Verstappen seeks Formula One record to extend Mexico dominance

By Sports Desk October 26, 2022

Max Verstappen has seen numerous records fall his way this season and one of the most illustrious is up for grabs this weekend in Mexico, where a victory would take him to 14 for the season.

Such a win would see him become the driver to have won the most races in a single season, having joined Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel on 13 with his success in the United States.

That triumph was his ninth this season without starting in pole, surpassing Lewis Hamilton (eight) for the most such wins in a single campaign, and will be full of confidence given a stellar record in Mexico - where he has prevailed three times (2018, 2019, 2021). Verstappen and Jim Clark share the record for the most Mexican Grand Prix wins.

Red Bull also have a team record in their sight, having now won eight races in a row to stand one shy of the nine victories in a row they secured in 2013, which is the sixth-longest winning streak for a team in F1 history.

While Verstappen and Red Bull are in search of further records, Lewis Hamilton is looking to avoid one as he is still in search of his first victory in 2022 and the Mercedes driver was strong in the United States.

The British driver has never finished a Formula One season in his career without a race win and has just three grands prix to ensure that this is not the year when he stands winless for the first time.

Much of the attention will continue to be off the track, however, with Red Bull's cost-cap breach in 2021 yet to be resolved and dominating the discussions, though a final outcome should be right around the corner.

Pole variety

The Mexican Grand Prix has seen 10 different racers on pole position in the last 10 editions, a record that will almost certainly be extended after qualifying on Saturday as 2021 pole sitter Valtteri Bottas is now at Alfa Romeo.

The last driver to win consecutive pole positions in this race was Ayrton Senna in 1988 and 1989.

Leclerc's late change

Charles Leclerc was Max Verstappen's biggest threat early in the season but a plethora of problems derailed the title ambitions of the Ferrari driver, with mistakes, bad luck and mechanical issues all plaguing his performances.

Some consistency has been found recently, however, with Leclerc finishing on the podium in each of his last five Formula One races – his longest such run in his career.

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    The seven-time world champion has not won a race for more than two years, but he led a surprise Mercedes one-two under the lights of the Sakhir Circuit on Thursday night.

    Hamilton finished two tenths clear of team-mate George Russell, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso third.

    On yet another explosive off-track day for Red Bull, Max Verstappen bemoaned the handling of his machine. He finished sixth.

    The Silver Arrows went under the radar at last week’s test in the Gulf kingdom, but they were quietly optimistic heading into Thursday’s running – and the second session belonged to the team that once dominated the sport.

    “This has been a crazy Thursday,” said Hamilton, 39. “I don’t understand it, and it is a shock to see us where we are, but we will take it for now.

    “We cannot get ahead of ourselves. We need to keep our head down and keep working on the setup.

    “But I am much happier with the car. I have a better feel of it approaching the corners, and there are other areas that have been fixed and improved.

    “It feels like a race car and the last two cars didn’t feel like that. It is a really good platform to work from. We have to keep our heads down and keep on chasing.”

    Hamilton is gearing up for his final season with Mercedes after he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early to join Ferrari in 2025.

    Mercedes have carried Hamilton to six of his record-equalling seven titles. But last year marked a second straight season without a victory for the British driver – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

    However, Hamilton, in his radically revised car – after the design concept which failed so spectacularly for the past two seasons was abandoned – will take faith from an encouraging day.

    But Hamilton expects Verstappen, who has raced to the past three world championships, will still be the one to beat.

    “I think we are going to be in the mix,” added Hamilton. “We are there or thereabouts with Ferrari and maybe Aston Martin and McLaren.

    “It is going to be close, but if Max is out in front he will drive off as he has done for the past couple of years.”

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    “Everything is s***,” yelled Verstappen over the radio. “Like miles off.”

    However, the 26-year-old remained confident he would be in a strong position for the 57-lap Grand Prix.

    “It is very close and maybe some people around us have turned up the engine in terms of top speed,” he said.

    “I’m not too worried about the gap to first, for example. It is going to be close in qualifying. I was happier about the long run for the race.”

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    Horner has been cleared to continue as Red Bull team principal following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” towards a female colleague.

    Horner was on the Red Bull pit wall on Thursday for both practice sessions of the new season.

    “I am pleased that the process is over and I cannot comment about it,” he told Sky Sports. “I am focused on the season ahead. Within the team it (the unity) has never been stronger.”

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    It is understood that neither Formula One’s owners, Liberty Media, nor its regulator, the FIA, has seen the report.

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    “I just read the statement, which was pretty basic,” said Wolff. “My personal opinion is we can’t really look behind the curtain.

    “There is a lady in an organisation that has spoken to HR and said there was an issue and it was investigated and yesterday the sport has received the message that it’s all fine, we’ve looked at it.

    “I believe with the aspiration as a global sport, on such critical topics, it needs more transparency and I wonder what the sport’s position is?

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    McLaren CEO Zak Brown agreed with his Mercedes counterpart.

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    “I don’t think it’s the teams’ roles and responsibilities. That’s up to FIA and Formula One to ultimately decide and ask what they feel gives them the level of transparency they need to ultimately come to their conclusion and we just have to count on them that they fulfil that obligation to all of us.”

    The PA news agency has contacted Formula One and the FIA for comment.

    Horner, who has protested his innocence throughout, was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours earlier this month at a secret London location.

    He has been Red Bull team principal since they entered F1 19 years ago and is the longest-serving boss on the grid.

    He has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles.

    Red Bull have dominated the sport in recent seasons and last year won 21 of the 22 races, with Dutch driver Max Verstappen setting a new record for 10 consecutive victories as he wrapped up his third title.

    Horner, who is married to former Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell, was awarded a CBE for his services to motorsport in the New Year Honours.

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