Although many sections of the previous iteration of Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez have been retained by circuit architect Hermann Tilke, the Mexican Grand Prix was a trip to the unknown for the current crop of F1 drivers. The track was particularly slippery during practice, which explains why several drivers ran wide as they battled with a general lack of grip.
As far as the results were concerned, Rosberg beat Hamilton to secure his first win of the season since the Austrian Grand Prix, while Valtteri Bottas completed the podium positions. Among other standout performances, Daniil Kvyat scored a strong fourth place result for Red Bull, while both Force Indias finished inside the top 10 using varying strategies.
Nico Rosberg was at his very best in Mexico as he took his fourth victory of the season ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. This is the sort of performance Rosberg is expected to replicate every race weekend, given the potential he showed during his tenure at Williams.
The German outqualified Hamilton for a fourth straight race and also controlled the proceedings come Sunday. The key to his win was maintaining the lead at the start of the race, one area where Hamilton has the edge due to his aggressive driving style. Rosberg also held his calm after the safety car, which wiped out his race lead completely.
The events of the US Grand Prix would have certainly been in the back of the mind of Rosberg, providing extra motivation.
Perhaps the 30 year old performed better than usual because the title has already been decided against his favour. If that’s the case, he must focus on improving his performance under the pressure of a championship fight.
Williams might be in the same place in the constructors championship as they finished last year, but podium results have come far and few this time around. Prior to Mexico, Bottas had only stood once on the rostrum all season long, having consistently challenged for top-three finishes last year. Hence, the Finn’s result in Mexico would have provided a morale boost to the Grove-based squad.
Bottas triggered the pitstops by coming in at the end of lap eight, which handed him track position over Daniel Ricciardo. He later benefitted by the deployment of the safety car, although he could have pitted one lap earlier.
He was lucky not to have serious damaged his car in an incident with Kimi Raikkonen.
With five retirements (including a DNS) in the last seven races, Nico Hulkenberg arrived in Mexico at a new low. He had been overtaken by teammate Sergio Perez in the drivers standings, whom he outperformed last season with apparent ease.
But Hulkenberg just needed a clean weekend to show once again that he forms the top cream of the current crop of F1 drivers. And that’s what he got in Mexico. The German made an early pit stop to leapfrog Perez and the Toro Rosso duo of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. A late race safety car came to his aid, granting him a free pit stop and a chance to retain seventh place.
After spending the early part of the year in the shadow of teammate Daniel Ricciardo, Kvyat has risen to the occasion, outgunning the Australian week in and week out. However, a crash in Austin suggested that there are still some rough edges that need to be soften.
In Mexico, Kvyat outqualified Ricciardo by just 0.001 seconds but was comfortably the quicker Red Bull driver in the race. The 21 year old could have scored his second podium of his brief F1 career had it not been for the safety car that allowed the Mercedes-powered Williams of Valtteri Bottas to pass him at the restart.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner hailed Kvyat’s performance in Mexico City as his best of the season. He was so impressed that he assured the Russian of a drive next season, provided he can secure an engine deal for the squad.
Force India have often gambled on risky strategies to score top five finishes - and even podiums - in F1. And Perez’s ability eke out a longer life from the tyres has worked brilliantly in his favour, allowing him to do one less stop than his rivals.
But a late race safety car period meant that Perez’s one-stop strategy backfired, with the Mexican finishing no higher than eighth on home-turf. However, he brilliantly held off Verstappen & co during the closing stages of the race despite worn tyres - he completed 53 laps on a single set of medium compound - even establishing a gap for himself.
Had Vettel not crashed into the barriers, Perez would have gained track position over some of the two-stoppers. Given the lack of overtaking opportunities at the latest iteration of Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the Force India driver might well have held back some of the faster cars.
Alternatively, if Force India had switched him to a two-stop strategy during the safety car period, he might have showed his true pace on fresh rubber.
But on his part, Perez did whatever he could for the 130,000 fans who flocked the circuit on race day.