Mexico F1 GP: Red Bull's last chance for a 2018 victory?
Ferrari were resurgent, Mercedes remained front-runners, and Red Bull were the surprise package in Austin, but is the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix set ...
Ferrari were resurgent, Mercedes remained front-runners, and Red Bull were the surprise package in Austin, but is the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix set to be another contest between all three teams?
The drivers' championship is excruciatingly close to being wrapped up by Lewis Hamilton; the Mercedes man requires a minimum of seventh place - or for Sebastian Vettel to simply not win - to mathematically seal the title.
The Briton is on course to repeat his championship success in 2017 by sealing the title at the vibrant Mexican Grand Prix.
For a couple of races now, the focus has turned to the constructors' contest and the battle for individual Grand Prix wins, with Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit in Mexico City hoping to host a battle between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
The location of round 18 is Unique to Formula One: it's over 2km above sea level, and the thinner air can play havoc with teams.
Despite the circuit having one of the longest straights on the calendar, the lower air density means that it's harder to generate downforce, so cars will be running with wings closer to Monaco specification in order to have any chance in the corners.
The thinner air also why the cars will generally produce their highest top speeds of the season. This is despite the engines also being starved of the richer air, which are helped out by the turbochargers. Cooling is also an issue here.
Ferrari were quick in Mexico City last year, but the lower dependence on ultimate power brings Red Bull into play. They will also be helped out by the importance of mechanical grip, particularly in the lower-speed sections.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has said on a couple of occasions that the Mexican Grand Prix would be one of the team's main opportunities to win again before the conclusion of the 2018 season.
At last year's event, all three teams were represented on the first three grids spots, but a tangle between Vettel and Hamilton allowed Verstappen to a relatively straightforward victory. Do we have all the ingredients for a three-team scrap for the 2018 victory?
Can Perez star at home?
Force India's Sergio Perez will have the enthusiastic local crowd on his side as he participates in his fourth home Grand Prix, aiming to keep up his 100% scoring record at the venue.
Force India managed to take fifth and seventh at last year's race, and their recent point-scoring run suggests that it won't be long before they overtake McLaren - eleven points ahead - for sixth place in the constructors' championship.
Such is their form, Force India would have been in fourth place overall without the deletion of their early season points due to the change in ownership.
“I think the probability of us finishing ahead of McLaren is more than 50 per cent,” said Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer. “I’d say that’s the limit.
“It’s always frustrating to know that 59 points were taken away, but it is what it is. We move forward and start focusing on what we have for the remaining races and seeing how many points we can score. Hopefully we’ll have three strong races, which I think we can do, and score a plethora of points and finish sixth.
“My other hope is that, with those plethora of points, the virtual finish will be fourth. That would just feel nice anyway.”
Following their fourteen-point haul in Austin - their best race of the season - Renault have high hopes of holding on to fourth place in the constructors' contest and for the upcoming race in Mexico.
The inclusion of more lower-speed corners should, on paper, suit Renault, who have generally struggled against their midfield rivals in recent races.
Nico Hulkenberg's sixth-place finish also edges him ahead in the battle for the second tier championship (7th place). He's now four points clear of Perez, and eight ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen, who was disqualified from ninth place at the United States Grand Prix.
Further back, the battle for eighth place swung ever-so-slightly in Toro Rosso's favour in Austin. Both Brendon Hartley and Marcus Ericsson were beneficiaries of two disqualifications in the top ten, with the Toro Rosso and Sauber drivers taking ninth and tenth respectively. This resulted in Toro Rosso extended their advantage to four points over Sauber.
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport ImagesWho do you think will take the victory in Mexico City? Which midfield team do you think will finish 'best of the rest' this weekend? Leave your thoughts in the section below.
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