Formula 1: Fast start, smart strategy paid off, says Verstappen as he grabs record 14th win this term

Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull celebrating his victory in the Mexico Grand Prix on Sunday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MEXICO CITY – Two-time Formula One world champion Max Verstappen said the combination of a fast and flawless start and Red Bull’s smart tyre strategy were decisive on Sunday when he claimed a record 14th win of the season at the Mexico Grand Prix.

He finished a comfortable 15.186 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes while Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez finished third on home soil.

The 25-year-old Dutchman, who clinched the constructors’ title for Red Bull a week earlier in Texas, took control of the race with a perfect start from his 19th career pole position.

He pulled clear to increase his advantage ahead of seven-time world champion Hamilton, relinquishing his lead for only 10 laps after his pit stop before powering away to a comfortable triumph.

“It helped me out a lot for the rest of the race to stay in the lead at Turn 1,” said Verstappen, emphasising how important the 800-metre charge off the grid was in taking command of the race. This was his fourth chequered flag in Mexico.

“Of course, we were also on a different strategy to the cars around us – but again an incredible result. The pace of the car was really nice.

“We had to look after our tyres because it was a very long stint on the mediums, but we made it work.

“It’s such an incredible atmosphere and we love to come here. And it has been an incredible year so far. We are definitely enjoying it – and will try to go for more.”

Red Bull’s choice of a tyre strategy that saw them start on softs and switch to mediums proved a key factor in their victory as rivals Mercedes struggled when they moved from medium to hard tyres.

“We got it wrong today,” admitted Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff.

Hamilton, who turns 38 in January and is poised to start talks on a new multi-year contract that will keep him racing with Mercedes into his 40s, lamented his team’s tyre strategy, saying: “I was close in the first stint, but the Red Bulls were too fast today and they probably had the right tyre strategy.”

Verstappen’s pure pace did the rest as he cruised to his 14th win of the year to pull clear after sharing the record of 13 wins in a season with two German stars – seven-time champion Michael Schumacher and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.

There are more races now than then, however, with the 2022 season featuring 22 compared to 19 in 2013 and 18 in 2004. The final two races are in Sao Paulo (Nov 13) and Abu Dhabi (Nov 20).

This was Red Bull’s ninth win in a row and 16th from 20 races in 2022.

Verstappen’s victory in Austin a week earlier had sealed Red Bull’s first constructors’ championship since 2013. He now has 35 wins and a total of 416 points in the drivers’ championship, which he clinched on Oct 9 in Japan. Perez is second on 280 points, followed by Charles Leclerc of Ferrari on 275. Hamilton is fifth on 216.

Perez was cheered loudly by a sell-out crowd. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out today, but it is great to get third place here and be on the podium,” he said. AFP, REUTERS

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