Mexican GP: the major takeaways from a critical but uneventful race

The Mexican GP 2021 saw Max Verstappen establish a 19-point lead over Lewis Hamilton. Let us look at the major takeaways from the F1 race.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez after the Mexican GP. (Image: Twitter/@SChecoPerez)

Ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, many believed that the circuit would favour the Red Bull drivers. Thus, when Max Verstappen crossed the finish line to take the win at the Mexican GP, few if any were surprised.

The Dutchman took quite the comfortable win while his title rival, Lewis Hamilton, fought hard for second. However, the race result leaves Red Bull favourites for the title run now.

Truth be told, the season has been so close run that nothing can be ruled out at this point. Mercedes might well find some extra performance in the coming four races. Red Bull could very well slip up. And technical failures can never be ruled out.

But, at this point, it is Red Bull’s title to lose. The manner of their celebration afterwards – and Hamilton’s dejected outlook post-race – made as much clear.

Nevertheless, the race was a key one for the title but not an altogether interesting affair. Mexico has always seen frontrunners maintain track position, and this race was no exception in that regard.

That being said, let us now take a look at the major takeaways from the Mexican GP.

Max’s Mexican GP win brings title dream closer to reality

Verstappen’s eventual drive to the win might have been dull, but the way he grabbed the lead was anything but. Knowing track position is key at the Autodromos Hermanos Rodriguez, Verstappen went all out to gain the lead on the first corner itself.

He braked extremely late on the run down to Turn 1 – any later and he’d have probably run off the track. But he timed it all to perfection and zoomed past both Hamilton and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas. From there, it was a simple matter of using the car’s superior pace to stay ahead – which he did with aplomb.

The move belied Verstappen’s relative youth – something which, truth be told, can be said about his F1 career at large. But this felt different, mainly because it was. While his previous exploits showed him to be a champion in the waiting, he is keen to wait no more. And at this point, he is the clear favourite in the title race.

Sergio Perez makes history – even without being the race winner

Verstappen might have won the race, but it was the other Red Bull who got all the adulation. Given the other driver was hometown hero Sergio Perez, this should come as little surprise. Throughout the weekend, the Mexican felt the love from his home crowd and he was desperate to repay that affection with a win.

He did not get a chance to claim maximum points – and, even if he was in the lead, he might well have been asked to move over for Verstappen given the way the title race is going. But he did become the first Mexican to finish on the podium in his home Grand Prix.

Given Perez will be at Red Bull next season too, there is still time for him to claim the win. But the podium was deserved, especially given the excellent drive he put in. Indeed, were it not for Hamilton’s dogged defence of his second place, we might have gotten a Red Bull 1-2.

Is Hamilton’s title charge over?

Speaking of Hamilton, the seven-time world champion cut a forlorn figure after the race. And it was easy to understand why. He clearly did all he could to extract every bit of pace from the W12, but was some distance off Verstappen at the end. He did well to even fight off a charging Perez later in the race, but the win remained elusive.

Mercedes expected to struggle at the high-altitude track of Mexico, but Hamilton still did not take losing too well. The real question to ask at this point is if his title charge is over? Casual observers might say it is, even though Mercedes are expected to be competitive over the final three races in the Middle East.

Yet momentum is clearly with Red Bull right now, and in such tight battles it is often a key factor in deciding the outcome. Hamilton’s charge isn’t technically over yet. But one gets the feeling he will need to do something monumental in the remaining races to turn things around.

Ferrari steal march off McLaren in fight for ‘best of the rest’

Ferrari’s improvements since taking on a new engine upgrade has been evident for all to see. And at the Mexican GP, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz again delivered a strong showing to put the Scuderia firmly into third place in the constructor’s championship. They are currently 13.5 points ahead of rivals McLaren, who didn’t have the best of races.

Lando Norris could only secure 10th place, whereas Daniel Ricciardo was in 12th and out of the points. Things have gone steadily downhill for the McLaren team since Ricciardo’s win at Monza; how they juggle the remainder of the season will prove crucial in this battle.

As for Ferrari, they were undoubtedly pleased with the result. Less pleasing was the minor squabbling over team radio regarding team orders. Still, as long as Sainz and Leclerc put in the work and remain cordial, there won’t be too much cause for concern.

Gasly’s Mexican GP drive showcases quality – yet again

Pierre Gasly has been F1’s man on a mission since losing his Red Bull drive in 2019. 2020 saw him rebuild his confidence at AlphaTauri, but 2021 has seen him among the points with a frightening consistency. And the Frenchman continued his fine run with a fourth-placed finish at Mexico.

Such was the assuredness of his drive that both Leclerc and Sainz failed to snatch fourth from him, the latter let through by Leclerc to take a stab at Gasly before returning the position to Leclerc. And if Ferrari are the best team among F1’s stacked midfield, Gasly is making a strong case to be dubbed one of the best – if not the best – driver for a midfield side.

Gasly’s Red Bull contract expires at the end of the 2023 season and he’s clearly outgrown AlphaTauri, which is essentially Red Bull’s developmental team. It will be interesting to see if any team values taking a punt on Gasly. If he keeps performing like this, one would suspect there to be no dearth of opportunities for him.

Shayne Dias

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