Mexican Grand Prix 2017: Weekend Awards
So after 2017’s title-deciding race, who walks away with one of RealSport’s coveted weekend awards?
Driver of the weekend
There were several standout performances up for consideration from Mexico, but one man stood out, even if we barely saw him during the race on Sunday.
Max Verstappen was excellent all weekend; Denied the record of youngest F1 pole sitter on Saturday by the smallest of margins after an absolutely stellar lap in his Red Bull, the young Dutchman made up for it in spades on Sunday, throwing a bold move down the outside of Sebastian Vettel into turn one, holding this line through two, and emerging from three with the lead as Lewis Hamilton and Vettel clashed behind.
From here, he disappeared into the distance and never really looked under threat from anyone behind him, finishing 20 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas in second, and setting several fastest laps on the way. He eventually lost out on the fastest lap to Vettel but this was a champions drive, make no mistake.
Best team performance
But for an unlucky deployment of the Virtual Safety Car (VSC), Force India would have had a much stronger result in Mexico than they eventually ended up with. Both Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez capitalised well on the first-lap collision between Hamilton and Vettel to sit third and fifth for much of the first stint. It was at the pit stops however, that they lost out.
The team pitted Perez first around lap 20 in an attempt to undercut Nico Hulkenberg in fourth, and Hulkenberg and Ocon came in at the end of the next lap to rejoin in the same positions. The issue from here was that not many of the drivers around them made stops at this time, finding that the ultrasoft tyre was lasting longer than they originally anticipated.
It was an incredible ten laps later on lap 30 (Pirelli had earlier said that the ultrasoft had a lifespan of around 35 laps), after Brendon Hartley’s smouldering Toro Rosso prompted a VSC period, that the leaders finally made their stops. Given that the rest of the field was limited for pace at this point, these guys were able to gain a massive advantage over those who had already pitted, and the Force India pair ended up losing out to both Kimi Raikkonen and Lance Stroll.
Ocon finally managed to get back past Stroll, but lost out to Vettel in the closing stages. If he had been able to hold his position through the pit stops though, he could have been on for a very well deserved maiden podium.
Bit of a split decision on this one for me this weekend.
Firstly, we have Max Verstappen’s brave move around the outside of Vettel at turn one that earned him the lead that he never surrendered. This was an incredibly bold move from the Dutchman, making up for a slightly tardy start (at least compared to the German) to brake late and hold his line around the outside of the first corner. He then pushed Vettel wide at turn two and took his line into three to come out ahead of Hamilton, who had tried to sneak around the outside of three and was soon to come to blows with Vettel.
Hamilton’s late race move on Fernando Alonso was my second pick for this award. Having spent several laps behind the Spaniard in tenth, Hamilton didn’t really need to go for this one; With Vettel fourth at that stage, Lewis would have been forgiven for just sitting back and cruising to the line secure in the knowledge that he had done enough.