Hamilton’s ‘horrible way’ will be a short-lived memory to F1 title

Lewis Hamilton described clinching his fourth Formula 1 world title by finishing in ninth place as “horrible”, while in fact he could have parked up his Mercedes with Sebastian Vettel only finishing fourth after their opening lap tangle with Max Verstappen, but after Ferrari’s disastrous Asian races the coronation of Hamilton looked a formality in Mexico. And everybody knew it with the shirts prepared, flashy social media tributes ready and champagne uncorked having already been flowing from the United States Grand Prix when Mercedes wrapped up the F1 world constructors’ title.

Despite the somewhat anti-climactic result history won’t remember why Hamilton produced his worst result of the campaign, especially when compared to how vital finishing fifth in Brazil was for his maiden F1 world title back in 2008.

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Given the result went against the form book, it did slightly catch out the immediate post-race celebrations as Hamilton performed doughnuts in the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez stadium complex while race winner Verstappen and company watched on.

But after composure and order was resumed, despite a couple of tripping spectators who were chasing the newly-crowned champion, the familiar celebrations began which Mercedes has grown accustomed to since 2014.

The blip in Mexico will be passed over in favour of Hamilton’s crowning with a fourth F1 world title to join the elite list of Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel on four or more championships.

Ferrari on the other hand will be given yet another reminder of what could have been in 2017. Yet another missed opportunity having looked a match at the front for Verstappen and Hamilton before the race but the tangle at turn three confirmed the result that the majority had already accepted.

Verstappen keeps cool as Kvyat statistic strikes again

Max Verstappen says he was getting bored during the Mexican Grand Prix having won the first lap fight against Vettel and Hamilton, who both pitted with damage, as he pulled clear of nearest challenger Valtteri Bottas with apparent ease.

On the Red Bull pit wall things were far from boring, as Christian Horner admitted the team were fretting over his engine as other Renault power units produced early fireworks.

Verstappen benefitted from running in the cooler and cleaner air out in front in the high altitude but to ensure against disaster Red Bull maximised his engine settings to keep things as chilled as possible. Given the resurgence by Verstappen and Red Bull over the second half of 2017 the team must be wondering what could have been without six DNFs in the opening 12 races of the season for the Dutch driver.

While podiums and wins are becoming consistent for Verstappen, the skill and pure will to race continues to impress – even against the wishes of his team. With a comfortable lead Verstappen was told to match the pace of Bottas in second but the 20-year-old couldn’t resist hunting the fastest lap for further glory plus, as Horner revealed post-race, a slice of performance bonus that comes with it.

One thing that will need to change is Verstappen’s reliance on Daniil Kvyat’s demotions as each time the Russian driver has been pulled down the Red Bull ranks the Dutch driver has gone on to win the consequential race: Spain 2016, Malaysia 2017 and Mexico 2017. With Kvyat being kicked out of the Red Bull family there can’t be any further relegations for the luckless Russian.

Freak statistics aside, the common belief held is Verstappen will a force to be reckoned with and if Red Bull can start fast in 2018 a title challenge could be on.

America’s Got Talent followed by a Mexican encore

Like, loathe or love the pre-race build up at the United States Grand Prix with boxing announcer Michael Buffer giving drivers the arena-style introductions, the general reaction was positive to see new ideas and excitement being added to the show of Formula 1. While the Mexican follow-up reverted to a more familiar set-up, it delivered its own spectacle unique to the country’s culture which should be the biggest lesson learned from the Austin show.

Slotted in around the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City, the F1 paddock was awash with colour, art and passion which allowed the country to demonstrate its pride. After the city was struck by a devastating earthquake just over a month before F1’s arrival fears grew about the atmosphere being dampened with larger issues at stake. In truth, it did the opposite as local fans and sponsors alike rallied for its country with a potent mark of respect on lap 19 (the earthquake which killed hundreds of people struck on the 19th September) while organisers celebrated the passion for F1 from the public.

Traveling through the city the scars of the earthquake are still clear (the building opposite my hotel remains damaged and a no-go site) but the feeling from the local people was one to be admired.

What F1 and Liberty Media can gain from the collective experience of Austin and Mexico City is, in akin to the Olympic spirit, celebrating each venue’s uniqueness and qualities is how you get local fans engaged – the sell-out on race day and 337,043 fans across the race weekend is evidence of that.

Alonso and McLaren continue to show a sleeping giant is awakening

On paper Fernando Alonso’s Mexican Grand Prix won’t last long in the memory with a grid penalty-hit qualifying followed by 10th place after five cars that started ahead of him retired. But picking through to the highlights of the Spanish driver’s efforts it is clear he and McLaren are building early for 2018.

Despite all efforts trained on preparing for next season, Alonso still ended Friday practice ‘best of the rest’ in seventh, his Q1 time was fifth fastest of all and his late-race duel with Hamilton was fair but fierce even though he fought with an underpowered Honda engine.

Alonso seems revitalised for 2018 with the knowledge of Renault power arriving at McLaren – the Renault-powered Red Bull won again with Verstappen – while his relationship with the Woking-based team appears fortified by a new contract which will enable him to do “more than Formula 1” after the announcement he’d be joining fellow McLaren driver Lando Norris at Untied Autosport to take on the Daytona 24 Hours race next January – something the Spaniard said would never have been possible with his previous bosses.

Credit to Zak Brown and Eric Boullier for giving the fire back to the two-time Formula 1 world champion who is relishing his opportunities in 2018.