Mexico City : Nico Rosberg gained some consolation for his grievances when he outpaced Mercedes team-mate and newly-crowned triple world champion Lewis Hamilton to win the Mexican Grand Prix.
In the first Formula One race in Mexico for 23 years, the 30-year-old German made light of the altitude of more than 2,000 metres and his anger at the manner of Hamilton’s successes by leading, bar the pit-stops, from the 20th pole position of his career to the chequered flag. It was his fourth win of the season and 12th of his career. What an amazing day, it was a great battle with Lewis, who drove really well and I am really, really happy with this win – and what a place to do it, in front of an absolutelyawesome crowd,” said Rosberg on Sunday.
Hamilton was generous to his long-time rival and team-mate. “Nico drove a fantastic race,” said the Briton. Hamilton, who started second, was never able to mount a serious challenge to win the race in front of a crowd of 140,000 and came home behind his team-mate to confirm the overall dominance of the champion team. For Rosberg, it was a richly satisfying triumph seven days after he had thrown away victory with an error in the United States Grand Prix where Hamilton won, after a wheel-banging duel on the opening lap, to confirm his third drivers’ world championship.
Rosberg, clearly delighted by his success after securing only two wins from 10 pole positions, came home 1.9 seconds clear for his first win since the Austrian Grand Prix. His win also lifted him back into second place in the championship ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel who crashed out in his Ferrari on a day when the Italian team also saw Kimi Raikkonen forced to retire after colliding with compatriot Valtteri Bottas. Bottas of Williams, also powered by Mercedes, came home third ahead of Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull, his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Massa in the second Williams.
Nico Hulkenberg finished seventh ahead of his Force India team-mate local hero Sergio Perez, teenager Max Verstappen of Toro Rosso and Romain Grosjean of Lotus. In warm sunshine with a track temperature of 56 degrees Celsius, there were widespread fears about brakes overheating before the lights went out. Rosberg made a clean start and held off Hamilton on the 900-metre-long run down to the first corner where the champion tucked in behind him. Behind them, Vettel’s hopes were punctured on the first lap when he made contact with the surging Ricciardo’s Red Bull and was forced to limp back to the Ferrari pits.
Kvyat swept through to take third place while behind them all the luckless Fernando Alonso fought from 18th to 16th before another failed Honda engine forced his retirement. The two-time champion Spaniard was one of three champions who started at the back of the grid, lining up ahead of Raikkonen and his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button. For Alonso, it was a sad ending to his 250th Grand Prix, but Raikkonen, who had been handed his penalty for an engine change, rose rapidly through the field and was soon into the top 12.
Rosberg and Hamilton traded fastest lap times at the front, the determined German refusing to allow his team-mate even a glimpse of a chance as he controlled a lead of around 1.2-1.8 seconds over the opening 12 laps. Vettel’s early setback left the two Red Bulls to chase the Mercedes ahead of Versteppen and Perez, whose every lap was greeted by a near-deafening roar at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Vettel suffered again on lap 18 when he spun and dropped to 15th while Rosberg pulled 2.8 seconds clear. On lap 23, Bottas and Raikkonen collided as they battled side-by-side, the Ferrari man suffering damage to his right rear wheel in what looked like a “payback” for their similar incident at the Russian Grand Prix. Raikkonen retired. Rosberg eventually pitted after 26 laps gifting Hamilton the lead for two laps before he pitted and Rosberg regained the lead. Hamilton cut the lead to 2.2 seconds within two laps.
Vettel, who had flat-spotted his tyres, required another pit stop and seethed with frustration when ordered to allow Hamilton to pass and lap him. Mercedes were clearly worried that excessive tyre wear could wreck their team result, but Hamilton was not impressed and delivered a fastest lap in 1:20.853 before Vettel crashed into the barriers at the Esses and prompted a Safety Car intervention. On the re-start, Rosberg led the way as Bottas powered past Kvyat on the straight and Hamilton attempted to close up, in vain, to launch a bid for victory.