DANIEL Ricciardo’s Mexican Grand Prix was another the Perth driver would rather forget, but Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen was jubilant after cruising to an easy win.
Ricciardo had brilliant practice sessions, outrunning the Mercedes and Ferraris, but the gremlins struck: his car performed poorly in final qualifying and he struggled to seventh place.
There was more bad news coming when he was handed a late grid penalty after his mechanics made some engine changes and was demoted to 16th.
However, the Perth driver had a great first lap, zipping past eight cars and heading for the lead pack when the Red Bull suddenly ran out of puff and he coasted into the pits to retire on lap five.
“I don’t know how I’m smiling,” he said.
“I’m hurting inside. I guess the altitude and temperatures have been really hard (for the technicians) to stay on top. It’s been a pretty grim weekend.”
Up front there was drama as Verstappen and pole-sitter Sebastien Vettel touched tyres on the first corner and Vettel then ran into the back of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Both had to make pit stops and Hamilton rejoined in 20th place.
From there, he battled along to eventually finish ninth, while Vettel ended up fourth after a strong drive in his Ferrari.
But ninth place gave Hamilton two championship points, enough to ensure his fourth world title.
Verstappen had no trouble staying in front and he finished 20 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Merceds, with Kimi Raikkonen third for Ferrari.
It was the 20-year-old Dutchman’s second victory of the year.
“The start was crucial,” he said.
“I had to be a bit aggressive but managed to get around the outside at turn one and from then on I was just doing my own race.
“This was one of the easiest races of my career.”
Such was his pace that he even lapped Hamilton, and got a team instruction to slow down and take it easy.
Vettel brought his Ferrari home fourth, followed by Esteban Ocon in his best finish so far for Force India while Lance Stroll claimed sixth for Williams.
Seventh was Force India’s Sergio Perez and the remaining points places went to Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso (McLaren).