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Mexico City GP: Max Verstappen claims record 16th win of 2023 season ahead of Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen claimed a record 16th victory of the 2023 Formula 1 season by coming from third on the grid to win the Mexico City Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver produced a superb start to pass pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz on the crucial run to the first corner at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, where the unique conditions make overtaking very difficult.

Verstappen made another perfect getaway at a mid-race standing restart that followed a red flag triggered by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen crashing into the barriers, before easing 13 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton by the chequered flag.

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  • With a third successive drivers’ title already sealed, the win takes Verstappen past the record he set last season with three races still to come in the current campaign, while a 51st career victory moves him level with Alain Prost in fourth on the sport’s all-time list of winners.

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    Hamilton, who started sixth, leapfrogged Sainz during the first round of pit stops and then passed Leclerc on track to reignite his hopes of chasing down Sergio Perez for second in the drivers’ standings.

    The Mexican, who is attempting to seal Red Bull’s first-ever one-two in the drivers’ championship, saw his advantage over Hamilton reduced to 20 points after retiring from his home race after a first-corner collision with Leclerc, who overcame damage to his front wing to take third ahead of Sainz.

    Lando Norris produced a stunning recovery to finish fifth after starting 17th on the grid, sealing the position with a late overtake on George Russell.

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    The Mercedes only just held off Daniel Ricciardo for sixth, as the AlphaTauri driver completed his best weekend since making a mid-season return to the sport for Red Bull’s junior team, with the result lifting them from 10th (last) to eighth in the constructors’ standings.

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    Oscar Piastri struggled to match his McLaren team-mate Norris’ performance in finishing eighth, while Williams’ Alex Albon and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon rounded out the points.

    Aston Martin endured another torrid afternoon as two Q1 exits on Saturday were followed up by retirements for Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.

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    Mexico City GP result1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes3) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari4) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari5) Lando Norris, McLaren6) George Russell, Mercedes7) Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri8) Oscar Piastri, McLaren9) Alex Albon, Williams10) Esteban Ocon, Alpine.

    Delight for Verstappen, despair for Perez

    After Ferrari had come from nowhere to take a shock one-two in qualifying on Saturday, the extreme challenge of following cars around the high-altitude circuit meant that Verstappen appeared to have a significant task on his hands.

    However, he made a dream start, getting a better launch than either Ferrari and diving between them before getting the inside line into the first corner.

    Perez, who started from fifth, also got a brilliant start and followed Verstappen forwards before attempting to pass both Leclerc and his team-mate around the outside.

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    Unfortunately for Perez, and his thousands of adoring fans who had created a spectacular atmosphere all weekend, there wasn’t enough room for three cars to make the corner and contact with the Ferrari sent the Red Bull flying into the air and off the track.

    Red Bull’s mechanics spent several minutes attempting to repair the car to enable Perez to make a symbolic return to action, but ultimately gave up, leaving both driver and much of the crowd distraught.

    Verstappen opened a gap to Leclerc but soon complained of his tyres wearing and somewhat surprisingly pitted on lap 19, which made an expected one-stop strategy in the 71-lap race appear unlikely.

    Hamilton, who had cleared Ricciardo to take fourth, pitted five laps later, but the Ferraris chose to extend their stints in an attempt to optimise the one-stop strategy.

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    When they eventually stopped, Sainz on lap 30 and Leclerc a circuit later, Verstappen’s advantage was over 20 seconds and Hamilton had got between them.

    Any hopes of their strategy working were blown soon after when Magnussen crashed into the barriers following a suspension failure on lap 33.

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    Verstappen pitted under the initial Safety Car, but what could have been a ‘free’ pit stop for him was taken away as the red flag came out moments later to allow officials to check the state of the barriers Magnussen had hit.

    That meant the entire field were able to fit new tyres, and Leclerc a new front wing, as they waited in the pit lane before a standing restart on lap 36.

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    Tension built with a feeling the leader would be vulnerable, as the Ferraris were at the start, but there was no such issue for Verstappen, with Leclerc’s shift left to cover off Hamilton perhaps helping.

    Leclerc defended sternly for as long as he could, but Hamilton eventually found his way through with a bold move into the first corner on lap 40, with the Mercedes almost forced off track.

    There was hope for Leclerc that Hamilton’s medium tyres would wear out quicker than the hard compound he was on, but the seven-time world champion had no such issue, even saving enough life in them to take an extra point by setting the fastest lap of the race on his final circuit.

    However, Verstappen was in a different league, cruising into the distance to extend his world championship lead over Perez to 251 points, and taking his record total to 491 points.

    After a pre-event campaign by race organisers aimed to avoid a repeat of the booing Verstappen received from the crowd after winning last year’s race, there were warm cheers for the Dutchman as he thanked supporters for staying on after Perez’s exit.

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    “It’s been incredible,” Verstappen said. “Of course Checo retired on Lap 1 but the crowd stayed and they have been amazing.

    “We are experiencing an incredible season. Today, we started P3 but the pace of the car was very, very good.

    “We tried to do a different strategy to everyone else but unfortunately with the red flag we couldn’t show it, but nevertheless with the hard tyres we were very strong.”.

    Mercedes, meanwhile, maintained a 22-point lead over Ferrari in the contest to finish second behind Red Bull in the constructors’ standings.

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    Norris stars, Ricciardo delivers statement drive

    Putting aside the faultless performances of Verstappen and Hamilton, the other stars of the show were Norris and Ricciardo.

    After poor execution by driver and team consigned Norris to a shock Q1 exit and 17th on the grid, the Brit came remarkably close to sealing a fifth successive podium.

    McLaren appeared to commit to a two-stop strategy by starting Norris on the less durable soft tyre, but his early progress was somewhat wasted when he fell back from eighth to 12th at the restart.

    However, he would quickly go about regaining those places, scything through the field until closing in on his team-mate Piastri, who held seventh.

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    Norris’ superior ability to manage his tyres was clear, and with no doubt who the faster car was here, McLaren ordered Piastri to let his team-mate through to attack the cars in front.

    And that was exactly what he did, making an audacious move on Ricciardo around the outside of Turn 4, before pouncing on a mistake from Russell to pull off a rare pass in the slow corners of the final sector.

    Ricciardo, who was competing in just his fourth race of the season having missed five after injuring his hand at the Dutch Grand Prix in August, backed up his fine qualifying display.

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    The Australian drove superbly all weekend to offer the sort of performance that will have his publicly stated desire to regain a seat at Red Bull taken more seriously.

    With the under-pressure Perez failing to impress once more, a strong end to the season for Ricciardo could leave Red Bull team principal Christian Horner with a decision to make over the winter.

    F1 heads straight to Brazil for the final leg of the Americas triple header and the last Sprint weekend of the 2023 season. Watch every session from the Sao Paulo Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 from Friday, with Sunday’s race at 5pm. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW.