Despite a lower-than-expected qualifying position for both cars, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz looked to move up the order when the lights went out at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
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Photos: Scuderia Ferrari.
As the lights went out, it was the Red Bull of Max Verstappen that got the jump on the two Mercedes on the long run into turn one. However, there would be drama for pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas, who was spun in the exit of the first corner by Daniel Ricciardo. In the madness, Charles moved up to fifth position, while Carlos dropped slightly to seventh.
As the Safety Car was deployed for the incident, both Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda were out of the race as both cars collided with the Alpine of Esteban Ocon while the grid tried to squeeze around the stranded Mercedes of Bottas. Racing resumed at the end of lap four, as Verstappen now led Hamilton and home hero Sergio Pérez, while Carlos used the restart to snatch sixth from Antonio Giovinazzi.
By lap 11, Charles was told to improve his pace as Carlos was now behind in sixth and did not want to be held up with the cars behind, Charles duly responded and looked to push on and close up to fourth place, which was being held by the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
After briefly taking fourth thanks to Hamilton’s stop on lap 30, Charles pitted on the following lap, re-joining with a new set of hard compound tyres in ninth place. He was quick to use the advantage of new tyres as he passed the Alpine for Fernando Alonso on the next lap. After the stops, Carlos now found himself in fourth, but was yet to pit.
It was yet more bad news for Bottas as a second stop went wary for the team, an issue with the wheel nut of his front-right tyre delayed the Finn during his stop. Opting for a much longer first stint on his medium tyres, Carlos eventually pitted on lap 42, coming out of the pits on a new set of hard compound tyres in sixth position, just behind his teammate Charles.
With his older tyres starting to now struggle, Charles questioned the possibility of a second stop, but the team were unsure of the benefit of dropping position, to he continued on in fifth position. Carlos was now beginning to close up to his teammate, coming within 1.5 seconds of the Monegasque driver by lap 55.
Charles was then asked by the team to swap positions with Carlos, with the aim of catching Gasly, who still held onto fourth position. While championship rivals McLaren were suffering, Lando Norris being the only car in the points in tenth, it was vital for the team to maximise the result and take third in the constructor’s championship.
Carlos was let by on lap 58, and now it was up to Carlos to hunt down the AlphaTauri in the closing laps. Further ahead, Pérez was now really closing in on second-placed Hamilton as the Mexican was looking for the position and the best finishing position on his home circuit.
With Carlos not being able to catch Gasly, the pair swapped position once again to allow Charles back into his original position of fifth, as Pérez also could not take the position from Hamilton.
As the chequered flag came out to end the race, Max Verstappen won from Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Pérez as the Dutchman extended his lead in the driver’s championship. Charles and Carlos finished in fifth and sixth, a solid result of points and now third for Scuderia Ferrari in the constructor’s championship.
Written by Cóilín Higgins.