Nico Rosberg bounces back from USA with Mexico GP win
The Mercedes driver beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton into first place
Nico Rosberg of Mercedes GP celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Nico Rosberg bounced back from the error that ended his championship hopes in Austin to win Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.
Rosberg controlled the race, despite a late safety car appearance after Sebastian Vettel crashed out, to claim his first victory since June’s Austrian Grand Prix.
The German, who moves clear of Vettel in second place in the championship, finished 1.9 seconds clear of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with Williams driver Valtteri Bottas taking the final spot on the podium.
With emotions still running high in Mexico after Hamilton and Rosberg banged wheels in Austin, all eyes were on the Mercedes pair on the long run down to turn one.
Rosberg, who prior to Sunday’s race at the newly-revamped Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez had converted only two of his last 10 poles into victories, enjoyed a strong getaway.
Rosberg immediately took the inside line on the 900 metres stretch down to the opening corner. Hamilton was tucked up underneath his team-mate, but Rosberg held his position and retained the lead.
Sebastian Vettel, who started from third, had joked that he wanted Rosberg and Hamilton to collide at the first corner so he could swoop through and take the lead.
But it was Vettel, the four-times world champion, who was involved in a collision at turn one. Vettel had already lost third place to the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat and in his bid to hold off Daniel Ricciardo in the sister Red Bull, the pair touched.
Vettel sustained a rear-right puncture and had to limp back to the pits. “Seb deserved that,” concluded Ricciardo. “He gave me no room.” The stewards took no further action, but Vettel’s race was already scuppered.
Three world champions, in Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, occupied the final three slots on the grid due to the sport’s complicated engine rules. And only two of them survived the opening lap after Alonso was forced to park his McLaren with a sick Honda engine.
The Spaniard has now retired from eight races this season, as many as during his debut Formula One campaign with minnows Minardi 14 years ago.
And by lap 23, Button was the last of the championship trio standing after Raikkonen was punted out of the race by Bottas.
Raikkonen denied Bottas a podium finish in Russia after he collided with the Williams driver on the final lap and there was a sense of payback in Bottas’ lunge at turn four. The stewards, who investigated but took no further action over the incident, did not appear to agree.
Over 100,000 fans made the pilgrimage to the circuit for Mexico’s first Formula One race since 1992.
And the crowd created a spine-tingling atmosphere all weekend, none more so than when home favourite Sergio Perez was presented to the crowd ahead of the race. Perez pumped his chest as the fans chanted his name and sounded airhorns.
Back up front and with Rosberg and Hamilton holding a clear lead over their rivals, Mercedes opted to pit their drivers for a second time. In came Rosberg on lap 46, but Hamilton did not want to play ball.
“My tyres are still good”, said the world champion. “Box this lap, that is an instruction,” came the response. He did on lap 48 and Rosberg regained the lead of the race.
Vettel, who had endured a sloppy race by his high standards, then crashed out on lap 52 to compound his miserable afternoon after he went straight on and into the tyre barriers. Out came the safety car to clear Vettel’s Ferrari before it pitted at the end of lap 57.
But unlike seven days ago, Rosberg retained his composure to hold off the challenge from Hamilton to claim his fourth win of the season.
Bottas passed Kvyat for third with Ricciardo fifth. Felipe Massa crossed the line in seventh ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Perez. Verstappen finished ninth with the Lotus of Romain Grosjean claiming the final point.
Button finished a lowly 14th ahead of only the Manor drivers of Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens in yet another weekend to forget for the 2009 world champion.