Lewis Hamilton is envisaging another “tough” Mexican Grand Prix for Mercedes in the wake of “pretty shocking” results in each of the past two seasons.
Hamilton has his first mathematical opportunity to clinch a sixth drivers’ world title in this Sunday’s race, but to have any chance he must finish on the podium — something he has not managed in Mexico City since 2016, despite clinching the last two championships there.
Red Bull have won the last two races at the atmospheric Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, with Ferrari also beating Mercedes last year around a complex circuit where downforce is reduced amid high altitude and car cooling is a key challenge. The Scuderia’s field-leading straight-line speed is likely to make them an even greater threat this weekend.
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“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,” predicted Hamilton.
“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.
“We have no hope of getting by on those straights, that’s for sure but even if you look at the others, the McLarens are picking up some serious speeds on the straights, so are the Red Bulls so I think it will be a tricky one.”
But can Red Bull make it a hat-trick?
Red Bull may head to Mexico City as the two-time defending victors of the event but Max Verstappen, who delivered both of those race wins, is a little more circumspect about their chances this time around.
“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,” said the Dutchman, who won by 17 seconds in 2018.
“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.”
Will the title fight go on to the USA?
After a dominant victory in Japan, Bottas is now the only driver in the field who can still deny Hamilton a sixth title this year.
The mathematics, however, remain stacked heavily in Hamilton’s favour. The current five-time champion leads by 64 points with only 104 left available.
Hamilton must outscore teammate Valtteri Bottas by 14 points on Sunday to be champion with three rounds to spare, but the Briton predicted: “I don’t anticipate it will be Mexico. I think we will be battling for a good few races.”
Bottas, buoyed by his first race win in six months, is naturally hopeful of prolonging the battle for as long as he can.
“Everything’s possible although I’m realistic as well that I will need to be very lucky, that’s a fact, to win all the rest of the races,” said the Finn.
“But yeah, I don’t really think about that much at this point. It is my bad, mostly, that I’ve been behind this much in the points compared to Lewis, it’s my fault which I try to fix for the future but it is where we are now and just take it now race by race and see how it goes.”