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The thrilling moment lasted only for a few meters, but as the traffic lights went out, it was clear that it wasn't going to be a successful day for Ferrari. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz didn't take off like rockets, unlike Max Verstappen, who, starting from the second row, immediately attacked the two SF-23 cars. In the long straight of the Mexican circuit, Sergio Perez (starting fifth) managed to pass the Spaniard in the early corners, in a crowded group of three cars: Verstappen on the inside, Leclerc in the middle, and the Mexican on the outside.

Perez, driven by unbridled determination, attempted to overtake Leclerc and perhaps even Verstappen by using an outside line in turn 1 and an inside line in turn 2. However, things went terribly wrong as he cut the trajectory too much at the entry of the turn, hitting the left front wheel of Leclerc, sandwiched between the two Red Bulls. Perez was launched into the air, the right side of his RB19 was torn off, and to the disappointment of the Mexican audience, he had to return to the pits and retire.

Leclerc suffered damage to the front wing but managed to continue with a solid pace, staying behind Verstappen, who proved unreachable for everyone. Unexpectedly, Red Bull preempted the pit stop to switch from medium to hard tires, which could have posed a challenge for Verstappen towards the end of the race. However, midway through the race, the safety car was called in due to a rather violent accident involving Kevin Magnussen, who broke the rear left suspension at turn 8. Verstappen promptly returned to the pits to mount a second set of hard tires, and later the race was red-flagged.

After about half an hour, the race resumed with a standing start, and Verstappen and Leclerc found themselves on the front row. However, there was no chance for the Ferrari driver. The top two were on hard tires, while Lewis Hamilton, in third place, had medium tires, just like his teammate George Russell. Mercedes attempted a bold move that succeeded, as the seven-time world champion managed to overtake Leclerc after an intense battle. Russell, on the other hand, couldn't replicate the feat against Sainz, who had hard tires. In fact, Russell lost fifth place in the closing stages, overtaken by a determined Lando Norris, who had started from the penultimate row after a qualifying error in Q1.

In Ferrari, they were convinced that the medium tires would degrade from lap 48, as communicated by Leclerc's engineer over the radio. However, things went differently, with Hamilton steadily gaining ground on Leclerc and even setting the fastest lap on the final lap. It seemed that the engineers in Maranello hadn't fully accounted for Hamilton's driving skills, even though Russell struggled with his tires in the final stages. This marked the second consecutive race in which Mercedes and Hamilton finished in second place, excluding the disqualification in Austin, a decidedly positive end to the season for Toto Wolff's team.

Nevertheless, Leclerc delivered a solid performance, securing the third step of the podium. Sainz, in fourth place, did an excellent job holding off Russell. Kudos to Daniel Ricciardo, who steered the Alpha Tauri-Honda to seventh place, despite being in fifth place for much of the race before eventually giving way to Russell and Norris. The Faenza-based team could have also scored points with Yuki Tsunoda, who had climbed into the top 10. However, the Japanese driver compromised it all with an ill-advised overtaking maneuver on Oscar Piastri. Piastri wasn't as assertive as in other instances and had to yield to his teammate Norris in an impressive recovery towards the end.

Williams-Mercedes secured points with Alexander Albon in ninth place, while Esteban Ocon fought hard to claim the tenth spot in the Alpine. Unfortunately, Nico Hulkenberg, who had competed for much of the race between eighth and tenth positions with the Haas-Ferrari, slipped to 13th place in the final kilometers. Alfa Romeo had no luck despite the efforts of Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou, who were involved in two incidents. Aston Martin was virtually absent, with Fernando Alonso always at the back of the field before his retirement, and Lance Stroll involved in incidents with Logan Sargeant and Bottas.

For Max Verstappen, it was victory number 51, which puts him in fourth place among the all-time winners, tied with none other than Alain Prost. This young man continues to write pages of history.

© Cavalieri Garage & Co.


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