Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, Circuit of the Americas, 2018

2018 Mexican Grand Prix Star Performers

2018 Mexican Grand Prix

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Stoffel Vandoorne, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Mexican Grand Prix – here’s why.


Stoffel Vandoorne

He may have been out-qualified by Fernando Alonso for the 19th consecutive race – by a typically slender margin of a tenth of a second – but in the race Vandoorne finally got to demonstrate some of the class which saw him sweep to the GP2 title three years ago.

Despite losing ground at the start (he finished lap one 19th) Vandoorne made rapid gains, passing Pierre Gasly and Sergey Sirotkin among others. He later had to re-pass Gasly, which he did successfully, as well as Romain Grosjean. A well-timed stop got him ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson, putting him on course for a superb eighth.

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2018
Verstappen had the weekend under control
Another driver who was out-qualified by his team mate, though by an even finer margin: Daniel Ricciardo beat Verstappen to pole position by less than three-hundredths of a second. Verstappen shot into the lead at the start, however, kept Lewis Hamilton back at turn one and then dominated proceedings. He could have one-stopped his way to victory, but was so far ahead Red Bull chose to give him another set of tyres as a precaution.

Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez has never been the first Force India home in his backyard, a statistic he was on course to put right before his brake pedal went to the floor. A gutsy pass on Marcus Ericsson was the highlight of his weekend up to that point.

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Brendon Hartley

Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso, Circuit of the Americas, 2018
Hartley needed a good weekend and didn’t have one
Arguably the driver who most needed a result, given the doubt over his place at Toro Rosso for the 2019 F1 season, Hartley had a bit of a shocker. Sixth place in Friday practice flattered the car somewhat but hinted at Q3 potential. An error on his final lap cost him that position.

In the race he tangled with Esteban Ocon and had to pit on the first lap. That plus a five-second time penalty ensured he finished well behind his team mate, who had started last.

Esteban Ocon

Ocon described this race as the worst he had driven in Formula 1, and he probably wasn’t far wide of the mark. First-lap tangles appear to be his biggest weakness – having made a good start he squandered it by clipping Carlos Sainz Jnr’s Renault. Another incident later in the race meant a costly, point-less race for Force India on a day when McLaren scored. To his credit, he took 11th on the grid without using the dreaded hyper-softs.

Kimi Raikkonen

What happened to the Kimi Raikkonen who swept all before him in Austin? This was a limp performance – consistently off Vettel’s pace in qualifying and half a minute down in the race. He was over-generous in defence with Hamilton too.

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And the rest

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2018
Hamilton’s fifth title didn’t come with a win
Hamilton seemed to deliver all the tyre-eating W09 could give – qualifying ahead of Vettel and almost passing both Red Bulls to lead at the start. A slide to fourth was an unworthy way to mark his fully-deserved fifth world title. He was almost lapped at the end of the race – team mate Valtteri Bottas did go a lap down.

Ricciardo squandered his superb qualifying effort with a poor start, but deserved the second place which his eventual clutch failure robbed him of. Vettel drew a line under a series of poor performances with a solid run to third, though it came far too late to salvage his championship chances.

A cool-headed Nico Hulkenberg delivered a sixth place for Renault which moves them closer to fourth in the constructors’ championship. Team mate Sainz would have backed him up had his car not died.

Sauber played a canny game with Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson, deploying the latter to delay the progress of several key rivals, and earning a double points finish. As usual, Leclerc smashed his team mate in qualifying.

Despite using the previous-specification Honda, Pierre Gasly rose from the back of the field to grab a point. Neither the Williams nor Haas drivers figured – the latter far off the pace at what is apparently the team’s bogey track.

Over to you

Vote for the driver who impressed you most last weekend and find out whether other RaceFans share your view here:

2018 Mexican Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    64 comments on “2018 Mexican Grand Prix Star Performers”

    1. W (@vishnusxdx)
      31st October 2018, 8:31

      Vandoorne’s car never was on the same level as Alonso’s. That he somehow managed to constantly be within a couple of tenths in qualifying of the nr14 car, is as good as equalling Alonso. He basicly said it himself in a couple of small interviews. McLaren always brought only 1 set of upgrades and it never went on the nr2 car!

      1. @vishnusxdx
        They didn’t bring upgrades every race weekend though. They brought them on only a few race weekends, in fact the number of updates on the McLaren during the year was pretty low.

        I can understand why Alonso had a pace advantage on those particular weekends, but he’s been out qualified for 23 race weekends in a row. There’s no excuse for that.

      2. @vishnusxdx Trust me, if those upgrades on Alonso’s car was worth anything even remotely significant, McLaren wouldn’t have gone from being within 0.2-0.3% of Renault to probably somewhere like 0.7-0.9% now.

      3. That’s BS as much as big as Vandoorne being a star performer if you ask me

        1. Vandorme and Perez set the world on fire with their performances in the race. How dare you to not agree… lol

          1. @dusty I was so shocked with Vandoorne I didn’t even noticed Perez ahah

            1. Bit rough on Ric who was running 2nd with a clutch issue from the early laps according to horner

    2. Good to see Vettel isn’t listed as a star performer. While he deservedly received praise for his good and clean drive, that is what is expected of a driver at his level with that car.

      1. Disagree, @phylyp!
        To me all 20 drivers in the pinnacle of motorsports should be able to do a ‘good and clean drive’, with a bit of rookie mistakes allowed for the newest of them.; so not just Vettel and Hamilton.
        The Stars are those who also showed some spectacular closing gap, overtaking or defensive moves rather than just going with the flow, and performing well when compared to their stable mate.
        Vettel did just that; an Estrella to me.

      2. @phylyp if we use that logic we can only consider midfield guys as star performers, and me of course

        1. @johnmilk – umm, not quite. It’s just that – in my opinion – the bar for a star performer is higher for someone like Vettel/Hamilton in their respective cars, vs. Sirotkin.

          Oh, and you’re always a star… (in your mother’s eyes).

          @coldfly – yeah, I can see why you’d say Vettel’s performance was worthy enough of a star rating. Let’s not give him that, though, it might go to his head, I still want to see him do good at Brazil ;-)

          But tbh, these ratings are subjective, so we’d all have to agree to disagree, since each of us would have different points to evaluate and weight them differently.

          1. Oh, and you’re always a star… (in your mother’s eyes).

            @phylyp you reminded me of my younger days, when I was job hunting I used on my cover letter something on the lines of “I’m the best engineer there is, at least that’s what my mother says”. I’m crying mate, but these are tears of joy I really was/am mindless.

            1. @johnmilk – bet that earned a chuckle, and made them take a closer look than a casual once-over. :-)

    3. Well put @keithcollantine, I’d have wavered on putting Hamilton, mainly because of his stellar qualifying and start, in the stars section, but, as you rightly put it, his race was a slide backward, even if that was due to the car, we just didn’t see much greatness there. Similarly, just like Raikkonen, Bottas was really nowhere – but, the car also wasn’t, and we got used to it by now, I think, so fair enough that he’s just barely mentioned.

      1. I would have included bottas on the same level of performance as raikkonen. both totally anonymous in this race.

        1. I think Raikkonen was better than Bottas. He did get on the podium and helped with Ferraris WCC chase. Whereas Bottas was almost lapped by Verstappen. The only silver lining was that the Ferrari was probably better than the Merc and Bottas out qualified him.

    4. I’d put Sainz as a star performer too. Outqualified by his teammate (by a lower margin than Pérez), but he got a great start and passed Hülkenberg before turn 1, and even overtook Räikkönen although he was never going to keep that position. He was in a comfortable position to finish best of the rest before his car stopped.

    5. He may have been out-qualified by Fernando Alonso for the 19th consecutive race

      I thought it was 23rd (or add ‘this season’), @keithcollantine.

    6. I thought Bottas struggled a whole lot more than Kimi did this race weekend. Also surprised Grosjean isn’t mentioned in the list of strugglers.

      Kind of sad that Alonso had that freak retirement. I thought he had a stellar qualifying and the race pace to challenge for best of the rest, Would have definitely made it the the stars list if he just made it to the finishing line.

      1. Yes he did, but you know if you look up the justification for labelling Kimi as a struggler you can almost see the happiness of the writer on that brief sentence, Bottas even got lapped ffs. Vettel’s good race exacerbated the difference to Kimi, and he should be a star performer in my opinion, but hey what do I know?

        Seems a bit weak to consider Stoff as a star when his team-mate retired in the first lap and was nowhere to be seen during qualifying. It makes you question, why not Leclerc, Hulk, Vettel, even Lewis or as you say why not Alonso? Maybe Alonso’s voice was used as background music whispering “Vandoorne is one of the best talents in the grid”. It makes me wonder where he is going to be placed in the rankings, because I don’t see a driver that has performed worse than him during the season

        Sometimes when I read this article, and it has been happening a lot this year I wonder if I’ve been watching the same races

      2. @todfod – agreed re. the Bottas vs. Kimi thing. One of them was on the podium.

        1. They are both permanent strugglers.

    7. 2 more races to go, but we already have a WDOTWC:
      +8: Lewis Hamilton
      +5: Pierre Gasly – Charles Leclerc
      +4: Max Verstappen
      +3: Carlos Sainz – Fernando Alonso
      +2: Sergio Perez – Esteban Ocon
      +1: Valtteri Bottas – Kevin Magnussen – Nico Hulkenberg – Daniel Ricciardo
      =0: Sergey Sirotkin
      -1: Kimi Räikkönen
      -2: Lance Stroll – Sebastian Vettel –
      -3: Brendon Hartley – Vandoorne – Marcus Ericsson
      -4: Romain Grosjean
      Busy at the bottom; great recovery by Verstappen.
      Special mention: Sergey Sirotkin, most stable driver this season.

      1. I need @phylyp‘s edit button.
        Hamilton isn’t WDOTWC yet; T-shirts should go back in the boxes and shipped East (look it up).

        1. Yeah Hamilton could still lose this by being a struggler in the last 2 races allowing someone to overtake him in this ‘WDOTWC’ championship. It’s actually not even that unlikely, given how his form usually dips after clinching the championship. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t win either of the last two races, although maybe his mentality has changed this year. Personally i think it was a tactical error to drop his focus at the end of 2015 and ‘allow’ Rosberg to win the last few races, because that gave him the momentum into the following year where we won the first four to pave they way for his championship.

          To the guy who asked, I assume this list is formed by summing all the drivers’ star performer appearances and subtracting the times they appeared as a struggler (haven’t done the maths myself to check).

      2. I have no idea what this means

      3. @coldfly – I’m curious, but not curious to do the work myself: what was Max’s swing this year (i.e. worst to best)?

        I think the counting methodology could use a tweak… we are penalizing the ~14 drivers who were not good enough/bad enough to rate a mention. Maybe instead of addition, we should start a driver on 1.00 (or 100%), and multiply by 1.1 for a star performance, divide by 1.1 for a poor performance (with the implicit multiply by 1 for a no-show)?

      4. Does anybody besides the poster have any idea what he’s on about here?

        1. @eljueta @ho3n3r – the OP is counting the appearances a driver made in the stars (+1) or strugglers (-1) ratings.

          1. Thanks @phylyp, now it makes sense. Also, what does WDOTWC stand for?

            1. @eljueta – ha ha, I think @coldfly will have to explain that, I don’t know what it means.

              “Why Did OP Type Weird Counts”? :-)

            2. World Driver of The Weekend Championship

              no freddos for getting that right

            3. @eljueta @ho3n3r – I rolled a dice thrice; twice adding and once subtracting.
              With a bit of luck, it ends up the same as the laborious method suggested by @phylyp ;)

              PS Verstappen was at -5 after Monaco according to this post by @thegianthogweed. Even Grosjean wasn’t able to get that low this quickly.

            4. @coldfly – thanks for the Max stat. So he’s really pulled himself up by his bootstraps since then.

            5. @coldfly you could change it to WorlDrOW or WoDrOWee , the possibilities are endless

    8. Vettel was easily the star of race this weekend.

      Solid enough qualifying but on race day he was superb. Great repass on Bottas on the opening lap. Pace in the opening stint was very impressive particularly after the bulls and mercs had pitted. He knocked out 6 laps on worn Ultras only a couple of tenths slower than those on fresh softs which ultimately was the springboard for his mid race charge.

      Second stint included 2 good overtakes on drivers that aren’t easy to pass and then started closing Verstappen down pretty quickly.

      I think the second pit stop was a bit of a tactical error on Ferrari’s part or at least the timing. When they pitted they had 15 seconds lead over Riccardo and we’re pulling away(and catching Max) a few more laps would prob have seen him pit and get out ahead of Daniel and if Max had responded by pitting Vettel would only be 5ish seconds behind.

      Alternatively would have been interesting to see if Vettel had went to the end, kimi prove the Ferrari could do so and seb was closing on Max. With 24 laps to go and the fragility of the RB it would have been tense.

      So yeah Vettel was superb on Sunday and strategy hindered his chance of going for the win.

      1. Vettel was, for a few laps, closing on max due to ultrasofts which were faster only for a few laps. Vettel never had a chance to win the race due to a lack if speed compared to the faster red bull with max in it, regardless of pitstop strategy.

        I do agree vettel drove a solid race and deservedly finished second. He lost the wdc in style.

        1. By the time Vettel cleared Riccardo and Hamilton on lap 33 Verstappen was 17 seconds in the lead.

          By lap 47 when Vettel made second stop he had reduced that to 11 seconds and his laptimes suggest his tyres were just fine meaning the stop was strategic rather than necessary.

          Whither he could have caught and passed Max if both had stuck to 1 stop is speculation but seb was closing in and Max seemed unable to match him at that point in the race

          1. Vettels pit stop was not strategic. He needed to get rid if his ultras because they would not last till the end.

            You say max was unable to ‘match’…on harder tires. The utra-gain of vettel was nowhere near a full pit stop whilst max could driven to the end what that set of supersoft if seb would not have which case seb’s worn ultras would certainly not have matched the speed of max’s supersofts in say the last 15 laps.

            Vettel was never near victory absent redbull failure or verstappen error.

            1. Yeah I can see your not really getting this but il try again

              In the second stint both Max and seb were on supersoft(Vettels were 4 laps newer) having cleared Riccardo and Hamilton, Vettel cut into Verstappen lead reducing it from 17 to 11 seconds. During this phase Max couldn’t match Sebs pace…often losing 4-6 tenths a lap.

              Vettel never had to pit, his laptimes when he did were not dropping off, infact he was the fastest man on track. Ferrari pitted to try make something happen but only had ultras to put seb on which just didn’t have the life even with a much lower fuel load and also pulled the trigger to early

              Had seb stayed out(kimi showed the Ferrari could 1 stop he had a shot at catching Max at the very least, passing would be another story but at least this strategy would have put Max and the redbulls under pressure.

              Instead what they tried gave Verstappen a buffer (his team mate)and ended any chance of victory.

            2. @pantherjag. It looked indeed that Max couldn’t match Vettel’s pace. When I watched the race I thought the same. But if you listen to the full length on-board radio another picture emerges. When Max was comfortably ahead of Lewis he was asked to match the pace of Lewis. He complied. After a couple of laps he was asked how that felt. His answer ‘Slow’. When he was on his last stint or thereabouts he had to be reminded to slow the pace. His engineer told him a couple of times “Purple in sector one Max, we don’t need that mate” and “Purple in sector 1 and 2, please slow down, we don’t need it”. He was very much in control of the pace. Max did ask a couple of times to be informed of the pace of the people behind him. He was told that Vettel was catching up, but they told him that Vettel wouldn’t be able to keep that up until the end and that the gap was more than enough. No need to speed up, instead the engine was turned down. This is the source Full onboard radio of Max, Daniel and Lewis of the Mexican GP.

            3. Like RageF1 said. Plus, Vettel needed to swap tires again while Verstappen only took them as a precaution, because his lead was so big he could.

            4. @RageF1

              No doubt Max was somewhat managing his pace at the front but the laptimes don’t lie. Between laps 33 and 46 Vettel closed by over 6 seconds and was on fresher tyres.

              Just think it would have been interesting to see what would of happened had Vettel 1 stopped.

              My bigger question is why Ferrari pitted Vettel the 2nd time when they did as at time he was closing on Max and pulling away from Daniel plus laptimes suggest tyres still had life in them.

              4-5 more laps could have seen him clear Daniel and if redbulls responded by stopping Max he would have been 4-5 behind with no cars between them and on fresher tyres.

              Ferrari messed up strategically, not for the first time this season either

    9. I find little to agree with in this Star Performers article. Last week it was Hartley, now Vandoorne and Pérez, who basically outperformed low expectations (Vandoorne in general, like Hartley last week; Pérez in this specific race). Might be just me, but I do see a semantic discrepancy between ‘Star Performers’ and awarding mediocrity.

      Also, while Räikkönen put in yet another performance that highlights how desperately Ferrari needed to replace him, Bottas’ weekend was by no means any better. The gap to Hamilton in qualifying was slightly less significant, okay. But his race performance was simply awful. Hamilton’s race was already a disaster: An aggressive two-stop strategy that turned out as a shot in Mercedes’ own foot with a few extra steps, poor pace in general, a rather un-championlike and tyre-wrecking excursion through the greenery … Why was Hamilton not called a struggler, one might ask?
      And then Bottas: Take everything that was wrong with Hamilton’s race, but make it a click worse. Worse pace, worse tyre management, same off-road antics, finishing a lap down and easily 20 seconds behind his team mate. Falls into the same broad category as Vettel, Ricciardo, Hülkenberg, Leclerc, … Yeah, no.

      Needless to say, I don’t think I’ve ever agreed less with an article in this series.

      1. +1 Totally agree.
        And there were more races this year where I couldn’t agree with many of the stars or strugglers, but this time it’s really over the top.

        I suppose Keith thinks he is objective in his ordeal, but you and I are not the only ones who think that he has to reset him self for next race or next year.

      2. @nase neither Hamilton or Bottas was likely seen as a struggler because the car/team was deemed to struggle, while Kimi was nowhere compared to Vettel, except that Mercedes did worse and Ricciardo’s car dropped out, so he was rewarded a podium. Talk about rewarding mediocrity, where was his twin from Austin, still celebrating?

        And after having looked at the clip of Vandoorne overtaking lot of cars (look on youtube), he did that really well, sure needed more time than a Vettel or Verstappen, but different car, but that was some good racing. Just accept that part of the time the third star performer is someone who did a solid job, which beats expectations. Great drivers move up the expectations, and show up in better cars, become regular star performers.

      3. Yes, I agree as well: bottas was really mediocre and hamilton was nowhere, even if that can be due to the car.

        I wouldn’t have put raikkonen in the strugglers but if I had to choose between star and struggler then ofc I would have.

        I would have put both bottas and hamilton in the strugglers if raikkonen is, that’s for sure, and I’d have put vettel and ricciardo in the stars.

        Leclerc and hulkenberg perhaps, I don’t see much about those cars to be able to evaluate how well they did.

    10. Stars: Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Leclerc, Vandoorne, Ericsson, and Gasly.
      Strugglers: Mercedes, RPFI (mainly Ocon), Hartley, and Haas.

      1. Agreed. This race was ALL about managing the tires, and Haas, Farce India and Mercedes got it all wrong. For BOT to be lapped pretty much proves it. Ferrari did very well to get 2nd and 3rd on different strategies. Red Bull got it right but paid their usual price in reliability. Sauber also got it right and did well. This is one of those tracks when you also see the cars lining up team by team, so the driver is not the biggest part of the equation.

    11. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      31st October 2018, 11:46

      Why Raikonnen a struggler – no way anyone on the podium can be considered a struggler?

      For sure Bottas should be a struggler – he was lapped by Max and showed nothing in qualifying or race. For even Hamilton could be seen as a struggler – he certainly struggled with the tyres and was not able to properly manage them.

    12. Raikkonen was the first driver to make a 1 stop work. His pace was slow due to saving tyres, due to the 1 stop. I wouldn’t say he struggled at all. Typical Keith.

      1. Well, he was in the stars in austin, I wouldn’t have expected that given how harsh this site is on raikkonen usually, so he has to pay for it the next race; I agree he was more like inbetween average and struggler here.

    13. Haas should be struggler of the weekend. No where all weekend, and for the second time in a row here at Mexico

      1. I remember a good race from magnussen in 2017, pretty sure he was still at haas, holding off a hamilton who was charging through the field after a puncture.

    14. What?! Vandoorne a star performer in front of Vettel?! Raikkonen, who expertly executed a one stop strategy, one of the 3 worst drivers?! Yes he wasn’t on Vettel’s level but he was much closer to Vettel than Bottas was to Hamilton. So why is Bottas not a struggler but Kimi is? These star performer articles are quickly becoming a joke, as is the anti-Raikkonen bias here…

      1. Yes, I agree about raikkonen, bottas, hamilton. Vandoorne, while I’m pretty sure alonso would’ve done better, still had a good race.

    15. Does anyone know how Red Bull were able to overcome Max’s serious qually problems and give him a race winning car?

      1. Solving these problems was greatly facilitated by their non-existence to begin with.

      2. it is not allowed to change (settings of) the car, so RedBull couldn’t do much. Max said in the Dutch interview before the race that he had spent a big part of the night thinking about how he could improve himself and ‘drive around the problems better’. And that it was up to him to solve it. In other words ‘if it is to be it is uo to me’. He was determined to win and he did just that.

    16. Haha, so Raikonnen goes to third in front of Hamilton and Bottas – he was even passed on track – with a great set of turns in old tires, for several he was the only one at level of Verstappen, but no he is the “struggler”.
      Typical from Collantine.

    17. Nothing happened to Kimi. Vettel got his act together and the Ferrari car wasnt a free p1 this race.

    18. what about Danny Ric as a star performer? he did nothing wrong except for a slowish start and could have easily finished second on slower tires. And that monster pole lap that made VER lose sleep was priceless…

      1. Very bad start, not matching the laptimes of your teammate and passed by Vettel .

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