No driver has lost the Formula One drivers' championship after winning eight races in a year: It's the one statistic that's been used and overused in the 2016 season. But one of Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg — both drivers have now clinched eight wins each this season (Rosberg actually has nine) — will become the first to do so. To be honest though, in a season with 21 races, the statistic makes little sense, and as Daniil Kvyat put it, 2016 seems like 10 seasons in one.
Lewis Hamilton, the reigning world champion who is fighting Nico Rosberg and reliability gremlins to win his fourth drivers' championship title, won his eighth race of the season in Mexico. This win came on the back of a win he had claimed at the United States Grand Prix last weekend. Hamilton is now only 19 points away from Rosberg with 50 points up for grabs at the remaining two races — Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Here are a few talking points from the weekend:
Why did the FIA not penalise Hamilton for his opening lap act?
The otherwise boring Mexican Grand Prix was marred with much controversy. And one of the controversies was about why Lewis Hamilton, who at the start locked up into Turn 1 and decided to cut through the grass to rejoin at Turn 2 after gaining a significant advantage, wasn't penalised for his act. This is despite Max Verstappen being awarded a penalty for the very same act in the closing stages of the race.
Had the FIA penalised Hamilton for his act, would the result of the Mexican Grand Prix be any different? We'd like to believe so. After all, overtaking was next to impossible, and had Verstappen or Rosberg taken the lead at that early stage, there's good reason to believe that they had the pace to claim victory.
But sport isn't about ifs and buts, and apart from this opening lap incident, Hamilton drove a flawlessly dominating race to take yet another crucial victory ahead of teammate and title rival, Nico Rosberg.
By the way, Hamilton's "start issues" seem like a thing of the past and it's a good thing that it won't be a clutch that decides this year's champion!
Nico Rosberg – still taking each race as it comes?
Nico Rosberg, who finished second behind Hamilton for the second weekend in succession, seemed scarily relaxed at being beaten by his teammate. Maybe this is Rosberg's strength, knowing that there will be days when Hamilton will be unbeatable. And he's had two such days in the last week.
And although settling for second place on such days wouldn't harm his championship prospects since it is Hamilton who has to do all the attacking, playing to finish second in every race would be a far more dangerous strategy. This is exactly why Rosberg is arriving with the intention to win that particular race rather than focus on the championship. But with two races remaining, for how long can this strategy work?
The Mexican Grand Prix offered Rosberg his first "match point" of the season. Had he won with Hamilton failing to score, he would have been crowned world champion. At Brazil, Rosberg would get his second "match point" and he needs to finish seven points ahead of Hamilton — basically a win with Hamilton finishing second or lower.
However, as Bernie Ecclestone put it, let's wait till the end of the year to see who does clinch the world championship and something tells us that the title battle will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. By the way, if Rosberg and Hamilton are tied on points, the driver with maximum race wins will be crowned champion. At the moment, Hamilton has eight wins, compared to Rosberg's nine. However, if the former wins the remaining two races, his tally will be 10 wins this season.
Congratulations, Daniel Ricciardo!
The Australian driver sealed third place in the drivers' championship at the Mexican Grand Prix. But this wasn't without much drama, controversy and the intervention of the FIA. The fight for third place included Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and Ricciardo, and it was the driver with the cleanest moves on track who came out on top. Maybe a learning or two for Vettel and Baby Vettel (Verstappen)?
We witnessed the most bizarre post-race podium ceremonies in modern Formula 1 history. Max Verstappen, who took third at the chequered flag, thought he was going to the podium, when actually it was meant to be Vettel, given Verstappen's penalty that saw him demoted to fifth.
However, after yet another post-race investigation that saw Vettel penalised for trying to do a "Verstappen" (or moving in the braking zone), it was Daniel Ricciardo who finally clinched third place. Ferrari handed over the trophy to Red Bull Racing without much fanfare.
Given Ricciardo's celebratory moves, his "shoey" was sorely missed by everyone, including former Grand Prix winner and podium interviewer Juan Pablo Montoya.
FIA at their inconsistent best
In our view, FIA's inconsistent stewarding was exposed yet again. Hamilton should have been penalised, much like Max Verstappen was. Daniel Ricciardo's summary is the best description of this incident: "I also didn't understand the start. How you can be leading the race, defend, go off the track and not get a penalty? What was different with Max's move and Lewis' move?"
On the other hand, Vettel's penalty was questionable given the lack of a serious jibe (the one that Verstappen is famous for) and since the quadruple world champion had left room for Ricciardo on the inside. However, was the FIA trying to enforce the rule and make an example out of Vettel for a rule it had clarified only a week before Mexico or did they penalise Vettel for his unnecessary use of abusive language towards race director Charlie Whiting? If it is the latter, Vettel did get by lightly.
Although there's widespread belief in the paddock that there would be far more repercussions for Vettel soon. Either way, the incident between Ricciardo and Vettel is also the perfect example of why the "Verstappen" move is dangerous and needs addressing from a safety point of view. Both drivers were on their absolute limit when Vettel moved slightly towards Ricciardo while defending his position and both locked up wheel and overshot the corner after miraculously escaping damage.
There was absolutely no grip left to make directional adjustments, should one be needed to avoid another car. If you're a Formula 1 fan, you should probably go see the on-board footage and read this paragraph yet again.
Williams fastest, but beaten by Force India
Finally, Force India increased their lead over Williams to nine points in the race for fourth place for in the constructors' championship. The circuit characteristics favoured Williams, so Hulkenberg's performance (P7) to beat both their cars must be lauded. The sheer straight line speed advantage that Williams enjoyed saw Serio Perez, Force India's Mexican driver, make multiple attempts to beat Felipe Massa throughout the race before settling for 10th.
For those interested, Valtteri Bottas' Williams topped the straight line speed trap with a 372 kmph reading!
As we move to Brazil, Rosberg has won here in the last two years and will be aiming for a win to seal his maiden drivers' championship crown. However, it is one of those rare occurrences on the calendar when we arrive at a race venue Lewis Hamilton is yet to claim a win at. Which Mercedes driver will it be? Be rest assured that either or both Red Bull Racing drivers will be in the mix, and so will be Brazil's infamous ever-changing mixed weather!