Mexican GP Analysis: Unsung heroes and controversy

Track limits, beyond the limit radio messages, unlikely stars, F1 gets it right again and Nico Rosberg is on the verge of making history.

Mexican GP Analysis: Unsung heroes and controversy
Lewis Hamilton's 51st win was overshadowed by Sebastian Vettel and his comments. (Sutton Images)

The achievement of Lewis Hamilton going to all-time equal on the win list with Alain Prost on 51 wins would usually be the headline of a Grand Prix that promised so much, but didn't deliver, until Sebastian Vettel decided to ensure that the FOM bleep machine operator went into over-drive that is.

Despite clawing back another seven points on Nico Rosberg, time is running out for Hamilton as he seeks to win his third straight title. As things, stand Rosberg can win the title next time out in Brazil by winning, something that Hamilton has never managed.

Winning in Brazil and Abu Dhabi and hoping for a Rosberg non-podium is the only hope he has of becoming the first quadruple British World Champion.

Track limits - again

Right, there were two notable examples of abuse of track limits during the race, with one escaping punishment and the other causing mayhem.

At the start, a car length ahead of the field, Hamilton locked up his front right which caused him to miss out turn's one, two and three and power down towards T4 with a massive advantage over the chasing pack.

Yes, the Virtual and then full Safety Car wiped out the gap that had been created but the point is that Hamilton cut out three corners of the race, covered a shorter distance and didn't lose a place.

Prehaps the steward's didn't penalise him as it could've had a detrimental effect on his faint title hopes, and ruined a potential final race showdown, but this shouldn't matter. It can't be one rule for a title challenger and one for the rest. There should be equal rules for all, regardless of team, ego or scenario.

The debate about track limits, is that by exceeding them, drivers are playing outside of the playing area. Imagine if int football or tennis, the white lines that define the playing area are extended, but the argument for doing it is that the players won't get an advantage.

That is the argument of race director Charlie Whiting, who is the figure who decides where the FIA will look to see if track limits are being exceeding. At the end of the day, the only reason driver's go wide and ignore the playing area is to gain an advantage. If they exceed the confines of the track in Monaco, they're in the wall, why should it be any different in Mexico or Italy or Germany? Simple answer is that it shouldn't and mustn't be.

Hamilton's abuse of track limits and the hypocrisy of the FIA over the issue was highlighted by the incident with Max Vetstappen and Vettel in the closing laps.

On lap 68, Verstappen locked up in similar fashion to car 44 on lap 1, and took to the run-off. Vettel, rightly then believed that Verstappen should give him the place, even Gianpiero Lambiasse, the Dutchman's race engineer told him to do so immediately after.

After the incident, a message popped up that the incident was being investigated. No such message appeared for Hamilton. The end result was Verstappen being awarded a 5s penalty and being kicked off of the podium, whilst waiting to go out on it.

This is the inconsistency that riles fans. Both Hamilton and Verstappen did exactly the same thing and one was punished and the other wasn't. Where is the consistency? Rather then things like messing about with team radio, how about for once and for all finally punish every driver who exceeds track limits, and gains advantage. Maybe Bernie's idea about having little walls on the outside of corners isn't a bad one.

By locking up, Hamilton cut the corner and gained an advantage and should've been penalised. (Sutton Images)
By locking up, Hamilton cut the corner and gained an advantage and should've been penalised. (Sutton Images)

Vettel takes the gloss of a fine performance

In many ways, the United States and Mexican Grand Prix's sum up Ferrari's season. The pit-stop mistake that befell Kimi Raikkonen in Austin and the distant fourth place for Vettel was one side and the race in Mexico City showed the other.

Many were wondering whether the race-pace shown on Friday afternoon was legitimate and left them wondering if the much needed first win of the season was about to come the Scuderia's way.

Saturday showed where their weakness lies, getting enough heat into their tyres for a single-lap in qualifying conditions.During Q2, Vettel even said that he felt more comfortable for one lap pace on the Soft tyre, as opposed to the faster SuperSoft, that just can't be right.

During his mammoth first stint in the race, taking his Soft tyres nearly 35 laps into the 71 lap race, at points, Vettel was faster than the chasing pack, lapping in the 1:23.3 region, with the rest around 0.2/0.3s down a lap. The race-pace is there, but the car just isn't a complete package.

This fine drive, which saw him voted Driver of the Day, however was completely overshadowed by his outburst, calling Verstappen a "little ****", ​telling Whiting to "f*** off", ​twice.

Quite simply, the FIA should've fined him to make an example out of him as that sort of language just isn't acceptable, to young racers around the world and to millions of young children and families who were watching.

The FIA copped out of that, with president, Jean Todt, deciding that no action should be taken, "​on an exceptional basis." Maybe part of the reasoning behind this was that after the podium, Vettel went straight to Whiting to apologise, expressing his regret for the colourful language.

The statement that the FIA released, went onto say that "​the FIA expects that all participants in its championships to be respectful and mindful of the example that they set for the public and the younger generation in particular."

It's all good handing out a final 'Don't do it again' warning, but only real action will stop such unjustified outbursts in future. If this had happened under Max Mosley, Todt's predecessor, Vettel wouldn't have gotten off so lightly and probably would be facing a suspended race ban.

Ericsson and Palmer star

It's easy to miss standout races for the lower order these days in Formula One. The TV feed often misses out the teams at the back end of the grid, unless a front runner has had a disaster and is fighting back through the field.

Sauber's Marcus Ericsson and Renault's Jolyon Palmer had excellent races, although neither finished in the points. Ericsson came home P11 and Palmer P14, but both their drives deserve some credit, so here goes.

With a difficult car, Ericsson has comfortably out-performed Felipe Nasr this season. As Sauber slowly begin their recovery and add updates to the C35, they are edging closer to the magical P10 in the race that would see them leapfrog Manor in the standings into tenth and claim the extra $30 million or so that comes with it.

Starting from P15, his strategy was to go long in the first stint, hope for some trouble ahead and then box for softer rubber and come home near or in the points. It worked out for Sauber as Ericsson finished on the cusp on the top 10. Now Sauber know that their car has improved performance, they can try things. Ericsson making Q2 yet again shows how good he is as a driver.

He may not get the recognition he deserves, being labelled as a pay-driver, but if you perform out on track, then the critics will be silenced. If any driver, who hasn't scored a point yet deserves one in the final two rounds, Ericsson is the one.

Jolyon Palmer nearly broke a Formula One record in Mexico. The most amount of laps completed on a set of tyres. Pitting under the Safety Car for Medium tyres, the plan was to run him to the end. That's 70 odd laps on a set of Pirelli tyres. The thoughts that went through his head when the team told him that must've been something.

But he so nearly pulled off a P21 to points finish. Starting last after not taking part in qualifying, a chassis crack after running over the kerbs in FP3, he brilliantly fought the McLaren's late on as they caught up to him on their fresher Soft tyres.

It looks as it Palmer will be the one dropped by Renault, with Kevin Magnussen kept on to partner Nico Hulkenberg, but his performances since Hungary warrant another season on the grid. He is trying to make a move to Force India, with a reported £30 million in sponsorship following him around, trying to find a bank account to sit in. It's also important that he stays on the grid, as if he doesn't Hamilton will be the only British driver on the grid in Melbourne, as things currently stand.

F1ESTA

Giving the Mexican Grand Prix the final weekend in October slot was a stroke of genius. Yes it works well as a back-to-back with the United States, but it's renowned 'Day of the dead' or Dia de los Muertos festival.

Mexico is F1 crazy as we saw last year as the 23 year hiatus ended. But the volume of fans attending was beyond anything predicted. On Friday alone, for essentially two 90 minute sessions of not much action, 90,000 fans turned up. Only Silverstone and Monza could claim to rival that, and 300,000 reportedly came through the gates over the weekend. Truly unrivaled anywhere in the sport.

Also placing the podium in the baseball stadium was a masterstroke. Monza's claim to the best podium is seriously under threat. To have that  wall of noise facing you as you stand on the podium, no matter where you finished, must be something extraordinary.

The Mexican organisers couldn't have hit the nail anymore on the head if they tried. Both their entire events have been perfect. It goes to show what can happen when the sport is taken to places that are F1 nuts, and with proper planning. Austin had a Taylor Swift concert on the Saturday night and drew in thousands of people who wouldn't have brought tickets to see the race without her.

There has been talk that Silverstone might not be able to afford their hosting fee in coming years, as it has a 5% increase year on year, something that every circuit has to deal with, except from Monaco, which doesn't have to pay a hosting fee, because, it's Monaco.

Why can't Silverstone, or Monza, or Melbourne, or Spa arrange a concert with say One Direction or Adele, and bring in fans that way? It's about maximising product and talking it up, it maybe hard, but surely Formula One can do that?

Rosberg edges close

All the talk that Nico Rosberg wouldn't be a worthy world champion as Hamilton has had chronic reliabilty issues is simply a load of hot air.

All a driver can do is maximsise the opportunity afforded to them in a session and do their best, which is what exactly the 31 year-old has done. Nine race wins out of 19 is a phenomenal achievement and he deserves to be lauded for such a tally not talked down by people who just can't get over the fact that Hamilton might be beaten.

Yes Hamilton has lost nearly 50 points this season because of reliability issues, but his poor starts are what have cost him. P1 to P7 in Australia, being side-swiped by Valtteri Bottas in Bahrain from pole, P2 to P8 in Japan has left him with comeback drives throughout. On each occasion he finished on the podium, but lost 27 points to Rosberg as a result.​

Regardless of what Hamilton's fans say, Rosberg will be a worthy champion, if he does indeed win the title, as you never know what could happen.

Joining Mercedes upon their return to the sport in 2010, Rosberg has been part of the journey to the top, including a spell in 2012 when in the final seven races, just six points were scored, all by Michael Schumacher in his farewell race in Brazil.

If he wins in Brazil, something he has done in both 2014 and 2015, the title will be his as he will be at least 26 clear of Hamilton with just 25 left on the board. At a circuit that has decided so many titles, including every one from 2005-2009, there surely can't be any greater reward for all the blood, sweet and gears that Rosberg has put in to help Mercedes secure their place as the dominant force in Formula One. For now.