Mexico F1 GP 2021 Preview: A high altitude battle between Verstappen and Hamilton

The Continental Circus is back at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez this weekend with the occasion of the Mexico F1 GP 2021 after the pandemic forced its absence from the calendar last year. The nineteenth round of this red-hot World Championship promises a highly charged battle on the track surrounded by the unique atmosphere that the passionate Mexican fans provide. 

With only five appointments left on the calendar, the struggle for the lead remains excitingly close. Title rivals Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) are currently a mere twelve points apart in the Drivers’ standings. We are in for another intense showdown this weekend. Besides, Ferrari, closer to Ferrari, will keep fighting for third place of the Constructors’ Championship.

Mercedes: On the counterattack 

With a wounded pride after the defeat at their American stronghold, the Germans will want to have their back on their rivals from Brackley. Despite the fact that the W12 is one step ahead of the RB16B when it comes to top speed, the Austrians’ strategy was able to snatch an otherwise more than likely Mercedes victory in Texas, particularly considering that the Briton had passed the Dutchman at the start. 

Mad Max, however, seems unphased by the offensives of the seven-time champion, both on and off the track. Immune to any kind of pressure, Max is displaying a remarkable level of maturity and strength of character. This has been his best F1 season so far with a total of seven wins including Austin against the five of his Stevenage opponent.

Key battle of the ‘second drivers in command’

The contribution of the ‘second drivers in command’ from each team will once again be key in such a close Championship. On the one hand, Valtteri Bottas‘ performance (Mercedes), has been highly irregular over the last few appointments. First, he conquered Turkey, but then he was unable to pass an Alpha Tauri in the United States, finishing in sixth place. 

Perez, on the other hand, is in a great state of form as demonstrated by his two consecutive podiums in Turkey and Texas. With a car that perfectly suits his driving style, the racer from Guadalajara is at his most comfortable and confident with the RB16B. On top of this, he will be counting on the support of his compatriots at the stands. 

All things considered and it is still impossible to venture into naming a favourite for Sunday. If we look at the stats we find three victories of the German team (2015, 2016 and 2019) against two of the Austrians (2017-18). At a personal level, Hamilton and Verstappen are tied with two previous wins in the Aztec capital. 

The altitude: A key factor in Mexico 

There is, however, a geographical condition that could tip the balance in favour of Red Bull. The altitude at the Autodromo de Los Hermanos Rodriguez, which is 2,285 meters above sea level, will have an effect on the cars, causing a reduction in downforce which is to benefit the RB16B against the W12. 

The lower level of oxygen and air density will put an extra strain on the mechanics. To compensate for this deficit, the turbochargers, smaller in the case of Mercedes, will have to rev up, compromising reliability. 

The middle zone: Ferrari to hunt McLaren down

One step below the two leading teams, Ferrari & McLaren, will resume their intense fight for third place of the Constructors’ Championship. With its new hybrid engine, La Scuderia has closed the performance gap with its British opponents to a point in which they are now just 3.5 points behind the team from Woking. 

Together with the leap in performance of the SF21, the recent good results of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have resulted in a true resurrection of the red team. The British team, on the contrary, has not been able to secure the third place they had taken for granted following Lando Norris‘ three weak performances over the three previous rounds.  

Images of Mexico F1 GP 2021:

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