| |

F1: So just who should have been swigging the fizz in Mexico?

Bryan Edwards

Hamilton won, Rosberg was second. Then it all got a bit muddled. Now the a third driver has been awarded third place. If the shoe fits...

Sebastian Vettel is rapidly becoming a nuisance in Formula One. It's hard to tell if it's because he's driving for Ferrari, because he's a multi-world champion, because he's formerly a Red Bull driver or because he's German, the end result is the same: he's a foul mouthed bully who clearly thinks he has some kind of divine right to any piece of track he chooses.

This season, he tangled with Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat including an incident where Vettel was clearly at fault. Yet, after a heated exchange on the pit wall with Red Bull team principle, Christian Horner, watched Kvyat demoted to the sister Torro Rosso team. That didn't work out too well because the natural replacement at Red Bull was the young Dutchman Max Verstappen.

Verstappen has had his moments with Vettel's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen but the Finn has not been as voluble nor as threatening as Vettel. Verstappen has had his share of run-ins with other drivers due to his driving technique: he holds his line during the approach to corners, waits until a chasing car elects which side to go to try to overtake, then shuts the door. It is hard to see why there is such universal condemnation of this: he has never lost control of his car in the corner while doing this, unless someone has hit him from behind. His car control is prodigious - and I mean that in its true sense. What other drivers are actually complaining about is that he can change direction and brake later than them in the same corners and complaining that his tactic is unsafe is the best way to neutralise his advantage. And that, the FIA through Charlie Whiting, has done.

But that doesn't mean he has to give way: now he simply holds his line, making everyone take an unstable line around the bends if they want to try to overtake.

Vettel, after failing to pass him for several laps despite entirely inappropriate complaints into the radio that Verstappen was in his way (that's fine: they were racing for position) could not pass. Then Verstappen overshot a corner and came back on ahead of Vettel who spent the last four laps of the race screaming obscenities into the radio, even going so far as to tell Charlie Whiting, the chief FIA representative during Grand Prix weekends, to f*** off. Not a wise move and as one of Sky F1's commentators said, if he'd done that in almost any other sport, Vettel would have been penalised for bringing the sport into disrepute.

The stewards decided to investigate the events after the race. Verstappen was, therefore, not notified whether any penalty would be applied. He was, therefore, entitled to hold station and so he remained ahead of Vettel. But not only did he keep Vettel back, it also allowed the Red Bull team leader Daniel Ricciardo, to catch up to Vettel. That didn't please the German who adopted aggressive defence under braking into a chicane.

The effect was that the third, fourth and fifth place cars all finished within a little over four seconds.

Verstappen went to the cool-down room and Vettel went back to the pits. Then came an announcement that Verstappen had been awarded a five second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage (i.e. keeping third place). He was unceremoniously escorted from the room and Vettel ran from the pits to the podium, which in Mexico are not close to each other. At the ceremony, therefore, Vettel was presented with third place and sat on the platform for the podium place interviews.

But it's not over until someone drinks from Ricciardo's shoe and not long afterwards, the stewards issued a penalty to Vettel for "moving under-braking." Biter bit: that's the offence that Charlie Whiting created in Austin just a week before because so many drivers, including Vettel, blamed Verstappen. His penalty was ten seconds.

Ricciardo's comments at F1.com (https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/headlines/2016/10/ricciardo--vettel-d...) are priceless.

So the final result (now everyone's gone home, it's final unless someone appeals to Paris), was Hamilton, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Vettel.

That means that Rosberg is now only 29 points ahead of Hamilton in the Championship. If he wins in Brazil in two weeks, Rosberg will sew up the championship. But if he has a bit of Hamilton's equipment failure bad luck and has either an DNF or finishes out of the points and Hamilton wins, then, as between those two, it will be "winner takes all" in Abu Dhabi as they will go into the race with Hamilton only four points ahead. This could yet turn into one of the closest championships ever.

If Hamilton wins in Brazil and Rosberg gets no points, Hamilton will be four points ahead at the last race. In Abu Dhabi, a Rosberg win and Hamilton P2 will give the German a three point lead at the end of the season. But, if they finish lower down the order, then the permutations become much more complicated.

1st : 25 points
2nd : 18 points
3rd : 15 points
4th : 12 points
5th : 10 points
6th : 8 points
7th : 6 points
8th : 4 points
9th : 2 points
10th : 1 point

For example, Rosberg P2 and Hamilton P3 in Abu Dhabi would give Hamilton the championship by one point. And if they move down the table in tandem, Hamilton's chances get better.