Nico Rosberg won the first Mexican Grand Prix since 1992 on Sunday for his fourth victory this season, denying Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in his bid to tie the Formula One record of 13 victories in a season.
Rosberg gained a sliver of satisfaction in defeating Hamilton, who has beaten him to the season championship the past two years.
Hamilton, the runner-up, has 10 victories this season with two races left. Rosberg is now second in the driver standings ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Rosberg started from the pole and avoided the mistakes that doomed him a week earlier in the United States. He held off Hamilton at the start, and again over the final 13 laps as Hamilton closed in. Williams’ Vatteri Bottas finished third.
Vettel started third but crashed on Lap 52 and didn’t finish. His race started with a punctured tire through the first turn.
Formula One’s first race in Mexico in 23 years drew massive crowds, most of them cheering Force India’s Mexican driver Sergio Perez, who finished eighth.
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was considered one of the rowdiest and dangerous circuits to drive when it last hosted Formula One, but was given a $50 million upgrade to resurface the track and modify the course. That softened its fearsome Peraltada turn, the site of spectacular, and occasionally deadly, crashes in previous years.
The track also has the longest straight in Formula One, which put the power in Mercedes’ dominant engines up front. That’s where Hamilton had hoped to catch Rosberg at the start.
But Rosberg got the good jump he needed off the starting grid and beat Hamilton to the first turn. Hamilton tried a late move to pass on the outside but couldn’t make it, unlike his aggressive move in the US Grand Prix last week that forced Rosberg wide.
From there, Rosberg had to manage his tires through two pit stops and hold off Hamilton late when Vettel’s crash brought out the safety car and all but erased the 3-second gap Rosberg built. When the racing restarted, Rosberg quickly pushed his lead over Hamilton back up to 1.5 seconds to chase the checkered flag.
Vettel, who has enjoyed Ferrari’s resurgence this year with an improved engine and three victories, struggled from the start. He was quickly dropped to last when a bump with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in the first turn left Vettel with a tire puncture.
Vettel was moving forward, picking cars off one by one, but his aggressive drive cost him when he spun through crashed on Turn 7 on Lap 52.
Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen was knocked out on Lap 23 in a clumsy bump with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas that broke the Ferrari’s right rear axle. Those two had a similar incident three races ago in Russia.
It was the first time Ferrari had both cars not finish a race since 2006.
McLaren’s season-long struggles with its new Honda engine continued when Fernando Alonso lost power on the first lap and had to immediately retire.