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Mexico's relatively long history of F1 opened another chapter, this time with only 21 cars running in qualifying as Palmer cracked his chassis as he slid wide onto a kerb in FP3. Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen all topped a practice session, proving that in theory any of the top 3 teams could be competitive in Mexico.
Kvyat and Grosjean were complaining of power issues in Q1, the latter yet to set a time within 107% with 7 minutes remaining. The sister Haas was 20th. At the sharp end Ferrari and Red Bull locked out the top 4 places, Mercedes on the third row but likely not especially bothered.
A spin from Gutierrez on his last lap sabotaged Grosjean behind him. The Mexican fell 17th thanks to a late run from Wehrlein, ahead of Kvyat, Nasr, Ocon and Grosjean.
Soft tyres were the choice of Mercedes and Ferrari in Q2, while Red Bull went with supers. Verstappen topped the session after the first laps, while Hamilton reported Vettel for a pretty blatant block. His teammate returned to the track with super-soft tyres, despite Vettel having reported the softs as having more grip. Looking at the other end of the order, Alonso, Perez, Button, Magnussen, Ericsson and Wehrlein fell. Interestingly Hulkenberg took 6th, joining both Williams cars and Sainz along with Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes in Q3.
Hamilton took pole from Rosberg, Verstappen beating Ricciardo on row 2. Hulkenberg pipped the Ferraris, Williams 8th and 9th with Sainz 10th.
Grosjean had to change his floor overnight and was forced to start from the pit lane, promoting Palmer from last on the grid, to last on the grid. But crucially, that put the Renault on the clean side of the grid, with a better chance of making a good start.
Carnage at the first complex brought out the VSC and then the actual Safety Car, Wehrlein out of the race having hit a Sauber. Vettel reported a puncture that apparently didn't exist as Ricciardo led the train of cars pitting, taking the medium tyres. Palmer made the same move. Ericsson pitted for repairs after the collision with Wehrlein. Replays showed Gutierrez actually tapped the Manor into the spin. Contact from the second corner between Rosberg and Verstappen was put under investigation but nothing was said about Hamilton scything over the grass and pulling out more of a lead. No action was taken against anyone for the first corner incidents, until lap 10 when the stewards decided to look at what Gutierrez did to Wehrlein. Sainz and Alonso, the latter having gone off track and blamed Sainz, were also then put under investigation. Gutierrez was lucky not to get a penalty, while Sainz received a 5-second penalty on lap 15.
Sainz reported a dying gearbox on lap 4, presumably with no chance of dragging the Toro Rosso round for another 67 laps. However, Toro Rosso showed no sign of retiring the car, Sainz keeping hold of the final point for the moment.
Grosjean took mediums on lap 11, presumably aiming to go from there to the end.
Verstappen stopped for mediums on lap 12, rejoining behind Alonso in 11th as Sainz pitted behind him, as did Magnussen, both releasing McLarens. Gutierrez dropped to 20th with a slow stop.
Verstappen cleared Alonso on lap 14, while Hulkenberg and Massa pitted. Everyone, it seemed, were going for one-stop strategies. Alonso also made this move.
Hamilton took mediums on lap 17, the fourth driver to stop for only 2.1 seconds after Massa and the Red Bulls. Hamilton rejoined 4th, splitting Vettel and Bottas as Button followed Alonso's lead and pitted.
Bottas pitted on lap 19, releasing Perez and both Red Bulls. Rosberg was in a lap later, as was Raikkonen. The championship leader retained his position over the Red Bulls as Perez also pitted. Ricciardo on older rubber did eventually yield to Verstappen as Red Bull tried to hunt the Mercedes cars.
After all first stops bar Nasr's had been made, everyone except Kvyat was on mediums. The Toro Rosso had so far gone soft-soft, undermining my earlier assertion that everyone was on one-stop strategies.
Vettel pitted on lap 32 for mediums, the German slotting into 6th behind Raikkonen as the Finn complained a lack of grip.
Raikkonen was called in on lap 45 for more medium tyres, despite his earlier complaint. He rejoined 7th behind Hulkenberg. Alonso was also in, taking softs to the finish after a scruffy stop.
Grosjean reported brake problems, as Haas' frustrations with Brembo continued. The thinner air likely wasn't helping.
Kvyat pitted with the leaders on lap 49, taking super-soft tyres for the last 20+ laps. He then made a move off-track on Grosjean which attracted the attention of the stewards.
Verstappen lunged at Rosberg but ran wide, compromised Sainz as he rejoined and Button scythed past the Toro Rosso.
Ricciardo pitted on lap 50 for softs, coming out in 6th. Vettel and Hulkenberg benefited. The Force India didn't hold him off for long though.
Kvyat was handed a 5-second penalty. Given he had already pitted twice, the Toro Rosso driver would likely have it added post-race.
Raikkonen got past Hulkenberg, the Force India spinning as they went side by side. A lap later Verstappen ran wide at the first corner and didn't lose a place to Vettel, prompting anger from the latter. This incident was investigated post-race.
Vettel reported that he was being backed into Ricciardo, then tried hitting Ricciardo to prevent a move. Again, the incident went under investigation.
Hamilton and Rosberg took a safe 1-2, putting Hamilton equal with Prost on the all-time wins record, followed by Verstappen, Vettel and Ricciardo, Raikkonen then led Hulkenberg, Bottas, Massa and Perez. Outside the points were Ericsson, Button, Alonso, Palmer, Nasr, Sainz, Magnussen, Kvyat, Gutierrez, Grosjean and Ocon.
Verstappen was deprived of the podium by a very quick decision demoting him to 5th, but Vettel was then demoted for hitting Ricciardo, dropping 10 seconds back and gifting 3rd and 4th to Red Bull. 2 points were also added to the Ferrari driver's license.