A man at the top of his game, Max Verstappen had barely broken a sweat as he entered his name into the Formula 1 record books. Imperturbable and unfazed after climbing out of his car, he could have enjoyed a Sunday afternoon jaunt at the seaside. It was an image that could sum up his season. He has won an unrivaled campaign win tally and the race in his stride, just as he has already sealed his second World Championship for good.
The Dutchman’s victory at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez was another dominant display, albeit in an unremarkable race, a procession with Verstappen in the lead and unchallenged by beating Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in second and his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Pérez. in third but with it came the magic number.
With his 14th win this year, Verstappen secured the record for the driver with the most wins in a single F1 season. In 20 races, he surpassed the tally previously held by Michael Schumacher, who won 13 of 18 races in 2004 and Sebastian Vettel, who took 13 of 19 in 2013. Verstappen reached it with two races remaining.
Then, standing in the stadium section amphitheater in front of a cheering crowd, he enjoyed the moment but, unsurprisingly for the 25-year-old who has such big ambitions in F1, he was already looking to bigger things.
“I never thought I could win 14 races in a year, I’m incredibly proud,” he said. “We definitely appreciate it and will try to do more.”
It would be unwise to bet against at this stage. After a weekend where Mercedes presented their best challenge this season, Verstappen and Red Bull took it on recklessly. In the air in Mexico City, Mercedes’ drag issue wasn’t as bad, but Verstappen still held a real race-pace advantage and he exploited it ruthlessly and managed his tires to perfection.
For Red Bull too, the numbers have also increased with tremendous effect in Mexico. They have now won nine races in a row and have 16 of 20 this season, two team records. The furor over their exceeding the budget cap cast a shadow over the weekend, with their protests of an unfairly harsh penalty and other teams deriding the punishment as wholly inadequate, but on track their primacy remains indisputable – a point which undoubtedly fuels the discontent of the rivals.
This feeling that the team feels under siege intensified further on Sunday. It is understood Verstappen and Red Bull are to boycott talks with Sky Sports indefinitely in reaction to Sky presenter Ted Kravitz’s comment during the US GP that Lewis Hamilton had been ‘deprived’ of an eighth championship of the world last year.
Verstappen confirmed that, despite all the successes, he had indeed lost his patience. “This year has been a constant digging, disrespect, especially one particular person and that’s enough, I don’t accept it,” he said. “If you continue to disrespect me, I don’t tolerate it anymore and that’s why I’ve decided to stop responding.”
He had already made his speech on the floor. Mercedes had done their best with a valiant effort on an alternative tire strategy which did not pay off against the pace of the Red Bull. Mercedes’ bet to take hard rubber on Red Bull’s midrange was a hope play but, with the downgrade not as bad as expected, there was nothing they could do to take the fight to the world champion.
Mercedes will therefore be disappointed but are already eyeing next season while Verstappen is clearly intent on closing this one by extending a tally of wins that will surely be hard to match.
George Russell was fourth for Mercedes and Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc fifth and sixth for Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris finished seventh and ninth for McLaren, Esteban Ocon eighth for Alpine and Valtteri Bottas 10th for Alfa Romeo.