Nico Rosberg became the first winner of the Mexican Grand Prix since Nigel Mansell in 1992 after edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in an intriguing battle at the front of the field.
Rosberg controlled proceedings throughout the race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Sunday, only losing the lead for four laps through the pit stops as he scored his first race win since the Austrian Grand Prix in June.
One week on from his third Formula 1 championship success in Austin, Hamilton was forced to settle for second in Mexico on Sunday, but appeared unhappy with Mercedes’ strategy call after it switched both of its drivers to a two-stop strategy mid-way through the race.
Off the line, Rosberg made a good getaway to retain his lead through the opening complex of corners ahead of Hamilton. Just behind, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo made contact, leaving the former with a puncture that forced him to pit for repairs at the end of the first lap, dropping to the very rear of the field.
There was worse news for Fernando Alonso, though, who was told to retire his McLaren after just one lap due to a power issue on his car. Max Verstappen managed to capitalize on the incident at the front to jump from eighth to sixth.
Hamilton pushed to cut the gap to Rosberg, but was unable to keep up with the German’s pace through the opening stint of the race, causing him to drop two seconds back before the first round of pit stops. Rosberg pitted first on lap 26, releasing Hamilton into the lead until he stopped two laps later, emerging in second place once again.
In the race to complete the podium, Daniil Kvyat managed to push on during the opening stint of the race after making a good start to retain third place after the first round of pit stops. Williams opted to bring both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa in early to try and get the undercut on the Red Bull drivers, and although it allowed the duo to pass Daniel Ricciardo in fourth, Kvyat continued to lead the quartet.
Bottas was fortunate to still be in the race after another run-in with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Three weeks on from their clash on the last lap of the Russian Grand Prix, the Finns made contact again when Raikkonen squeezed Bottas to the inside of turn five, leaving the Williams driver with nowhere to go. Raikkonen was clipped, causing damage to his right-rear tire that forced him to retire from the race.
Throughout the second half of the race, Rosberg continued to monitor and control the gap to Hamilton, leaving the Briton to toil in second place. However, with a lead of around 30 seconds over the rest of the field, the Mercedes drivers were comfortable in their own intra-team battle at the front.
Vettel’s fightback was stunted when he was forced to pit for a second time to change tires, dropping him further back from the top ten. After emerging from pit lane between Rosberg and Hamilton, Vettel soon fell a lap down on most of the front-runners, ending his faint hopes of points in Mexico on a tough day for Ferrari.
Despite originally planning to go to the end of the race with just one pit stop, Mercedes opted to play it safe and bring both Rosberg and Hamilton in for a second stop to ensure their tires lasted to the end of the race. Rosberg was brought in on lap 46, with Hamilton – after much protest, believing Mercedes’ fears were unjustified – coming in two laps later, emerging from the pit lane behind his team once again.
The field was bunched just a few laps later when Vettel slammed into the barrier at turn seven, prompting the stewards to deploy the safety car and bringing Ferrari’s miserable day to an early end as it suffered its first double retirement since the 2006 Australian Grand Prix.
Rosberg and Hamilton continued at the front following their recent stops, while most of the remaining runners opted to take a second pit stop. Kvyat retained third, running on the option tire ahead of Bottas and Ricciardo, with the latter passing Massa for fifth by this stage.
The safety car returned to the pits with 14 laps to go, allowing Rosberg to lead the field away for the restart. The German driver managed to keep Hamilton back at the green flag, although both had off-track moments as the stop-heavy nature of the circuit began to take its toll on their brakes.
Just behind, Bottas got the jump on Kvyat to take third place, but was not able to drop the Russian driver immediately, creating a close fight for the final podium position in the final stages of the race.
Despite coming under pressure from Hamilton late on, Rosberg managed to monitor the gap and hold on to his lead until the end of the race to end his win drought that had dated back to the Austrian Grand Prix in June.
Hamilton followed Rosberg home in second place, finishing 1.9 seconds behind his teammate. Bottas managed to drop the Red Bulls to secure his second podium finish of the season, crossing the line in P3.
Kvyat’s headed up Red Bull’s charge in fourth, finishing ahead of teammate Ricciardo in P5. Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg followed in sixth and seventh, while Sergio Perez’s home race ended with four points for eighth place. Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean rounded out the points in Mexico.
Pastor Maldonado narrowly missed out on a points finish, crossing the line six-tenths of a second behind Grosjean in the sister Lotus car. Marcus Ericsson was the sole Sauber finisher in 12th after teammate Felipe Nasr retired, while Carlos Sainz Jr. and Jenson Button ended the race 13th and 14th.
Alexander Rossi managed to continue his perfect record against Manor teammate Will Stevens, finishing 10 seconds clear at the flag.