This will be Lewis Hamilton’s second chance to seal his fifth Formula 1 title after wasting his first opportunity at the Grand Prix of the United States last week.
The Briton is well on his way to achieving his fifth crown. If he does, Hamilton will draw level with Juan Manuel Fangio, the second driver with the most F1 World Titles in history behind Michael Schumacher. The only way for his main rival, Sebastian Vettel to avoid it, is to win the Mexican race himself.
The boys from Red Bull, especially Max Verstappen, winner of last year’s Mexican Grand Prix, could play a decisive role in how things develop.
Regarding the Spaniards, forecasts are mixed. Fernando Alonso is likely to continue suffering the poor performance of his car and will struggle to scratch any points in such a fast track. Carlos Sainz, on the other hand, could climb up some positions after his great result in Austin last weekend.
Hamilton, just five points away from his fifth world title
The British driver arrives at the Mexican Grand Prix leading the standings by 346 points, 70 more than main rival Sebastian Vettel, and with just 75 points left up for grabs over the last three races of the season: Mexico, Brazil and Abu-Dabi.
It is therefore that the champion from Stevenage needs just 5 points to seal the dream, which he would get with just a seventh position at the Hermanos Rodriguez. Moreover, he only needs those five points if the German from Ferrari happens to win the race because otherwise, he would automatically become world champion at the Central American circuit anyway.
Not only the odds are in favour of the Mercedes number 44 but also are all the stats. Lewis won the Mexican Grand Prix of 2015 and two years after that, he became Formula 1 World Champion for the fourth time at the very same circuit.
However, and despite his privileged position, Hamilton still has some concerns regarding the blistering he suffered last week at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, which forced him to perform a second pit-stop. If the same thing happens in Mexico, it could compromise his race strategy, jeopardising his victory.
Tyre overheating and degradation, a somehow characteristic issue with the Silver Bullets could be a real obstacle for Hamilton on his way to getting his fifth world championship title.
Mercedes attempted to solve this issue in Austin by opening some further ventilation gaps in their wheel rims, but some sources revealed they decided to seal those off before the race in fear of sanctions.
Ferrari, having gained their confidence back after the surprising win of Kimi Raikkonen at the United States Grand Prix, will attempt once more to delay Hamilton’s title hopes, at least until Brazil.
In order to do that Vettel must first win the Mexican Grand Prix. In any other case, the fight for the Drivers’ Championship Title 2018 will end regardless.
The Hermanos Rodriguez circuit is incredibly fast, which might play in favour of the Maranello team. The track is 4.304 metres long and includes a never-ending 1.314 metre straight, which suits the red bullets and their superior top speed.
Another key factor will be the performance of the engines at 2.200 metres above sea-level, this being the Formula 1 race which takes place at the highest altitude of all. In such conditions and with an oxygen concentration of just 78%, the mechanics of racing cars tend to suffer.
Red Bull would aspire to repeat last years’ feat and become the winners of the Mexican Grand Prix for the second time in a row. Mercedes and Ferrari cannot get too confident or they could easily lose a podium position to the blue single-seaters.
Dutch driver Max Verstappen, who also got the victory at the Hermanos Rodriguez in 2017, is on a lucky strike. He was second in the United States and has climbed the podium in three of the last four races of the season. There is no doubt that the young talent poses a real threat to the leading teams.
War at the midfield
The battle is still rife for the top positions of the midfield at the Mexican Grand Prix. Four drivers (Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso) are all within eight points of each other.
After his outstanding sixth position in Austin, Nico Hulkenberg remains the better classified (7th) behind the drivers from the three leading Scuderias; Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
Both him and his team-mate Carlos Sainz will have to accrue as many points as possible at the Hermanos Rodriguez in order to keep the French team in the fourth position of the Constructors Championship standings.
Just four points (57) behind Hulkenberg is Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez. The Racing Point Force India driver will be giving it all for the dream of a great performance in his home country on Sunday. Both the driver from Jalisco and his team-mate, Esteban Ocon (11th in the standings and just 9 points behind), would aspire to come in the top ten at the Mexican Grand Prix.
It is hard to tell what could happen with Haas. Kevin Magnussen is just 9 points behind Perez and eager to fight after being disqualified at the USA Grand Prix.
Both Magnussen’s and his team-mate Romain Grosjean’s VF-18s have enough potential to carry them into the top ten positions at the Mexican Grand Prix but their erratic performance makes their outcome very difficult to predict.
The Mexican Grand Prix presents itself very differently for the two Spaniards on the grid. Fernando Alonso is bound to suffer again because of his car. The high speed of the Hermanos Rodriguez is bound to highlight even more the deficiencies of one of the worse vehicles of the grid.
Alonso needs a miracle to make it into the points at the Mexican Grand Prix. Unfortunately, the great skill and magic of the Spaniard at the wheel is bound to be wasted once again onboard his papaya–shaded tortoise.
His friend Carlos Sainz, on the other hand, could expect a good result. The driver from Madrid, who has managed to climb up positions in five of the last six races is exultant. His seventh position in the United States, which could have been a sixth if it wasn’t for the team orders, fills him with hope for the Mexican Grand Prix.
Main image: F1.