Mexican Grand Prix
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
Young Red Bull driver Max Verstappen totally dominated last weekend's Mexican Grand Prix in fine style, whilst 32 year old Lewis Hamilton left the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City with an even bigger prize, a fourth Drivers' Championship title, despite a relatively lacklustre performance.
This really was history in the making though as Lewis became the first ever British quadruple Formula 1 champion.
From humble beginnings on a council estate in Stevenage how Hamilton has progressed to multi-millionaire status, choosing to live for many years now as a tax exile in Monaco. He soon stood out as a highly impressive young kart racer and when he progressed to single seater cars he caught the eye of the then McLaren Formula 1 boss Ron Dennis, who helped to fund his progression through the ranks.
It has to be said that he is also probably the most controversial Formula 1 champion Britain has ever had as, like Marmite, fans tend to love him or loathe him due to his behaviour at times, but there is absolutely no denying that what he has achieved on-track has been absolutely outstanding.
This year's Mexican Grand Prix came just a week after the United States race in warm, sunny Texas and what a contrast it proved to be geographically and weather-wise. This was all down to Mexico City being at an altitude higher than many ski resorts and, although the sun still shone, it was definitely cooler. This meant the air was also noticeably thinner, impacting negatively on downforce levels generated but helping the cars to approach 220mph at the end of the long main straight as they hurtled through the air with much less resistance than at lower altitudes.
Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fastest in the first free practice session, but the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen did likewise in the two further sessions as the teams fine-tuned their cars to the unique demands of the circuit.
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Ricciardo qualified in a surprisingly poor seventh position by his own high standards, but worse was to follow on race day morning when his team felt the need to replace his engine and two other parts of his power unit, dropping him back to 16th. Undeterred, the charismatic Australian simply grinned and declared "I'm going to charge, using every rpm that I've got!".
Sadly, that was not to be though as a turbo failure was to force his retirement early in the race.
There are few finer sporting moments than the start of a Formula 1 Grand Prix, with all its uncertainties, unpredictability and yes danger, and Hamilton lined up knowing that a fifth place finish or better would give him the title even if Vettel won.
When the five red lights went out it was Vettel who led the pack as they blasted down the 890 metre stretch of track to the first corner. However, a feisty Max challenged Seb amidst mild contact. With the Dutchman edging clear, Lewis and Seb tangled at Turn 3, causing front wing damage on the Ferrari and a right rear puncture for the Mercedes.
As both title rivals limped back to the pits for repairs they rejoined the Grand Prix last and next to last, with Vettel ahead of Hamilton. As Verstappen consolidated his lead over Bottas out front, Hamilton was struggling to make progress through the field and on lap 22 suffered the ignominy of being lapped by the frontman.
A Virtual Safety Car period following an engine failure for Brendon Hartley's Toro Rosso caused a flurry of pit stops for tyre changes, but Max still led from Valtteri, with Seb eighth and Lewis 16th.
Vettel probably knew that any chance of taking the title was slipping away from him, but the German made a fight of it as he climbed his way upto fourth position and Hamilton progressed to 10th before making that ninth after a tremendous battle with McLaren's Fernando Alonso.
Vettel had the consolation of setting the fastest lap of the race with two tours remaining, but as Verstappen, Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen claimed the podium positions it was left to Hamilton to cross the finish line ninth and lift that coveted Drivers' Championship trophy for a fourth time.
With Mercedes having already tied up the Constructors' Championship again at the previous Grand Prix, the Brackley based team made it a clean sweep for a fourth year running with Lewis' Drivers' title achievement in Mexico.
There's more F1 excitement to come though as everyone heads to Brazil in two weeks time to the iconic Interlagos circuit outside sprawling Sao Paulo before the season finale in Abu Dhabi a fortnight later. I hope you'll join me as we continue this season's amazing F1 adventure.
2017 Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix Results
1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1hr36m26.550s
2 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +19.678s
3 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +54.007s
4 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +1m10.078s
5 Esteban Ocon (Force India) Lapped
6 Lance Stroll (Williams) Lapped
7 Sergio Perez (Force India) Lapped
8 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Lapped
9 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) Lapped
10 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) Lapped
11 Felipe Massa (Williams) Lapped
12 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) Lapped
13 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) Lapped
14 Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) Lapped
15 Romain Grosjean (Haas) Lapped
16 Carlos Sainz (Renault) Retired
17 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) Retired
18 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) Retired
19 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) Retired
20 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) Retired
2017 Formula 1 Drivers' Championship (after 18 rounds of 20)
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 333
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 277
3 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 262
2017 Formula 1 Constructors' Championship (after 18 rounds of 20)
1 Mercedes 595
2 Ferrari 455
3 Red Bull 340
Mexican Grand Prix, 29th October 2017, 9:02 AM