By Neil Leverett
- Round 18 of the 2019 Formula 1 season rolls into the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez this weekend for the Mexican Grand Prix
- Lewis Hamilton stands on brink of history, knowing victory in Central America could see the Briton win sixth World title
- Brit will secure World Drivers’ Championship with win, if teammate Valtteri Bottas finishes fifth or lower – even with bonus point
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – With the 2019 Formula 1 home straight in sight, can Lewis Hamilton seal his earliest World Drivers’ Championship yet at the Mexican Grand Prix this weekend?
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History on horizon
Having departed the rather battered shores of Japan a fortnight ago, the end of season glow approaches on the horizon this weekend in Central America. Indeed, for Lewis Hamilton, the call of history beckons the Briton on the brink of smashing the record books this weekend, in Round 18 of the 2019 Formula 1 season at the Mexican Grand Prix.
As a three-legged tour of the Americas begins before the end of season spectacle in Abu Dhabi on the cusp of December, the Briton can seal a third successive World Drivers’ Championship, win his tenth race of the season – with his 64-point lead – and move to number six on the role-call of Formula 1 title honours, if Hamilton wins and teammate Valtteri Bottas finishes fifth or lower – even if the Finn claims the race bonus point in Mexico.
McLaren-Mercedes however, know the realisation that Hamilton’s crowning glory may have to wait a few more weeks yet, in the knowledge Mexico has been rather a sizeable blip on the late season dominance of the German manufacturer in recent years.
Indeed, for the last seasons Mexico has been a mere fork in the road for Mercedes, with Max Verstappen winning here for the last two seasons running. But, after both Hamilton and Bottas wrestled back the strangehold on the destination of the Constructors’ Championships with back-to-back dominance once more, can Mercedes return to the glories of 2015 and 2016, where they ruled at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and can Hamilton win his earliest title yet this weekend?
Mexico ‘most difficult’
Those ambitions for the moment seem more a pipe dream, with Mercedes expecting the final four races to something to be difficult, with Mexico poised to be one of their toughest races on the calendar.
That was at least the opinion of Team Principal Toto Wolff and despite having sealed the Constructors’ crown for sixth year running, the Mercedes’ boss believed the track will not suit the car this weekend – as it hasn’t for the past two races in Mexico.
As Wolff told BBC Sport:
“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.”
That admission is likely to be music to the ears of the Formula 1 chasing pack, with Verstappen in particular looking to make his own piece of history as the first man to win three races around Mexico City’s environs.
Add to that the fact that despite Mercedes having pulled away from the field in terms of title consideration, the battle to finish third after Abu Dhabi remains quite the incentive, not least for Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel remarkably locked on 212 points apiece with Verstappen after 17 races, whilst Charles Leclerc continues to force his team into decisions over personnel priority in the driver’s seat.
Renault Suzuka DQ
Away from the title picture, Renault arrive in Mexico fresh from Wednesday’s news that the French manufacturer suffered a double race disqualification from last time out at the Japanese Grand Prix, following the use of an illegal driving aid.
With Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg both finishing in the top ten at Suzuka respectively, FIA officials found Renault to have contravened regulations involving both car’s brake-bias system, which allowed at least a partially mechanical race boost – that being non-human influenced.
Having been stripped of the points, Leclerc moves up to sixth from his result of a fortnight ago, but his improved will not affect the result of either the Drivers’ or Constructors’ points table as the season heads to its’ conclusion.
Reacting to the decision, Renault railed against the inconsistencies and subjective nature of the ruling, adding, as quoted by BBC Sport their decision not to appeal the decision in regard to what would a be “investing further time and effort in a sterile debate”:
“[However] since we have no new evidence to bring other than that already produced to demonstrate the legality of our system, we do not wish to invest further time and effort in a sterile debate in front of the International Court of Appeal concerning the subjective appreciation, and therefore sanction, related to an aid that reduces the driver workload without enhancing the performance of the car.”
The 2019 Mexican Grand Prix take place this weekend at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, with the race on Sunday at 19:10 GMT.
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