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The Mexican weekend started out as a party, and what else should we expect from the central American country? With Lewis Hamilton now crowned World Champion for the third time, focus turned to the fight for 2nd place between Vettel and Rosberg. Otherwise, the Mexican Grand Prix was a no-holds-barred battle to see who would give it their all for a straight victory in the first visit to the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit.
Manor had a turbulent build-up to the weekend with Lowden leading a handful of major resignations from the team. Further up the pit lane, if not as far up the standings, McLaren elected not to run Button in qualifying after he received another 50-place grid penalty for another new engine as Honda continued to fight back against the seemingly insurmountable odds that stood in the way of them becoming genuinely competitive for the first time since the days of the Marlboro McLarens.
Aston Martin rumours started after Austin, suggesting they could invest in Force India to rebrand the team.
Raikkonen came into qualifying with a 5-place grid penalty for a new gearbox.
Mercedes set the pace throughout qualifying, Red Bull their nearest rivals as Kvyat split Hamilton from his slower teammate with 5 minutes of Q1 remaining. Of course, Vettel had to undermine me and promptly went fastest by a third of a second.
Joining Button in not running in Q2 were both Manor cars, Rossi edging Stevens for 18th, Nasr 17th and Alonso 16th. The Lotus pair were lucky to both get through, Grosjean 15th and Maldonado 14th. Alonso's penalty demoted him to 19th on the grid.
Raikkonen bailed on qualifying while 15th in Q2, dropping to 18th with his penalty. Ericsson fell 14th, Maldonado losing out on 12th to teammate Grosjean and Sainz dropped into 11th by the final timed lap of Felipe Massa.
A fierce fight for pole between the Mercedes drivers eventually saw Rosberg beat Hamilton as the silver arrows locked out the front row. Vettel led Kvyat and Ricciardo, Bottas beating Massa to 6th for Williams. Verstappen claimed 8th, the Force India pair locking out row 5 with Perez pipping Hulkenberg in the former's home race.
Raikkonen received another penalty, 30 more places this time, putting him between the McLaren drivers on the grid.
Rosberg led from Hamilton, Kvyat and Vettel. Ricciardo held 5th from Williams and Verstappen, Force India completing the top 10. in the first corner Ricciardo's wing had clipped Vettel's rear tyre and the Ferrari's tyre did then fail. Sainz took 10th while Alonso, with his brand new engine, reported a loss of power and retired the McLaren on the first lap. Maldonado managed to clear Grosjean as the Lotus pair fought for supremacy. Further forward, Verstappen jumped Massa.
Raikkonen was told on lap 3 that his brakes were overheating. The thin air in the Mexican mountains were having an effect almost immediately – and not for the first time on Sunday: a grid girl had already fainted pre-race.
Bottas pitted on lap 8 for the harder tyres, apparently relying on a two-stop strategy working out. Massa and Hulkenberg made the same move a lap later. Out on track, Raikkonen was now between the Lotus drivers, clearing Maldonado when the Venezuelan pitted. After Grosjean's stop the two drivers traded places for what was now 14th.
The first major mistake of the race went to Vettel, surprisingly, as he spun off the track at the esses, dropping from 11th to 16th.
The local hero elected to pit on lap 18, rejoining just behind Sainz. Unfortunately for Force India that meant the Toro Rosso had jumped him and their strategic target had failed. Kvyat was also in a few laps later.
Bottas pulled alongside Raikkonen but the Ferrari refused to give a car's width and shattered the rear suspension of Maranello's finest. For me, if there wasn't a penalty towards Raikkonen as the investigation began, that would be a travesty. A couple of laps later the stewards decided to take no action.
Verstappen stopped on lap 25, dropping to 8th ahead of his teammate. Rosberg pitted a lap later and was told he was on primes until the end of the 71-lap race.
Vettel tried to overtake Maldonado but slid wide and lost 11th again. Further up the order Hamilton was called in, 2 laps later than his teammate after it became obvious there was no competing with the undercut. Rossi also pitted on lap 28, leaving only Button who hadn't yet stopped on the harder tyres. He pitted dutifully on lap 30.
Vettel took medium tyres at his second stop on lap 35.
Rosberg made a second stop on lap 47, with Mercedes converting to a two-stop strategy. Hamilton was in a lap later, albeit under duress as the team told him that the tyres were down to the canvas and Hamilton disagreed. Behind them Ricciardo was all over the back of Massa as the Williams' tyres started to fade. The Red Bull made the move soon enough, while Perez jumped Verstappen for 8th.
A huge slide from Vettel ended backwards in the wall at turn 7, exactly the same place as his earlier spin, only this time going in forwards. This brought out the Safety Car, causing an exodus to the pit lane. Bottas came in later than most, dropping from 3rd to 4th and losing the last podium place to Kvyat's Red Bull.
Button reported that Felipe Nasr had a brake fire, although there was nothing obvious on the footage.
Bottas re-took 3rd from Ricciardo on the restart, threatening Hamilton but not quite close enough to make an impact. Nasr did then retire, parking neatly behind the barrier at a recovery post.
Rosberg won a commanding race from Hamilton and Bottas. Kvyat and Ricciardo led the non-podium scorers, ahead of Massa, Hulkenberg, Perez, Verstappen and Grosjean. Maldonado, Ericsson, Sainz, Button, Rossi and Stevens completed the field. Nasr, both Ferraris and Alonso all retired.
This result pushed Bottas up to 4th in the standings ahead of Raikkonen, Rosberg returning to 2nd behind his teammate thanks to Vettel's DNF.