Mexican GP: One down but one to go for Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton will become a six-time world champion this weekend should he beat his team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, by 14 points, but Mercedes are expecting a difficult race ahead.

Hamilton has clinched the title in Mexico the past two years but failed to finish on the podium in both races as the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, does not expect their fortunes in Mexico to change – despite winning their sixth consecutive constructor’s title last time out in Japan.

“The four remaining races are not going to be easy and we expect Mexico to be the most difficult.

“The high altitude of the track brings some fairly unusual challenges as the low air density affects the downforce of the car, the cooling and the engine performance.

“It’s a combination that doesn’t particularly suit our car, but we will give it everything to try and limit the damage” Wolff said.

Ways in which Hamilton can win the title in Mexico
If he wins with the fastest lap and Bottas fails to finish on the podium
If he wins without the fastest lap and Bottas is lower than fourth
If he finishes second and Bottas is lower than seventh – fastest lap is irrelevant here
If he finishes third with the fastest lap and Bottas is lower than eighth
If he is third without the fastest lap and Bottas is lower than ninth

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez circuit possesses a very elongated stretch into turn one and then another long straight between turn three and four which therefore, the power of the Ferrari edges them as the favourite around this track causing Hamilton to believe a sixth world title will be difficult to clinch this weekend.

“I think Mexico is generally our worst race of the year because of the way our car is set up and it’s going to be a tough one for us.

“The last few have been pretty shocking, even though we’ve won the title there. I’m hoping for a better weekend, but I think it’s going to be very hard to beat the Ferraris with those long straights” he said.

Since dominating the first half of the season, Mercedes have had it much tougher since the summer break which has included a run of six races without a pole position – the first time since 2013.

Instead it is Ferrari who have dominated on a Saturday with a pole position in each of the last five races, and a run that they will be expected to extend in Mexico due to the speedy nature of the circuit.

However, there have been many times in which Ferrari have looked in prime position to take pole and victory this season but have failed to do so for various reasons – Japan for example, Vettel was on pole but had a poor start, whereas Leclerc damaged his car by colliding into Verstappen which resulted in a penalty for the Ferrari driver.

Therefore, the chances are slim for Hamilton to win the title this weekend due to the sheer advantage Ferrari have over Mercedes in Mexico, but Red Bull may find themselves in the mix.

Three in a row for Verstappen?

Ferrari are expected to take both pole and victory this weekend as the nature of the track should benefit the Scuderia, however it is Red Bull who claimed pole last time out in Mexico and Verstappen who has won the last two races here.

In 2017, Sebastian Vettel started on pole, but Verstappen edged him out in wheel-to-wheel racing on the opening lap which then resulted in the Ferrari car needing a new front wing – Hamilton also won his fourth world title that day by finishing ninth.

Verstappen’s win in 2017 was his third career victory. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Meanwhile in 2018, Red Bull started on pole but through Daniel Ricciardo who edged out his team-mate by 0.026 seconds, but it was a different story on the Sunday.

Infuriated by the events of qualifying, Verstappen made amends in the race with the perfect start to be leading by turn one, whilst Ricciardo was slow off the line and ultimately retired from the race.

Verstappen won the Mexican Grand Prix again that day as Hamilton won his fifth world title by finishing fourth.

Will history repeat itself for a third successive time?

Red Bull and Verstappen have had a difficult time since the summer break, retiring on two separate occasions and only managing a podium finish in Singapore – but it was a race the team had pinpointed as one to win.

Such form has caused him to be less optimistic about his chances this weekend.

“I expect it to be a little bit more difficult this year because of the Ferrari pace, but I think we can still have a very good race.

“The corners are also very technical, so you have to work hard to make sure you get the best out of it but it’s a good track for us normally” he said.

Whilst his rookie team-mate, Alex Albon, is determined to carry his momentum from Japan into Mexico as he continues to fight for his 2020 place alongside Verstappen at Red Bull.

“After getting my best result of the season in Japan last week, I’ve got good confidence and direction heading to Mexico.

“Japan felt like my best weekend with the team, and we’re gelling more and more so I look forward to carrying that momentum into Mexico.

“Historically it’s been a good track for Red Bull, with pole position and a win there last year, so obviously that’s positive” he said.

The rookie has out-scored Verstappen since his debut race for the team in Belgium.

However despite the events of the past two years, Ferrari will still be favourites this weekend as Red Bull need to start showing the form they had just before the summer break.

 

By Edward Hardy

First seen on Formula 1