Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo served up some late-race drama at the end of a Mexican Grand Prix that had been something of a slow-burner, clashing on track and turning the radio airwaves blue.
All three drivers opted to roll the dice on different strategies, with Vettel managing to close on Verstappen for third place with fresher medium tires after extending his first stint.
Vettel began to latch onto the back of Verstappen with five laps remaining, getting within DRS range and piling the pressure on the Dutchman ahead.
Verstappen’s tires were losing more and more grip with each lap that went by, causing him to lock up at Turn 1 and give Vettel the chance to close.
Verstappen opted to run across the grass, ensuring he stayed ahead of Vettel, much to the German’s frustration.
Red Bull sent a radio message to Verstappen soon after the incident, telling him to give up the position, but the F1 sophomore ignored the call and continued to stay ahead of Vettel.
The stewards announced they would be investigating the incident after the race, leaving Vettel with the task of passing Verstappen on-track. All the while, the two-stopping, soft-shod Ricciardo was able to close up and try a move on Vettel at Turn 4, causing them to rub wheels.
Vettel sent more radio messages that asked FIA race director Charlie Whiting to penalize Verstappen, and reacted angrily when he was told one would not be applied.
In the end, Verstappen crossed the line third ahead of Vettel, leading to an exchange of hand gestures as the pair came across the line. Ricciardo was 3.5 seconds behind Vettel in P5.
Verstappen made his way to the cool-down room after the race, as is the usual procedure for podium finishers, only to look up at the timing screen and see his name now fifth. The stewards had moved quickly after the checkered flag, applying a five second penalty to Verstappen for going off track and gaining an advantage. The Dutchman was then asked to leave the cool-down room, with Vettel making a hasty trip to the podium from parc ferme.
Once he had calmed down with some sparkling wine on the podium, Vettel spoke with ex-F1 driver and recent IndyCar racer Juan Pablo Motnoya about the incident.
“Well I was using a lot of sign language, using a lot of your language! Probably looking back I looked like you when you got angry in the car,” Vettel said, referencing Montoya’s reputation for speaking from the heart when racing.
“You have to understand the adrenaline was pumped. I put him under pressure which is difficult enough, our tires were pretty old. Then obviously he left the track and didn’t move, so you can understand why I was annoyed.
“What a turnaround. I was really disappointed when I crossed the line, and then all of a sudden I was told to come up here. Being up here in front of the crowd is fantastic.”
UPDATE 18:18 ET – Ricciardo and Vettel called to stewards
Ricciardo and Vettel have both been called before the FIA stewards in Mexico over their on-track clash. Vettel is accused of “driving dangerously or erratically between Turns 4 and 5.”