Mexico GP Review: AlphaTauri rise, Aston Martin in trouble

Race winner Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19 celebrates in parc ferme. 29.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

Ferrari claimed Pole on Saturday, whilst Max Verstappen secured victory on Sunday. This pattern didn’t change between the Austin and Mexican GP. The Dutchman continues to be unmatched on a Sunday. In Mexico, Verstappen enjoyed an even bigger advantage on race day.

After the red flag restart, Verstappen extended his lead to Hamilton with ease – even on a harder compound.

Hamilton’s intelligent tyre conservation (allowing him to take the fastest lap) doesn’t detract from the supremacy of the “RB19-Verstappen” combination.

Without the contact at the start, Sergio Perez would surely fought for the podium behind Max. Perez threw away his chance on home soil by hitting into Leclerc‘s SF-23. The Mexican failed to leave Leclerc and Verstappen enough space on the inside.

Red Bull failed to secure a double-podium, with Lewis Hamilton now within 20 points of Perez.

Ferrari fast on Saturday, but the success in Singapore remains an exception to the rule. Vasseur asks for more

A Ferrari capable of taking pole position (but not winning on Sunday) is a film that we are now used to seeing. The Italian duo started in 1st and 2nd, but a poor start gifted the race lead to Max Verstappen. 

So far this year, Ferrari has worked to find a balance between qualifying and race performance via aerodynamic stability and more durability on the tyres.

The combination of maximum grip on fresh tyres and less fuel seems to mitigate the SF-23’s weakness. The famous “operating window” must be widened if Ferrari wants to challenge in 2024.

The efforts from Enrico Cardile have made it possible to correct at least some of the SF-23’s unpredictability. Still, this year’s machine is too erratic to trust fully. The post-race debrief was only carried out internally, and a technical meeting with the engineers working in Maranello is not scheduled this week. 

Precisely for this reason, the one-two in qualifying remains a real surprise, an unexpected exploit. Both drivers maximized the car with two excellent laps, hitting a very thin window, while the others did not improve in the last attempt of Q3.

In race conditions, Ferrari – especially with Leclerc – showed good initial pace with the mediums, despite the damage to the front wing. This is estimated to have cost him around 1 tenth per lap.

The power unit still suffered from the temperatures at high altitudes, forcing the riders to lift and coast. However, the improvement compared to 2022 was clear – when the F1-75 had to sacrifice 20 hp to finish the race. 

Hamilton feels this Mercedes is “more his” after the update to the Austin floor

With a clear road ahead, Max Verstappen was able to set the pace. Not even Lewis Hamilton, who at the same time adopted the more aggressive strategy by switching to the mediums, could catch the Dutchman;

Ferrari engineers did not trust the SF-23 to adopt a more aggressive choice of tyres. The car from Maranello is not a champion in terms of tyre wear.

The timing of the safety car and the red flag destroyed the team’s basic plans. Leclerc, with more power, could have kept Hamilton behind – but only with the same compound of tyre.

With help from DRS, Verstappen passed Sainz with +29 km/h; Hamilton passed Leclerc with just +20 km/h. Both Ferraris – in their respective episodes – were weaker in traction.

With the 2024 car, Mercedes needs to claw back 10km/h of efficiency. However, Hamilton now seems better placed than last year to translate the understanding into more real progress.

The new surface introduced in Austin on the W14 served to make the car more aerodynamically stable, especially helpful to Lewis Hamilton’s driving style.

The almost twenty-five seconds of delay suffered by Leclerc at the finish line, despite the restart due to the red flag mid-race, are eloquent.

Mercedes were faster than Ferrari, which the engineers knew since Friday, despite Russell never managing to attack Sainz with a W14 that was too slow in his hands.

Norris’s elimination in Q1 (maybe) cost McLaren a podium. 

The missing protagonist in the top positions was certainly Lando Norris, who showed a better race pace on the Hard tyres than that of Ferrari and Russell’s Mercedes.

The English driver once again proves capable of extracting more potential in the race, especially in the final stints, compared to the more inexperienced Piastri. Lando Norris’s comeback shows how McLaren paid heavily for their poor qualifying – costing the team another podium.

The MCL60 confirmed its strong points in Mexico, capable of generating a lot of load in fast corners despite the thinner air. To make gains in a straight line, the Woking team decided not to run with the rear wing specification seen at tracks like Monaco and Hungary – using a slightly more spoon-shaped configuration and with elongated endplate ears.

The rear wing of the McLaren in Mexico

Aston Martin could be in big trouble – Ricciardo shows flashes of his best

Aston Martin experienced one of the darkest weekends of this second part of 2023, not repeating Austin’s comeback. Mixing components of the new base with the old (specifically the new diffuser but with the old base) did not produce any steps due to the damage to Alonso’s car.

It is not a technically simple situation. The AMR23 no longer responds to updates, which causes a significant loss of time at all levels of design and development.

It almost seems that the technical office has to rebuild its foundation, which would have been unthinkable until Miami.

The target that lies ahead between now and the end of the season is to be able to exploit every kilometre of the remaining session to collect data for next year and rediscover the correlation between track and simulations.

The performance trend of Alpha Tauri is of the opposite sign because it is clear that the upgrades clearly inspired by Red Bull are working, and Ricciardo’s return to Faenza has given a great push to do well.

AlphaTauri has risen from last position in the standings. The Australian has already contributed heavily to the intense constructors’ battle.

Authors: Rosario Giuliana and Giuliano Duchessa

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang