Mexico GP: Max Verstappen storms to victory to break own record for most wins in a season

Red Bull's world champion comfortably claims 16th win ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen celebrates his record-setting 16th victory of the season at the Mexican Grand Prix. EPA
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Max Verstappen continued his dominance with a record 16th victory of the season at the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday as Red Bull's world champion drew level with Alain Prost on 51 Formula One career wins.

Starting from third after Ferrari surprisingly locked out the front row of the grid, Verstappen stole the lead at the start and dominated the race, which was punctuated by a lengthy red flag stoppage when Kevin Magnussen crashed heavily in his Haas.

The 26-year-old Dutchman came home 13.875 seconds ahead of a revitalised Lewis Hamilton, who started sixth, with pole-sitter Charles Leclerc taking third place ahead of his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz. With his 16th victory of the season, Verstappen broke his own record, set last year, for most wins in a single campaign.

Lando Norris finished an impressive fifth for McLaren after an enthralling drive through the field from 17th on the grid, ahead of George Russell in the second Mercedes.

It was Verstappen's fifth win in Mexico and his record-equalling 18th podium finish this year while the luckless Leclerc, who collided with Sergio Perez's Red Bull at the first corner, endured his 11th successive failure to convert pole into a victory.

Perez spun off, recovered and retired, much to the disappointment of his home Mexican fans in a big crowd at the high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

"It is just incredible," said Verstappen, who alongside Prost sits fourth in the all-time list for most F1 race wins. "To win from P3, is just amazing. I started P3 and the car was really great. It was a very strong race and now I don't know โ€“ more wins, maybe 17 or 18!"

Hamilton, who was disqualified after finishing second in the United States a week earlier, said: "I feel fresh. I was pushing, but not crazy hard. It is a great result, considering we started sixth. This is a great result for us in a difficult few weeks."

Leclerc noticed "a lot of booing" from the crowd and explained his part in Perez's exit.

"I had nowhere to go. I was between the two Red Bulls," he said. "Checo damaged my car and it ended his race. It was not on purpose."

Daniel Ricciardo finished a creditable seventh for Alpha Tauri ahead of Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren, Williams' Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon of Alpine.

Verstappen made a sensational start, powering between the Ferraris to take the inside line after the 800-metre rush from Turn One.

Sensing a chance, Perez went three abreast with Verstappen and Leclerc, but clipped the Ferrari's front wing and bounced off. To loud groans, he rejoined, limped to the pits and retired, beating his steering wheel in frustration while Leclerc continued with a flapping front wing which soon fell off.

The stewards noted he was driving in an "unsafe condition" and decided to investigate after the race.

"I went for it," said Perez, accepting the blame. "There wasn't room for three cars. In hindsight, I should have backed off, but it's my home race."

By lap 20, Verstappen led by 4.6 seconds before pitting for hards, handing the lead to Leclerc.

He rejoined seventh behind Russell and swiftly rose to fifth as his rivals pitted before Kevin Magnussen crashed heavily at Turn Nine to prompt a safety car.

The Dane escaped, apparently unhurt, but his blazing Haas was wrecked, as Verstappen led a charge for cheap pit-stops and retained his lead before the race was red-flagged.

After a 20-minute interlude to clear the debris, the race resumed with a standing start, which Verstappen, on hards, nailed ahead of Leclerc as Hamilton on mediums looked for a gap.

It appeared on lap 40 when he dived inside the Monegasque at Turn One in vintage style to take second.

"It's going to be a tough stint," said Hamilton, assessing his chances as Verstappen pulled four seconds clear and built a comfortable cushion.

Behind them, several entertaining scraps and a dazzling drive by Norris thrilled the crowd, the McLaren driver charging through the field.

Updated: October 30, 2023, 5:17 AM