visitors. The technique did not work.”

Giovinazzi is aware of an enormous consequence might tip the scales to maintain his place at Alfa Romeo subsequent yr, alongside the incoming Bottas. However failing to seize these alternatives will solely maintain his life in limbo.

Perez's pursuit of Hamilton brought out the best in the fans

Perez’s pursuit of Hamilton introduced out the most effective within the followers

Picture by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

10. Mexico once more proves to be a spectacle like no different 

Components 1’s return to Mexico served as a reminder of what we missed in 2020 when the COVID-10 pandemic pressured the cancelation of the race on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

To see the Foro Sol stadium part rocking as soon as once more was really one of many highlights of the F1 season thus far, proving the environment supplied in Mexico is exclusive.

It helped give some extra color to a reasonably drab race, significantly within the closing levels when native hero Perez closed on Hamilton for second place. The roars from the grandstands had been audible on the TV broadcast, and even to Perez within the automotive as he gave his all for his nation.

Whereas he might solely end third, the wild celebrations – led by Perez’s father – confirmed simply how a lot all of it meant. Mexico might be proud not solely of its driver, who grew to become the primary Mexican to steer a grand prix at residence on Sunday, but in addition of the occasion it places on and the welcome it provides Components 1 annually.

Very like Zandvoort and Austin, the Mexico weekend was a reminder of the ‘good {old} days’ for F1 earlier than the pandemic began. Speak of a “post-COVID” stays untimely, and F1 should proceed to take precautions. However this was one other heartening reminder of the ability our fantastic sport holds.

By Luke Smith, Jake Boxall-Legge, Haydn Cobb and James Newbold

Passion of Mexican fans was a tantalising reminder of the atmosphere lost during the 2021 behind-closed-doors races

Ardour of Mexican followers was a tantalising reminder of the environment misplaced through the 2021 behind-closed-doors races

Picture by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

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