Mexico gives Formula 1 a warm welcome every time it arrives at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, and 2017 was no different… a boisterous race day crowd was ready to watch the title be decided.
It was all but over within a minute of the red lights going out. The leaders arrived at Turn 1 three-abreast, the Ferrari of pole man Sebastian Vettel to the inside, title rival Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes to the outside with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the middle.
Verstappen hung on around the outside of the Ferrari to pinch the lead, lucky to escape a front wing to his right rear tyre.
Hamilton also tried to round up the Ferrari around the outside but with dire consequences for both. Vettel forced to pit for a new front wing and Hamilton left with a flat right rear Pirelli, both title rivals now at the back of the field.
The big mover in the early laps was the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, up to seventh from 16th on the grid after an engine penalty – but power unit issues would once again end his race early, this time after just five laps.
Renault-powered cars were dropping like flies – Brendon Hartley’s second race for Toro Rosso ended early with engine issues, as did that of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
With no threat from behind from either Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas or Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, Red Bull urged Verstappen to ease off the pace to make sure his power unit would make it to the end.
Vettel and Hamilton made steady progress after their Lap 1 delays. The Ferrari was back in the top 10 by Lap 25, and moved to fifth on Lap 54.
Hamilton had a tougher time moving forward, hampered by diffuser damage, and suffered the indignity of being lapped by race-leader Verstappen.
But by Lap 56 the number 44 Mercedes had moved into the top 10 – high enough to mathematically secure the world championship with Vettel too far behind Bottas and Raikkonen to move higher than fourth.
That left Verstappen to cruise serenely on to take his second win of the season, and Red Bull’s third triumph of 2017.
But the spotlight was on Hamilton, one lap off the pace in ninth place – but enough to clinch his fourth Drivers’ World Championship title, his third in just four years.
As broadcast on 31/10/2017.