Mexican GP 2016 driver ratings

Mexican GP 2016 driver ratings
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If we didn’t know it already, there are times when Lewis Hamilton is simply untouchable. Doing all he can to prolong the title battle on a weekend when the championship war could have been won and lost, the Mercedes driver was a class apart in Mexico.

There was the obvious wobble at the first corner, followed by what Toto Wolff described as “scary data” from his car, but Hamilton was otherwise simply too good for Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes car, which is too good for the rest of them. 

“Lewis has been too fast this weekend,” Rosberg accurately acknowledged. But for the vibrations caused by his first-lap excursion over the grass and a very slow final lap, Hamilton would have won by 10 seconds – a hefty margin around a circuit that ultimately served up something of a procession.

Mercedes considered pitting Hamilton

The victory was Hamilton’s 51st in F1, drawing him level with Alain Prost in the all-time standings, and putting him within 19 points of the summit. Rosberg will be crowned champion in Brazil if he wins but if Lewis stays in this mood, and this form, he will take some beating.
Rating out of ten: 9

In one sense, it’s two-second places down, two more to go, for Nico Rosberg as he gets tantalisingly close to realising his childhood dream of becoming world champion. But should his struggles in Lewis Hamilton’s wake in Mexico set alarm bells ringing for Brazil and Abu Dhabi?

Last year’s Mexican GP winner was never on his team-mate’s pace this time to the point where Hamilton admitted he was even “surprised” to see his team-mate join him on the front row. That really is saying something when Rosberg has finished in the top two on Saturdays at every race for the last 13 months.

Rosberg’s final lap in Q3, when he rescued second from a provisional fourth behind the Red Bulls, was certainly his moment of the weekend as without it he would have surely dropped more than seven points to Hamilton on Sunday. Max Verstappen certainly tried his best to ruffle the championship leader’s feathers.

But, as on Saturday, Nico came through and he now has the first serious chance of his career to take the title by winning at Interlagos. But can he return to winning ways to avoid Hamilton taking it to the wire?
Rating out of ten: 7

A belated podium for Daniel Ricciardo came in the strangest of circumstances, and there were no Shoeys in sight as he joined his team-mate in celebrating several hours after the race. In truth, this was perhaps the worst Ricciardo had performed in his eight 2016 podiums, out-qualified and out-paced by Verstappen, but those battling qualities were out in force once again.

After a poor start in which Ricciardo dropped below Nico Hulkenberg, Red Bull took advantage of the Safety Car period to place the Australian on the medium tyre. Then, it was full attack mode. The fact Ricciardo dispatched of the midfield pack with such ease, all the while conserving his tyres for one of the longest stints of the race, was impressive to say the least.

Red Bull: Vettel’s demotion the right decision

Was Ricciardo’s podium deserved after all the hard work Verstappen had done in chasing down Rosberg? Probably not. Was it deserved after all the work Vettel had done in chasing Verstappen? Probably not. But Ricciardo was the only one of the three who didn’t make a mistake, proving his overtaking skills in the process, and is now reaping the rewards.
Rating out of ten: 7

It’s never quiet when Max Verstappen is around and the youngster made his presence felt right from the start as his Red Bull hit the side of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes. “I thought my car would have been falling to bits,” Rosberg later recalled.

After a quiet spell, Verstappen charged in the middle part of the race as he hunted down Rosberg once again, showing his undeniable speed. A lunge for second spot didn’t work out as Verstappen out-braked himself and ran wide, but he deserved credit for attempting the move.

However, he blotted his copybook in the closing stages with another mistake under braking, this time in defence, followed by his refusal to let Sebastian Vettel past. Having maintained the position by cutting across the grass, Verstappen ignored instruction from Red Bull to let the German through.
Rating out of ten: 7

Sebastian Vettel‘s race was a tale of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good was very good. Making up for another qualifying defeat to Raikkonen to move into contention with a 32-lap opening stint on soft tyres, the four-time champion hunted down Verstappen into the closing laps and forced the Dutchman into a mistake at Turn One, for which the stewards eventually penalised him.

The problem was that the bad quickly morphed into the ugly and resulted in Vettel losing his head and, three hours after the end of the race, his podium too. Taking aim at Verstappen over the radio in expletive-laden terms was one thing, but giving the same treatment to FIA race director Charlie Whiting may yet come back to bite. As Vettel’s old team boss Christian Horner noted later, taking aim at a sport’s ‘referee’ can only ever end badly.

The driver once nicknamed ‘Baby Schumi’ is now certainly ‘Sweary Seb’.
Rating out of ten: 6

In contrast to Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen is looking every bit Ferrari’s ‘Iceman’ at the moment – although his race prospects melted in Mexico thanks to some uncooperative medium tyres.

Neither Ferrari driver had been happy with the team’s six-seven qualifying result, but Raikkonen, after a difficult Friday, could at least be content to outqualify Vettel again. But the Finn’s race began to unravel after he switched to the mediums on lap 20 with the sister Ferrari, who made up ground by stretching his first stint another 12 laps, catching him up.

Raikkonen was already beginning to complain of a lack of grip and so Ferrari thought they’d pit the Finn again and try their luck with another set of mediums. It didn’t really work: Raikkonen salvaged the sixth place he had pitted from with a nice move on Nico Hulkenberg four laps from the end, but Ferrari’s weekend could have yielded more than that.
Rating out of ten: 6

As remarked in our Qualy Conclusions, confirmation of his 2017 move to Renault seems to have been the 2016 making of Nico Hulkenberg.

Though his performance underlined what a loss he will be to the team, Force India did at least enjoy Hulkenberg’s excellence this weekend, watching on as Nico produced what Sky F1’s Martin Brundle described as “one of the best qualifying laps I’ve ever seen” to claim fifth on the grid before the German delivered another faultless drive for sixth.

A class act.
Rating out of ten: 9

Valtteri Bottas continued his utter domination of Williams team-mate Felipe Massa in Mexico, faster on Saturday and smarter on Sunday. The Finn has now extended his qualifying advantage to a staggering 16-3, by far the most one-sided head-to-head in Formula 1, while he recovered after being passed by Massa early on in the race.

Once again, Williams were savvy with their one-stop strategy with both drivers easily making the mediums last. His only real battle on track would have come from Sergio Perez, but he had a friend in Massa who was there to keep the charging Force India at bay. Unfortunately for Williams and Bottas, Hulkenberg was always going to be out of reach.

With a new deal set to be confirmed on Thursday, it promises to be a positive few days for Bottas. What’s more, he set the fastest ever recorded race speed for the hybrid power unit era, clocking a speed of 372.5kph.
Rating out of ten: 8

While Felipe Massa has undeniably lost some of his old speed as he winds down to retirement, his skill on the backfoot looks as sure-footed as ever. For lap after lap, Sergio Perez tried to find a way around Massa’s Williams on Sunday night. And for lap after lap, Massa kept the home favourite, and faster car, at bay.

The result was a useful ninth place – with Perez crossing the line where he seemed to spend the entire day: less than a second behind.
Rating out of ten: 7

Sergio Perez will have been seeing the rear of Massa’s Williams in his dreams on Sunday night. After the first pit-stops, Perez was within a couple of seconds, usually within DRS range, the whole race.

He came close to passing the Brazilian many times, even having the adoring home crowd cheering after passing him through Turn One in the early stages of the battle. However, he overshot the corner and was back to following again. It all got too much for Perez at one point, obviously so desperate to delight the Mexicans.

“Think of something man. Why did you box me so late?” he asked his Force India team on the radio. “Think of something to overtake them because it’s very difficult, I cannot pass them.”

A frustrating day.
Rating out of ten: 6

The unsung hero of 2016? As soon often this year, Marcus Ericsson was close to outstanding in a thankless task at the Mexican GP. The only Sauber driver to escape Q1, the Swede performed doggedly on a one-stop strategy on race day, defying the damage done to his car at the start of the race to reach 11th at the chequered flag. “Very happy and proud of my race,” he later tweeted. “My best one in F1 so far.”

Ericsson’s eleventh place was also the closest the team have been to points this season. Or to put it another way: As tenth place would propel the team above Manor in the Constructors’ Championship, Ericsson was effectively one position away delivering a $35m windfall in prize money. 

And you thought it was tense between Red Bull and Ferrari at the end…
Rating out of ten: 9

Although ahead of his team-mate at the chequered flag, which always takes some doing when that team-mate is a two-time world champion and one of the best drivers in F1, Jenson Button‘s Mexican GP was a frustrating affair, the majority of which was stuck in traffic.

His one-stop strategy was the right way to go, as his defeat of Alonso proved, but as Button said afterwards: “The problem for us – for everyone, I think – was that you just couldn’t overtake.”
Rating out of ten: 7

Another strong qualifying performance from Fernando Alonso saw him out-qualify Button by almost four tenths of a second, but that was as good as it got for the Spaniard on a difficult weekend for McLaren. Both drivers struggled to find a balance all weekend, and while Alonso vocally celebrated qualifying 11th on Saturday, Sunday was a different matter.

At one point, he declared his car wasn’t fit to be in the race and at the flag ended up behind team-mate Button and even the Sauber of Ericsson. As Martin Brundle points out, Alonso says the right things in public outside of the car, but when the adrenaline is flowing, there are certainly underlying tensions and frustrations.
Rating out of ten: 7

Just when the danger that he’ll lose his F1 seat for 2017 is reaching critical levels, Jolyon Palmer is beginning to look very much a bona fide F1 driver. That said, there was a strong helping hand behind his surge up the field after the Englishman took what amounted to a free pit-stop behind the Safety Car on the first lap before running to the finish.

But Palmer’s fighting spirit, particularly evident when he did all he could and more to keep the McLarens at bay, was admirable and 14th having started out at the back of the grid was an excellent result in the circumstances.
Rating out of ten: 7

Sauber’s one-stop strategy meant Felipe Nasr put in the hard yards on the medium tyre with his 49-lap opening stint at one point bring him as high as 12th place.

After switching to the supersofts, he ran 16th and would have stayed there had Carlos Sainz not had five seconds added to his race time. But, as detailed above, Nasr was put in the shade by team-mate Ericsson all weekend.
Rating out of ten: 5

After a quiet spell following the summer break, Carlos Sainz can look back on his fortnight in North America with plenty of satisfaction thanks to two of the best laps to get into Q3 seen from anyone all season.

The lingering disappointment from Mexico though was that 10th on the grid gave way to a more mundane 16th-place race finish. Problems with his gearbox on the formation lap, and then his brakes in the race’s early laps, were compounded by damage to his front-wing in first-corner contact with Massa and a five-second time penalty for putting his hero of all people, Fernando Alonso, on the grass. Ultimately, a race-day to forget.
Rating out of ten: 6

It looks increasingly likely that Kevin Magnussen will be staying on the F1 grid for 2017, with Haas reportedly having offered him an alternative drive should Renault look elsewhere. That’s just as well then for the Dane as the Mexican GP wasn’t a weekend in which he could particularly catch the eye.

Qualifying was reasonable enough as he made it through to Q2, but the use of all three tyre compounds in the race didn’t unlock any stellar pace and Magnussen actually finished three places lower than where he started, 17th. To compound matters, team-mate Palmer finished three places ahead despite starting from the pitlane.
Rating out of ten: 6

After his hard-to-watch struggles of the summer, it’s always nice to see Daniil Kvyat back smiling – even if his Mexican GP won’t live long in the memory. “I’m quite happy with my race, even if we finished P18,” said the Russian. “I enjoyed a few very nice battles, did a couple of overtakes and had some fun.”

An electrical issue which dropped him out in Q1 left him on the backfoot on race day with his prospects further compromised by a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage in a battle with Gutierrez.
Rating out of ten: 6

The walls appear to be closing in on Esteban Gutierrez at Haas and it was typical of his nearly-but-not-quite season that the team were well off the pace for his home race. With his every move cheered by the fanatical Mexican crowd, Gutierrez admitted he was “driving over the limit” in qualifying and that eventually resulted in a mutually-destructive Q1 spin in front of team-mate Grosjean, which consigned both drivers to an early exit.

Caught up in a clash with Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson at the first corners, Gutierrez came home a forgettable 19th, although that was at least ahead of the sister car.
Rating out of ten: 5

“We didn’t get anything right,” was Romain Grosjean‘s succinct assessment of a weekend which was troubled from start to finish amid all sorts of handling problems with his Haas car.

Slowest of all in qualifying, Grosjean then started behind Palmer in the pitlane and tried in vain to bring some respectability to his and the team’s weekend. It didn’t happen, with the twice-lapped Ocon the only car behind him at the flag.
Rating out of ten: 5

The best, and perhaps only positive, thing that could be said of Esteban Ocon’s Mexican GP is that he made it to the finish. Walloped by half a second by Pascal Wehrlein in qualifying, Esteban was a distant last in the race and the only driver to finish two laps down. The youngster cited a mysterious car balance deficiency as the cause of his slump but with his future in 2017 this was an ill-timed setback. And something of a concerning one. 
Rating out of ten: 4

Did not finish: Pascal Wehrlein

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