Max Verstappen breaks record with Mexico Grand Prix victory as Red Bull wins strategic battle

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(AFP via Getty Images)

Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the checkered flag at the Mexico City Grand Prix as Red Bull won the battle of raw pace and strategy on Sunday.

The F1 world champion kept his composure to lead Turn 1 from pole position, a grid spot that rarely produces race wins at the Mexican altitude.

Lewis Hamilton punished George Russell for overtaking the first corner, the youngest of the Mercedes drivers having left in qualifying to deprive himself of pole, and he was then out of form through the chicane as Sergio Perez took third place.

Verstappen struggled to shake Hamilton off his tail in Red Bull’s first stint, despite taking the faster and less durable soft tire for the start while the Merc pair were fitted with medium tires .

On lap 24 of 71, the softs gave way, but Perez’s five-second pitstop set him back before Verstappen followed for a cleaner tire swap, and started to gain time on Hamilton with some new bolt-on mids.

The 37-year-old champion, who said before the weekend that there was still some time left in F1, switched to hard tires on lap 30 to opt for a one-stop.

Hamilton and Russell, who tried to extend a late series of softs before giving way to line up, complained of a lack of pace as Verstappen pulled a ten-second gap in front.

Mercedes assured its drivers that the hard tires would return as the mediums faded late, as it became increasingly clear that Red Bull could also extend its one-stop strategy despite pre-race premonitions that a two stops would prove to be faster.

The math of it all has turned this race into one for the purists, with sector-by-sector times and triple decimal places to the left of the screen containing the clues as to who will win – rather than furious, wheel-to-wheel battles.

The final third of the race saw Verstappen brush aside any worries about his strategy, continuing to put time on Hamilton as, despite a late Virtual Safety Car for Fernando Alonso’s retirement, he secured a record 14th win of 2022 – the most a single driver has succeeded in a single season.

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