Ricciardo seventh as Verstappen wins red flagged Mexico City GP
By Mat Coch
Monday 30th October, 2023 - 9:09am
Daniel Ricciardo has transferred his blistering qualifying performance into seventh place in a Mexico City Grand Prix won by Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman cantered to victory in a race interrupted at mid-distance by a red flag when Kevin Magnussen crashed out.
Magnussen suffered a failure in the Haas which pitched him into the barrier at Turn 9 on Lap 33.
Verstappen had already moved from third on the grid into the lead, holding that position at the standing restart to head the race to the flag.
Ricciardo stayed out of trouble as he predictably slipped backwards from fourth to seventh in the Scuderia AlphaTauri in a sensational performance from the Australian.
It marked the best result of the year for Scuderia AlphaTauri and came on a weekend Sergio Perez, whose seat Ricciardo aspires to, was an opening corner retirement.
A lightning start for Verstappen saw the Red Bull driver take the lead while Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez made contact at the first corner.
It launched the Red Bull into the run-off to end the local favourite’s run just 800 metres into the race, while Leclerc suffered a broken front wing.
Perez had picked up a slipstream after a good start, taking the outside line to leave Leclerc in the middle with Verstappen on his inside.
The Mexican favourite began turning in, leaving Leclerc nowhere to go to be jettisoned from contention.
The Ferrari driver was able to carry on in second from Carlos Sainz while Ricciardo fended off Lewis Hamilton to hold fourth at the end of the opening lap.
The end fence of Leclerc’s wing broke free as he took Turn 1 on Lap 4, his team confirming that he was to stay out.
He’d dropped two seconds back from Verstappen and was 1.3s clear of Sainz, who was beginning to head a train of cars that included Ricciardo and Hamilton.
The broken part of Leclerc’s front wing triggered a Virtual Safety Car as it lay in the middle of the track at Turn 1.
As that was happening, race control noted the Monegasque for driving in an unsafe condition.
Racing was quickly back underway, Ricciardo coming under attack from Hamilton.
As they began Lap 8, the Mercedes driver looked inside at Turn 1, having used DRS to close down the long front straight.
His efforts were rebuffed by the Australian who held on to the spot.
On Lap 11, it was job done as Hamilton squeezed up the inside into the first corner to claim fourth.
Russell in the other Mercedes was engaged with Oscar Piastri as they squabbled over sixth.
The McLaren driver maintained the upper hand and Russell soon dropped back as the field managed its pace in the opening stint.
Temperatures were a problem, with air temps in the mid-20s and bright sunshine raising the track to 47 degrees.
Underscoring that was the fact Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda were the fastest cars on track, the pair having stopped early and running last and last but one respectively.
After 19 laps, Red Bull called in Verstappen as the Dutch reported his tyres were giving up.
He swapped onto the hard tyres, emerging in a handy gap between Russell and Nico Hulkenberg in sixth on the road.
The Red Bull driver soon caught and picked off Russell to move up to sixth on Lap 22, repeating the move a lap later on Piastri for fifth.
Hamilton boxed from third on the road at the end of Lap 23, the seven-time champ having been tucked up behind Sainz who was managing temperatures in the Ferrari.
It was Piastri’s turn next time around while Leclerc was targeting an extended opening stint for a one-stop strategy.
That saw Ferrari in the lane at the end of Lap 30, dropping him behind Hamilton to a net fourth but with a seven-lap tyre advantage.
Leclerc pitted on Lap 31, rejoining in second, the first round of stops complete.
Kevin Magnussen crashed out heavily on Lap 33 at Turn 9, drawing the Safety Car.
The Dane climbed out of the wrecked Haas while Red Bull took the opportunity to service Verstappen for a second time.
Magnussen had been off the road at the final corner the lap prior, while replays suggested his retirement was a result of car failure rather than driver error.
While turning right, the car speared off track to the left to heavily impact the barrier.
With significant damage to the tecpro barrier and potentially the wall behind it, race control red-flagged the race.
Queued up in pit lane, Ferrari took the opportunity to replace Leclerc’s broken front wing.
The race resumed with a standing restart after a 22-minute stoppage.
Hamilton swapped onto a set of scrubbed medium tyres during the interruption, as did Piastri and Russell and a handful of others down the order.
At the restart, Verstappen got the jump as Leclerc swept across the road to defend from Hamilton.
Sainz remained fourth then Russell, Ricciardo and Piastri, who was under fire from Yuki Tsunoda.
Verstappen ended the first race following the restart 1.2s clear as Hamilton pulled out of the slipstream of Leclerc in second, the pair running nose to tail.
The Mercedes elbowed his way through as they started Lap 40, diving to the far inside to move into second.
Having slipped from 10th to 14th at the restart, Norris climbed back into the points on Lap 47.
Tsunoda was soon climbing all over the back of Piastri in a battle for seventh place.
Contact between the two saw the McLaren driver tipped into a slide at Turn 2 on Lap 48 as Tsunoda clambered over the kerbs.
A lap later, the Japanese driver was off the road at the same corner.
Piastri had moved to defend, the pair touching wheels even before they reached the right-hander to send the Scuderia AlphaTauri spinning into the run-off.
Officials opted to investigate both incidents between Tsunoda and Piastri, the former having dropped to 16th.
It was a significant development for his team which had to that point been in a position to climb off the foot of the constructors’ championship.
That promoted Norris to eighth, the McLaren driver having made easy work of Alex Albon shortly after Tsunoda spun.
McLaren soon employed team orders, releasing Norris in pursuit of Ricciardo ahead.
Piastri didn’t have the pace, the Australian dutifully carrying out the instruction given to him as he was unable to improve his pace.
Norris quickly caught his former team-mate and quickly despatched him, going around the outside at Turn 4 in a superb move.
Russell was next to fall victim, the Mercedes driver wrong-footed through the Turn 4-5 chicane on Lap 67, allowing Norris to take the place at Turn 6.
In the pack, contact between Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll saw the latter pitched into a spin in the stadium complex, forcing the Aston Martin into the pits.
Having fallen to sixth, Russell came under late pressure from Ricciardo who smelled an opportunity to pick up another place and crucial championship points for his team.
On the final lap, the Australian was tucked up behind the Mercedes ahead but couldn’t make a move stick.
Out front, Verstappen was again in a class of one.
He enjoyed a 15s advantage over Hamilton as the flag fell, Leclerc third ahead of team-mate Sainz.
Then came Norris, Russell, Ricciardo, Piastri, Albon, and Esteban Ocon to complete the top 10.
While the result marked a record 16th win of the season for Verstappen, more important was the seventh-place for Ricciardo which saw a points haul that lifted Scuderia AlphaTauri to eighth in the constructors’ championship.