In front of a packed and hugely atmospheric Autodrómo Hermanos Rodríguez, Nico Rosberg took a controlled fourth victory of the season ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton to become the first winner of the Mexican Grand Prix since Nigel Mansell in 1992. Valtteri Bottas was third for Williams ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo.
The German held his lead at the start of the race and over his first stint build up a solid gap to Hamilton. Eventually the Mercedes drivers’ advantage was so great that as the race approached its final third both were able to make a precautionary stop for fresh tyres and still stay ahead of the chasing pack as Rosberg headed for his first win since June’s Austrian Grand Prix.
A settled race order was opened up on lap 51 when Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who had struggled all race following an early puncture crashed out. Following a brief Safety Car period, Bottas jumped past Kvyat on the restart to claim his second podium finish of the season.
At the start Rosberg made a clean getaway to keep Hamilton in check on the long run down to Turn One. Behind them Sebastian Vettel didn’t get away as well and he was immediately passed by Kvyat.
Ricciardo attempted to also make a move down the inside into Turn One but Vettel was already coming across the track and the pair banged rear wheels as Ricciardo edged through. Vettel sustained a rear right puncture and pitted at the end of the lap for a new set of medium tyres.
The incident was put investigation but no further action was deemed necessary and much to Vettel’s chagrin on the radio Ricciardo went unpunished.
Further back, Fernando Alonso’s race ended on lap one, with the Spaniard reporting a loss of power almost immediately after the start. He was called into the pits where he retired.
At the end of lap one Rosberg led from Hamilton, with Kvyat third ahead of Ricciardo and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen had passed the second Williams of Felipe Massa and was now sixth. Local hero Sergio Perez was eighth ahead of team-mate Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz was in 10th place in the second Toro Rosso.
The order changed on lap eight when Bottas became the first of the frontrunners to pit and he took on medium tyres. The stop was a slow one, though as there was a problem with the front-right wheel. Team-mate Massa pitted a lap later as did Hulkenberg.
At the front Rosberg and Hamilton were trading blows, each putting in fastest laps as the Briton tried to close and Rosberg responded. Hamilton managed to get inside DRS range in the early laps but by lap 15 Rosberg had found enough extra pace to open a 1.8s lead over his team-mate. Kvyat was a further seven seconds back in third ahead of Ricciardo, with Verstappen now fifth after Bottas’ stop.
Perez was now sixth and Kimi Raikkonen, who had started 19th following a qualifying blow up and a grid penalty for a gearbox change, was now up to seventh place. Vettel, meanwhile, was making steady progress through the pack and midway through lap 17 the Ferrari driver was up to 11th place having passed Jenson Button.
His good work was undone on the next lap, however, as the German outbraked himself into Turn Eight and spun into the run-off area. He kept going but rejoined in P15. Soon after the four-time champion was on radio to tell his team that he had badly flat-spotted a tyre but could continue. Meanwhile, Perez pitted from P6 on lap 18 and after a 3.8s stop rejoined in P11 behind Sainz.
Kvyat was the next frontrunner to stop on lap 22, the Russian takikng on medium tyres in a fast 2.3s stop. As he did so Raikkonen made a good passing move on Bottas to take sixth place into Turn One. Bottas attempted to respond and in Turn 5 the pair were running side by side. There was no quarter given as Raikkonen attempted to shut the door and the pair collided. The Ferrari driver’s was bounced into the run off area and with heavy damage the Finn’s race was over. Bottas though continued on, reporting that his car felt fine.
Ricciardo pitted on lap 24 for medium tyres but he lost out to both Williams drivers in the stop and emerged behind Massa in P6.
At the front, Rosberg pitted on lap 26, swapping to medium tyres in a 2.5s stop. Hamilton now led as the only man yet to make a stop, but he eventually made his detour to pit lane for prime tyres on lap 28. It was a good stop but the Briton had not been able to gain an advantage on his in-laps and he emerged just over 3s behind his team-mate.
The order on the following lap saw Rosberg leading Hamilton by 3.5s, with Kvyat 16.9s behind the Brtion in third. Bottas was now fourth ahead of Massa, while Ricciardo had dropped to P6. Hulkenberg was up to seventh from his 10th-place start, while Verstappen had fallen back to eighth, 1.8s ahead of team-mate Sainz. Perez was now 10th.
The Mexican moved up a place on lap 32. He attempted to pass Sainz and under pressure the Spaniard went off track. In doing so the Toro Rosso managed to hold the place. It was clear he’d have to give up P9 and in the stadium section he let Perez by to a rapturous response from Force India driver’s home crowd.
Vettel finally gave up on his wounded tyres on lap 35 and pitted for more medium Pirellis. He rejoined in P14 a lap down on Rosberg and with Hamilton bearing down on him. Hamilton eventually got past the increasingly frustrated Vettel on lap 42, with the German being told to let the Mercedes driver past even though Vettel protested that he was “quicker than him”.
Ahead, Perez was closing on Verstappen and on lap 44 the Mexican was 1.7s behind the Dutch teenager. At the end of the next lap Sainz became the first to show his hand as a two-stopper and he pitted for soft tyres from P11. He emerged behind Vettel in P14 and prepared for an option-tyre assault over the final 25 laps.
With time in hand over third-placed Kvyat, Mercedes then took the cautious option of pitting both Rosberg and Hamilton for fresh tyres for the final part of the race, with race leader Rosberg taking on mediums on lap 46 and Hamilton doing the same a lap later, though the Briton appeared to be a somewhat unwilling partner in the strategy. The pair rejoined with Rosberg ahead and with Hamilton a still healthy nine seconds clear of Kvyat.
Perez, meanwhile, had got to within DRS range of Verstappen and he brushed past the Toro Rosso driver in the stadium section to take P8.
Ricciardo, who had been biding his time behind Massa was also on the move. He closed rapidly on the Brazilian as the Williams driver began to struggle on old medium tyres and the Red Bull driver muscled his way past to claim P5 on lap 51.
The race suddenly opened up again on lap 52. Vettel spun at Turn Seven and went side on onto the barriers. With the car halted close to the track the Safety Car was deployed.
It triggered a frantic dash for the pit lane with Kvyat, Ricciardo, Massa, Hulkenberg, Verstappen and Sainz all stopping. Bottas initially stayed out but then he also headed to the pit lane for medium tyres, as had his team-mate. At the front Rosberg and Hamilton stayed out on their fresh medium tyres. Perez too decided to persevere with his medium tyres.
The order under the SC was Rosberg ahead of Hamilton, with Kvyat, on soft tyres, third ahead of Bottas, The soft-tyre shod Ricciardo was fifth ahead of Massa, Hulkenberg and Perez, while Verstappen was ninth ahead of Grosjean, Maldonado and Sainz.
The SC left the track at the end of lap 57 and Rosberg held his lead. Bottas though used his Mercedes engine’s greater power to get past Renault-powered Kvyat on the run down to Turn One and took third.
It was to be the only change of place among the points-scoring positions during the race’s final phase and 14 laps later Rosberg, who had comfortably managed to ease beyond DRS range of Hamilton, crossed the line to take his 12th career win.
Bottas took third 1.9 seconds ahead of Kvyat, while Ricciardo was fourth ahead of Massa. Hulkenberg finished seventh for Force India ahead of team-mate Perez, who once again showed his remarkable talent for tyre management by taking eighth place on aged medium tyres. Verstappen was ninth for Toro Rosso and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean took the final point on offer.