Max Verstappen landed a crucial blow in the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship with a wonderful victory in Sunday’s Mexico City Grand Prix after overtaking both Mercedes on the opening corner of the race.
The Dutchman, who started third on the grid, got off to a great start and was able to pull alongside both Valtteri Bottas and world champion Lewis Hamilton, passing both to reach turn one in the lead.
And but for at a pit stop, when Red Bull team-mate and home favourite Sergio Perez momentarily led, the title leader was untroubled for the remainder of the race, cruising to a ninth victory of the season which puts him 19 points clear of Hamilton with four races remaining.
While his victory in the US Grand Prix a fortnight ago was all about the tactics employed over pit stops, the 25 points this time around came largely thanks to the straight-line speed off the grid which had the two Mercedes scrambling to stay with him.
And while Bottas fell to the back of the grid and a safety car was deployed as both Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda suffered race-ending damage in the fallout, Verstappen breezed through the early stages to open a sizeable gap on title rival Hamilton.
His seven-point gain on the seven-time world champion might have been even greater too, with Perez having battled hard in Hamilton’s mirrors inside the final 10 laps as back-markers helped to reduce the gap between second and third to as little as half a second at one point. And he also had a championship point stolen away at the end as Mercedes brought in Bottas to make space to give him a run at the fastest lap on the final trip around.
But Verstappen’s victory was his third in Mexico, a new record for any driver since F1 first took place in the country, and it served as justification for his claim before the race that he was happier being third on the grid than second, sensing he would get the benefit of being on the faster side of the track.
His win and Perez’s finish of third also takes Red Bull to within two points of Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship, with their 477.5 points just shy of the leaders’ total so far.
But with Verstappen’s win, the prospect of a new champion moves ever closer, with Hamilton’s quest for a fifth straight title now hanging in the balance.