Mexico Takeaways: Verstappen breaks records, Perez breaks his fans' hearts

Mexico Takeaways: Verstappen breaks records, Perez breaks hearts

Mexico Takeaways: Verstappen breaks records, Perez breaks his fans' hearts

Another weekend, another show of dominance by Max Verstappen along with a couple of records matched or broken, such has become the state of the 2023 Formula 1 season.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not becoming part of the nagging brigade complaining about the predictability of this F1 season. On the contrary, I said it before and I stand by what I’ve said and that we should appreciate that we are witnessing the genius of Verstappen in the cockpit of an F1 car.

But to be honest, Max is increasingly making it difficult to write these takeaways, as it’s becoming more tedious to find ways to describe his dominance.

Take Mexico for example, he was set to take pole, until Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz found some pace in the final moments of Q3 and mugged Verstappen locking down the front row.

Given no one at Ferrari, not the drivers, nor the engineers understand how that happened, Verstappen’s bewilderment is understandable, but unfortunately for Leclerc and Sainz, and as Editor in Chief, Paul Velasco, said in his race preview: An angry Verstappen is a dangerous Verstappen.

And indeed, while race starts have historically been somehow Verstappen’s Achilles’ heel, he nailed it at the start of the race and took the lead, and also nailed the restart and kept his lead, as if every time he needs to find something in order to win, he does.

One can only speculate by what margin he would’ve won the race had it done been interrupted, and the fact that Red Bull were planning a two stop strategy speaks volumes about the pace they had at hand.

In the end, Max proved once again that – in his current form – he can win from anywhere regardless of what you throw at him, and that he will continue to break records on his way as he did in Mexico. He broke his own record of 15 victories per season, and equaled Alain Prost’s win tally of 51 career wins.

But no worries, Mexico gave us enough material to have some Takeaways from the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez’s nightmare at home

Perez: I risked it but I would do it again

Poor Checo, you can’t help but sympathize with him after the way his home race went down. He did not make it past the first corner, breaking all the fans’ hearts those who were hoping to see him on the podium, but he didn’t want the podium only, he wanted the top step.

He went for a gap, and you can’t blame him, but maybe he should’ve watched the race highlights from 2021 to see how a pass on the outside of Turn 1 is done at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

Or he could’ve walked over to the other side of the Red Bull garage and simply asked Verstappen how he did it, you know, as part of preparing his game plan.

Had Perez made that move stick, we would’ve been singing his praises now, but alas, that is how F1 is. You are as good as your last race and you can go from hero to zero is a matter of seconds.

The Mexican is in a very tough situation now. He needs to regain his form, and protect his seat from Daniel Ricciardo who, just to make matters worse, delivered one of his best drives last Sunday in the AlphaTauri bagging points after finishing seventh.

And despite Christian Horner saying otherwise, Perez securing runner up in the Drivers’ Championship is a big deal for Red Bull as having the chance to deliver the perfect season does not come along that often, and with Lewis Hamilton now breathing down his neck, only 20 points behind, you can imagine how Perez must be feeling.

But Checo has been up against it during his F1 career before and he managed to bounce back, so let’s hope he does that again.

Mercedes show strength again… with Hamilton

Mercedes brought an upgrade to their car in Austin, and Hamilton was on it once the new floor was bolted to his W14, his disqualification a shame after the race he drove.

And in Mexico, Lewis was on it once again, maybe not as much in qualifying, but his race was brilliant, and that pass on Leclerc was the stuff of legend, not to mention how he nursed those Medium tyres till the end, shattering Ferrari’s hopes that they would fall off the cliff giving Leclerc – on the Hards – a chance to catch him.

On the other hand, George Russell, in the other Mercedes, showed that he cannot manage his tyres even if his life depended on it. He went through them trying to overtake Sainz and then ended up a sitting duck almost overtaken by Ricciardo.

Russell said he struggled with overheating brakes, which meant he had to slow down and cool them which put his tyres out of the window something he couldn’t reverse later on, so let’s take his word for it, keeping in mind Toto Wolff said he ran out of tyres, while Director of Trackside Engineering Andrew Shovlin was more to the point.

Shovlin said: “George was disappointed to lose the place to Lando in the final stages, but he was clearly much quicker than Carlos on the restart and whilst it’s easy with hindsight to say we should have backed him off and preserved the tyres, we’d rather be a team that’s looking forward in races than one that is looking behind.”

So there you have it, not heating brakes, but we all know F1 drivers always have something or someone else to blame when they mess up…

But to close, Mercedes, while being inconsistent previously, have shown good speed for two races in a row and on two tracks with different characteristics.

But we cannot hold our breath waiting for them to challenge Red Bull this year, maybe next year, and Lewis said he was ready if the car is ready… Bring on 2024.

Are Red Bull’s rivals actually getting closer?

For the last few races, Mercedes and McLaren especially, have made progress with their cars, and started harassing Verstappen and Red Bull, especially in qualifying.

Ferrari also claim they are getting closer and have been more of a threat in qualifying trim, Mexico being the latest example, but then come race day, Verstappen somehow leaves them in his dust.

Let’s keep in mind here that Red Bull have always tended to dial their RB19 more towards a race setup, which is why Verstappen never looked to bothered when he got beaten in qualifying, expect for Mexico maybe…

And last Sunday, the Dutchman finished over 13 seconds ahead of Hamilton, a gap he built over half the race distance, not to mention Red Bull were previously planning a two-stop race.

Verstappen to everyone’s surprise pitted first earlier than others, but once everyone else did their first tyres change, he emerged over 15s ahead of Leclerc and was working on increasing that gap with the plan to pit again and come out still leading. Such was his pace advantage!

Unfortunately, the Red flag brought out by Kevin Magnussen’s crash, meant we couldn’t see Red Bull’s plan in execution.

We also should keep in mind that Red Bull stopped the development of their RB19 earlier than others given their cost cap penalty that reduced their wind tunnel time, so they do not jeopardize their RB20. Other teams kept bringing upgrades.

So no… Red Bull’s rivals have not and are not getting closer. Maybe they will in 2024, but in 2023, Red Bull will keep flying solo up front.

Mexico Quick Hits

  • What a weird failure on Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, how that rear left suspension let go. Was it due to his off track moment a lap earlier? Haas boss Guenther Steiner hinted in the team’s race report that it was “heat related”.
    Regardless which of the two was the cause of the failure, it shouldn’t have happened, and it good to see K-Mag walk away from it.
  • A fantastic drive from Lando Norris to finish fifth, but let’s not forget it came after that below par qualifying…
  • A great drive by Ricciardo, but is he really back? Or is it just a flash in the pan? Should Checo be worried?
  • Aston Martin… Unable to unlock their upgrade for the second race in a row. How bad is that car now that the most adaptable driver on the grid, Fernando Alonso, cannot keep it in check…
    And how long will Fernando remain calm?
  • It was great to see how the Mexican fans embraced Verstappen. No boos, just respect for the Triple F1 Champion, but what they did to Leclerc was not nice. Guys, he had nowhere to go…