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Ten things we learned from the 2022 F1 Mexican GP – Motorsport.com

There’s little escaping that the Mexican Grand Prix last weekend ultimately failed to deliver on the thrilling climax it teased at certain points. That meant, at a time when the FIA went public with its contentious punishment for Red Bull breaking the 2021 cost cap, there was an equal split between on- and off-track talking points.
Max Verstappen writing his name into more pages of the history books as he broke another two Formula 1 records thanks to his latest victory, Mercedes upping the pace but coming overall conservative with its strategy, plus a rejuvenated showing from Daniel Ricciardo were among the lean highlights from the 71 laps of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Away from the asphalt, the atmosphere at high altitude was a lot more fraught. Sky Sports couldn’t cut to Christian Horner on the pitwall as Red Bull boycotted the broadcaster just hours after the team had been busy explaining its exceeding of the budget cap. Fernando Alonso finally had a resolution to the protest of the protest of his result in the United States Grand Prix and it’s looking like both the Mexico round and Lewis Hamilton will be sticking around for a little while longer.
All told, here are 10 things we learned from the 2022 Mexican Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen celebrates a record-breaking 14th win in a single season
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
While there were some complaints from the cockpit of the #1 RB18 during the first stint as his soft tyres began to tear, polesitter Max Verstappen would soon take total control of the 71 laps in Mexico City and come to look unflappable on his way to victory by 15.186s over Lewis Hamilton.
The two-time world champion’s latest triumph increased his tally of wins in 2022 up to 14, which meant he surpassed the 13-strong record shared by Sebastian Vettel (2013) and Michael Schumacher (2004) for the most successful season in Formula 1 history.
Verstappen’s reaction was: “Another great race but also, it’s just an incredible season for us as a team. I never thought I would be able to win 14 races in a year. I’m incredibly proud.”
Quite astonishingly, that wasn’t the only record Verstappen broke when he reached the chequered flag. With the full score of 25 for first place secured, the Dutch ace now counts 416 points for his efforts this year. That meant he moved clear of Hamilton’s 2019 record of 413, and that’s still with two races (including a sprint round) to go. But even if Verstappen claims the spoils in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, his win percentage will fall just shy of Alberto Ascari’s 75% in 1952.
On the points score, Verstappen added: “Hopefully we can score a few more, but it’s not about that. At the end of the day, it’s all about trying to win a championship and it doesn’t matter with how many points you do it, but it does show we are having an incredible year.”
Mercedes’ reticence to take a gamble in Mexico cost it a shot at victory
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
It surely seemed as though the United States Grand Prix offered Mercedes its best chance of getting off the mark in 2022. Max Verstappen was held for 15s in a calamitous pitstop. That Lewis Hamilton couldn’t then hold off the chasing Red Bull to win indicated that only a major malady befalling the lead RB18 might put the W13s on the top step of the podium.
But that sentiment only lasted seven days. With Verstappen leading away on softs before struggling with degradation, while Hamilton and George Russell ran longer on their starting medium tyres, it appeared as though a cute Silver Arrows strategy and decent management of the rubber could put the duo in contention for victory more or less on merit.
One-half of that attack was subdued when Hamilton stopped for hard tyres to carry him to the flag, but the white-walled rubber immediately dropped him off the pace. Even race engineer Peter Bonnington struggled to justify the call over team radio. No matter, Russell had stayed out longer, was still happy on the mediums, showing consistent pace, and was telling the pitwall to keep him out until it was time for a sprint on soft tyres to the end. Then he too was stopped for hard tyres. Likewise, his progress was slowed.
That meant Russell had been kept out to no good effect as Mercedes effectively secured its driver of fourth place rather than at least ask questions of their rival outfit by putting late pressure on Verstappen and Sergio Perez – even if it would have required Russell passing both on track. Likewise, Mercedes kept both its drivers on the same strategy rather than twist to stand a better chance of causing an upset.
That was the bad news for Mercedes. And the bad news for spectators and TV viewers is that any kind of crescendo to a tame Mexican GP fizzled out almost entirely.
Having struggled with the altitude in Mexico, Ferrari crossed the line in a distant 5-6 finish
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Bar a sticking front-right wheel change that cost Carlos Sainz a second at his pitstop, it was virtually an anonymous outing for Ferrari. The two red cars were more conspicuous for their absence from the lead fight as Sainz crossed the line nigh on a minute adrift of victor Max Verstappen as he clocked fifth to his teammate’s sixth. It was the Scuderia’s worst result since Leclerc crashed out of the lead of the French Grand Prix.
The Mexico weekend was particularly troublesome for Ferrari as it managed only fifth and seventh in qualifying, with Leclerc constantly fighting a twitchy F1-75 and even shunting backwards into the wall in FP2. The pair were split by Valtteri Bottas on Saturday, who was only 0.05s shy of being the fastest Ferrari-powered driver of the lot. Team boss Mattia Binotto put some of the blame on the power unit and having to turn down the turbo in high-altitude conditions.
While internal expectations are for a return to form in Brazil, it wasn’t quite a one-off to instantly forget and move on from. Although the pressure of both titles is now off to leave the team to focus on executing clean strategy and perfect pitstops, Sainz failed to finish in both Japan and the United States – although he was the innocent party at Austin. Leclerc, meanwhile, copped a penalty at Suzuka for missing the chicane because he was running out of ideas to keep a faster Sergio Perez behind. Then in America, having once been part of a three-car fight for the lead after recovering so strongly from an engine change penalty, he dropped 7.5s back with tyre degradation.
If Nico Rosberg’s 2016 title success was launched off the back of his stellar end to 2015, these recent races suggest Ferrari isn’t striving to copy a similar strategy.
Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed arguably his best performance of 2022 with a vintage attacking display
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Daniel Ricciardo will not race in F1 in 2023 unless making a substitute appearance as part of his widely expected move to become a reserve driver. This, he hopes, will better position him to join a more competitive team in time for 2024. That is a strategic gamble. One which, if it backfires, could lead to the Australian bowing out of his GP career in two races’ time without anyone really acknowledging the occasion.
The eight-time F1 race winner remains hugely popular, so few want to see that set of events unfold. But should they transpire, the Mexican GP gave many a reminder of the driver the championship would be missing out on.
Granted, Ricciardo’s move on Yuki Tsunoda that eliminated the AlphaTauri was clumsy – a far cry from the flawless ‘lick the stamp and send it moves’ that meant Ricciardo could pass at will from miles back into the first chicane at Monza, for example. Rightly, he copped a 10s penalty. Also, it must be considered that his late turn of pace was due to running with the soft tyre. Nevertheless, after pitting on lap 44, Ricciardo delivered arguably the finest stint of his admittedly dismal campaign.
His management of the medium tyres to nurse them to nearly two-thirds race distance was impressive as he worked his way from 11th to eighth. Then came his charge, as he passed Tsunoda (one way or another!), forced McLaren to ask Lando Norris to move aside, Valtteri Bottas and both Alpines to score seventh. Such was his turn of speed that he cleared away from Esteban Ocon to effectively render his penalty meaningless as he didn’t drop a place and was voted ‘Driver of the Day’ by viewers.
After nudging Lance Stroll off the road, Pierre Gasly is perilously close to a race ban
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
At a cursory glance, just missing out on scoring points in 11th might seem like no mean feat for Pierre Gasly in view of the uninspiring form of the AlphaTauri throughout much of this season. That classification and a strong second stint on the optimal soft tyres to gain places late on, however, still don’t entirely mask recent weekends dogged by underperformance and absolute frustration from a driver who only has two races left at the team before his move to Alpine for 2023.
The iffy batch of brakes hurt both AT03 drivers in Japan, and yet Yuki Tsunoda made the most of a bad lot to qualify well ahead of Gasly. A similar story was true of Mexico when, as both contended with a lack of grip on the lesser-used asphalt, again Tsunoda was the faster of the duo.
Gasly was then overzealous in his battle to get back past the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll who had nicked him at the start. That earned a 5s penalty, to go with his reprimands at Suzuka and Austin, and is he now seriously running the risk of a race ban for racking up too many penalty points on his licence.
It’s become a run of bad form rather than just poor luck. What’s more, all the incidents have been accompanied by the soundtrack of Gasly’s fury over team radio, just as he is ready to bid the team for which he has started 94 of his 106 grands prix farewell.
Red Bull turned its back on Sky through the weekend, having been unhappy with criticism from the broadcaster
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Among all the excitement of Brad Pitt rocking up to the United States Grand Prix, Sky Sports reporter Ted Kravitz was supposing what the plot of the forthcoming Formula 1 Hollywood blockbuster might be. His source material was the 2021 title fight, in which he repeatedly referred to a driver being “robbed” of the championship spoils.
The subtext was more like plain text. Red Bull, therefore, took umbrage with the “sensationalisation” and chose the Mexico weekend to stop giving exclusive interviews to Sky Sports. No cutting to Christian Horner mid-race as his leg shakes on the pitwall. No post-race debriefs with Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and so on – the UK TV rights holder had to make do with splicing in clips of the Red Bull protagonists speaking to the central F1TV interviewers.
Red Bull, which did similar by pulling interviews with Sky at Abu Dhabi last year, says normal service will be resumed for Brazil.
Red Bull accepted its budget cap transgression, as its penalty was unveiled before the Mexico weekend
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
That Red Bull has accepted the terms of an Accepted Breach Agreement from the FIA in relation to exceeding the 2021 cost cap means the team has effectively held it hands up to the wrongdoing. But it’s not a straightforward, black-and-white transgression.
Red Bull submitted numbers below the budget cap limit – in line with the team declaring its innocence all along – but excluded costs covering 13 areas that ultimately took it over the threshold by close to £2m. The excess is down to failing to include elements such as social security contributions for staff, apprenticeship levies, cost of use of the power units, and a clerical error in the calculation of costs recharged to Red Bull by Red Bull Powertrains, among others.
The FIA concluded in Mexico that there was “no accusation or evidence” that Red Bull had “sought at any time to act in bad faith, dishonestly or in a fraudulent manner, nor has it wilfully concealed any information from the Cost Cap Administration”. Nevertheless, the governing body has punished the 2021 runner-up with a £6m fine and a 10% cut in its aerodynamic testing allocation. It has 30 days to stick its cheque in the post.
By way of a reaction, team boss Christian Horner called it “draconian”, fiercest rival Toto Wolff reckoned the punishment was about right and praised the FIA, while McLaren’s boss Zak Brown was concerned it wasn’t enough of a deterrent to prevent future breaches.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin will similarly have to cough up close to £390,000 for its procedural infringements. The Silverstone-based concerned was found to have inaccurately “excluded and/or adjusted” costs in relation to its shiny new headquarters, wind tunnel and simulator.
Hamilton intends on extending his Mercedes deal for a few more seasons, and still “feels great” with the team
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Strictly speaking, we learned of Lewis Hamilton’s intention to sign a contract extension to remain at Mercedes in an interview conducted in the United States. But that was kept under embargo until the F1 circus unpacked in Mexico, so no one could talk about it then. Plus, Hamilton’s stance had been softening over recent races anyway. Nevertheless, with the cat properly out of the bag, in Mexico City, the seven-time champion was bombarded with questions and clarified that there was no immediate end date to his decorated topflight career.
He said at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez: “I’m not putting a limit on it, to be honest. I’m planning to do a multi-year deal with my team. I really, really don’t know what the next five years [hold]. I think we’re still trying to work on that.
“There’s a lot of great things that are being put in place, like I’ve just launched a [film] production company this week. But I feel great, like in mind and body. I think there’s more stuff to achieve together. I just don’t know [how long].”
Fernando Alonso reclaimed his seventh place from Austin, after Haas’ initial protest was rescinded
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
First, Fernando Alonso crossed the line to claim seventh place at Austin last time out. Next, he was dropped to a point-less 15th after Haas successfully protested his Alpine’s flapping wing mirror to bring about a belated 30s penalty. Then, on Thursday in Mexico, the team successfully appealed the decision to leave the FIA to overturn the reprimand.
In brief, Alpine had rapidly issued a counter-protest for the penalty because Alonso had not been informed by race control that his car was unsafe to continue. It further argued that Haas had handed in its paperwork 24 minutes too late. The FIA ruled this protest to be inadmissible as the rules did not allow a protest to be lodged. Alpine, though, asked for a right of review on the grounds of bringing new and significant evidence.
With the protest therefore admissible, another hearing took place on Thursday night in Mexico where it was found that Haas could have lodged a handwritten protest within the 30-minute deadline. This, therefore, meant the initial protest was not admissible, making it null and void, meaning that Alonso returns to seventh place as a result. Phew.
Mexico will remain on the F1 calendar for at least another three seasons
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Rather than take a leaf out of Spa’s book – the circuit announced its one-year extension for 2023 an hour before the Belgian GP, which meant the news was totally lost amid the race build-up – the story broke in good time on Thursday that Formula 1 will keep returning to Mexico until 2025 at least.
It was revealed that the championship and its owner Liberty Media had inked renewed terms with the Mexico City government and local promoter Corporacion Interamericana de Entretenimiento (CIE) for a further three years. Last weekend’s race marked F1’s seventh visit to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez of the modern era, the venue having returned to the schedule in 2015 following a 22-year layoff before the 2020 race was canned by COVID-19.
CIE president and CEO Alejandro Soberon said: “The ability to host the race in the nation’s capital until 2025 is the result of a coordinated effort to preserve an event that brings benefits to the city and excitement to thousands of fans. We will keep working to ensure the race continues to be a strong contributor to our city’s economy.”
We sincerely hopes the deal leads to at least another three years of the mariachi cover of the F1 theme music being used.
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Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
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