MEXICO CITY (AP) — Red Bull’s Max Verstappen went from fast to furious to winner. Daniel Ricciardo went from pole position to yet another disaster as engine failure doomed his car yet again.
The Mexican Grand Prix was a wild ride for Red Bull.
The team came to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez expecting to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari for the win in the high altitude of Mexico City.
The 21-year-old Verstappen had dominated practice and looked set to become the youngest driver in Formula One history to win pole position until Ricciardo snatched it away on his final lap. Infuriated, Verstappen returned to the track determined to get the win and defend his 2017 race victory.
“Amazing,” said Verstappen. “To be honest with you, I didn’t sleep very well last night.”
The Dutch driver has two wins this season and five podium finishes in the last seven races. It’s strong run in a season that began with mistakes that cost him potential victories and drew a reprimand for dangerous driving moves.
He slammed the door on the victory in Mexico at the start. A furious jump off the line beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to the first corner, and Verstappen was off and running toward an easy race for his fifth career victory.
Hamilton secured his fifth career championship with a fourth-place finish. He’d said before the race he likely couldn’t beat the Red Bulls.
A poor start and another round of engine failure beat Ricciardo, who has endured a frustrating season. Engine failure has killed his car in six of the last 11 races with two left on the season in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Race day began with such promise for Ricciardo.
Red Bull’s 1-2 start was their first front-row lockout since the start of the hybrid engine era in 2014. Ricciardo’s brilliant qualifying lap earned his third career pole position and the first since his victory in Monaco.
But he got left behind at the starting line and quickly dropped to third. He was in a furious fight to hold off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for second until smoke billowed from the back of his car with nine laps to go and he surrendered.
Ricciardo is leaving Red Bull’s Renault engines for the Renault team in 2019. Red Bull will be switching to Honda engines. Pierre Gasly will be taking Ricciardo’s place in a promotion from Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso.
“This car’s cursed,” Ricciardo said. “There’s two more races. I honestly don’t see the point of coming.”