MEXICO CITY • Pole-sitter Nico Rosberg won the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, as Formula One made a lively return to the country after a 23-year absence.
The German's fourth victory of the year, and 12th of his career, ended Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton's three-race winning streak, with the Briton having to settle for second a week after securing his third world title.
With just two races left in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, it also meant that Hamilton, with 10 wins this term, cannot equal the single-season record of 13 wins set by Michael Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013).
"This is really the best podium of the year, what a place to win," said Rosberg, addressing a cheering mass of more than 100,000 from a podium overlooking the stadium complex.
If some fans wore branding for long-defunct teams, or American racing series, they also brought back memories of a time when Formula One was more about passion than building palaces in countries without motor-racing traditions.
MEXICAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS
1. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1hr 42min 35.038sec
2. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes +1.954sec
3. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams +14.592
4. Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Red Bull +16.572
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull +19.682
6. Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams +21.493
7. Nico Huelkenberg (Ger) Force India +25.860
8. Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India +34.343
9. Max Verstappen (Ned) Toro Rosso +35.229
10. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus +37.934
1. Hamilton 345 (Champion)
2. Rosberg 272
3. Sebastian Vettel 251
"The best I've ever seen in all my life. The best," declared retired three-time world champion Niki Lauda, a former McLaren and Ferrari driver who raced at some of the great tracks in the 1970s and 1980s.
"Copy this race," added the Austrian, now non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team, when asked what advice he would give to commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone.
"The magic is the Mexicans. The magic is the organisers who made this happen. The way they organised the spectator places for me was the best I've ever seen. And then the podium right in front of all the people.
"Formula One got back where you can feel it and touch it and this is the most important thing."
Both championships had already been decided, with Hamilton celebrating a third drivers' title in Texas a week ago and dominant Mercedes retaining their constructors' crown in Russia last month.
Rosberg's win lifted him to second in the championship, with Ferrari's Vettel failing to score after a crash that brought out the safety car on the 52nd of the 71 laps. The German was unhurt.
Finland's Valtteri Bottas finished third for Williams.
The last winner in Mexico before Sunday was Britain's Nigel Mansell in 1992 when he was with Williams. He now has the last corner named after him and conducted the podium interviews on Sunday.
Hamilton had hoped to follow on from his fellow Englishman but had to concede that his team-mate was better. "Nico drove a fantastic race," he said. "It's just been fantastic to be here in Mexico.
"I've never seen a crowd like this. It's like a football game. The fans are amazing."
Neither Ferrari finished the race, ending a run of 20 in the points, with Vettel's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen breaking his suspension after colliding with Bottas for the second time in three races.
Russian Daniil Kvyat was fourth for Red Bull at Mexico City's revamped Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, ahead of Australian team-mate Daniel Ricciardo with Brazilian Felipe Massa sixth for Williams.
The Force India pair of Nico Huelkenberg and Sergio Perez, the local hero and crowd favourite, finished seventh and eighth.
Perez, whose every appearance in the baseball stadium area had the crowd leaping in excitement, became the first Mexican to score a point in a home race since Pedro Rodriguez in 1970 and only the second ever. REUTERS