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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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Red Bull Dominates Mexico, Verstappen’s 14th Win

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Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium, in Mexico City, Mexico, on Oct. 30, 2022. | Image by Edgard Garrido, Reuters

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Tire strategy would decide who won and who lost in Mexico on a day that did not see a lot of racing incidents or chaos.

As the race began, both Red Bull drivers, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were on the soft tire. At the same time, Mercedes’s chief rival for victory today had its drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on the medium.

With most analyses of the race predicting a two-pit-stop race, it looked as if Mercedes was eyeing a one-stop with a long initial stint on the mediums followed by either the hard tire or another set of mediums.

Meanwhile, Red Bull looked to be on the two-pit-stop strategy.

In Mexico, the pole sitter has been vulnerable on the long opening straight into the first turn in past races. As such, Russell looked to threaten Verstappen early, following in behind the Dutchman after the start to gain a slipstream before attempting to slingshot past him.

Russell executed the move well, but the Red Bull had too much speed, and he could not gain position before heading into the turn. Verstappen remained in the lead, increasing it immediately.

As the race developed, the medium tire selection looked wise, as there was little to no difference between the lap times of the Red Bull and Mercedes drivers. Both Verstappen and Perez pushed the soft tire as far as they could. Ultimately, both pitted much earlier than the Mercedes, opting to go on the medium themselves and what appeared to be a soft-medium-medium two-stop race in the end.

The two Mercedes eventually pitted, opted for the hard tire, and looked to take the remaining two-thirds of the race.

Meanwhile, the two Ferraris, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, struggled mightily on a similar strategy to Red Bull but clearly lacked the pace of the 2022 constructor’s champion and fell solidly into the top of the midfield in seventh and eighth, respectively.

As the initial pit shuffle occurred, the order between the two lead teams crystallized with Verstappen in the lead, followed by Hamilton, then Perez, and Russell in fourth.

The question initially appeared to be what kind of lead Verstappen could bank before pitting for a final set of tires. It quickly became apparent that Red Bull had every intention of finishing the race on the mediums after their first and only pit stops.

Making matters worse for Mercedes, both drivers began complaining about the hard tires’ lack of performance versus the medium. The decisions made looked like it would take something catastrophic to shake up the order.

Mclaren’s Daniel Ricciardo would do his best to create that chaos. Moving up the pack, he took an inside line into a turn on AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda that he was not entitled to, colliding with Tsunoda and causing him to sputter off track, severely damaged.

Tsunoda got his car moving and limped to the pit lane, where his team decided to retire his car after unsuccessfully attempting to replace his front wing. With Tsunoda out in those conditions, however, no safety car was deployed, and the race continued unabated.

Later, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso suffered an engine failure and coasted off the track into one of the runoff areas, ending his race from likely points finish. A virtual safety car deployed, but stewards were able to remove his car quickly before it had any impact on racing decisions or pit strategy.

With Alonso’s car off the track, Verstappen’s win looked like a foregone conclusion. The medium tires held up beautifully for both he and his teammate Perez.

Ricciardo had a fantastic outing primarily due to his tire strategy. He began on the mediums and pushed them for two-thirds of the race before switching to the soft tire and moving up the order deftly.

Even with a ten-second penalty for causing a collision with Tsunoda, Ricciardo finished seventh, marking one of his best outings for the year and a welcome change of pace from his recent bottom-five finishes.

For his efforts, Ricciardo also received driver of the day honors.

Verstappen brought home his record 14th victory for the 2022 season and extended his record as the all-time winningest driver in Mexico to four. Perez, the hometown Mexican driver, repeated his third-place finish from 2021 and stood on the podium next to Verstappen and Hamilton, who earned second.            

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