For the first time in 23 years, Formula 1 returned to the Motorsport mad city of New Mexico and the refurbished Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
After losing out on the World Championship last time out in Austin, Nico Rosberg claimed victory over team mate and triple World Champion Lewis Hamilton and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas in a long and gruelling race.
Rosberg also took pole position ahead of Hamilton on Saturday, with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel waiting to pounce on any first corner misdemeanour’s from either Hamilton or Rosberg. Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were all hit with engine penalties, Button not even qualifying due to a misfire discovered in Practice 2 on Friday.
After the red lights turned to green, the two Mercedes cars pulled away from the pack, Rosberg first into and out of Turn 1. A few yards behind, Daniel Ricciardo tried a move on his former team mate Vettel, but had nowhere to go and clipped the right rear of the Ferrari, giving the German a puncture and forcing him to pit at the end of the first lap.
Vettel continued to fight another day and sliced his way through the field until his brakes failed on lap 18, causing him to swap ends, rejoining in a lowly 16th. His dismal afternoon was ended on lap 52 after his brakes failed again and he slammed into the barrier. A downbeat, apology was broadcast to the millions watching over his team radio.
Rosberg always kept Hamilton at arms length for the whole race, yielding the lead at both of his stops, only to regain it when his opposite number underwent the same procedure. This was an example of Rosberg controlling proceedings how he wants to, no technical gremlins or driver errors this week, although he’d rather that have been the case last time out in Austin.
Ferrari’s weekend was over when Vettel hit the wall, Raikkonen had another altercation with Bottas on lap 23, but unlike in Sochi it was Raikkonen who was out of the race, his right rear bouncing up and down amidst pieces of shattered carbon fibre. It was the first time since the Australian Grand Prix of 2006 with Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher at the wheel that both Ferrari’s hadn’t been classified come the chequered flag.
Home hero Sergio Perez scored points for Force India, although running into tyre troubles at the end of the race, just managing to fend off Max Verstappen and the two Lotus cars of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado to finish in a credible eighth. Nico Hulkenberg took the flag one place ahead of him to secure another double points finish for the potentially soon to be Aston Martin team.
After a disastrous end to a promising race in Austin, Red Bull had a considerably better time of it in New Mexico. Daniil Kvyat made amends for his shunt last week by holding third for the majority of the race before being passed by Bottas after the Safety Car period, and Ricciardo recovered from his first lap drama to score a solid fifth place.
But it was Rosberg who exited the remodelled Peraltada or ‘Mansell Turn’ 1.6 seconds ahead of Hamilton to get his first win since Austria in June. A perfect lights-to-flag victory to remind Hamilton that 2016 is not a forgone conclusion.
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