F1: Another Perspective – Nothing Left but Time in Mexico City
Lewis Hamilton is now just one world championship away from becoming the greatest British driver of all time. As if a further incentive was needed, a fourth world title would also put him level with Alain Prost and Ferrari’s main driver of the present era – none other than four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
With Ferrari’s rate of development gathering pace throughout the season, the odds of Vettel making a genuine title challenge in 2016 have shortened considerably, but Hamilton is an undisputed champion. Disastrous Grands Prix in Hungary and Singapore are now just an unpleasant memory, with Hamilton winning three consecutive races to clinch the world title.
Much has been made of Mercedes’ unrivalled machinery as an aid to Hamilton, but there is no dispute that he fought like a true champion in the closing laps of the US Grand Prix. Poor conditions, brought about by Hurricane Patricia, threatened to derail the plans of many a driver, but a fiasco of a qualifying round gave way to an unexpectedly enthralling race.
The same podium of Hamilton-Rosberg-Vettel is likely to be emulated at the Mexican Grand Prix but, beyond the top three, the US event was another tale of intrigue. Typically, it was a certain young Dutchman that stole the limelight with another promising performance.
Max Verstappen’s fourth place finish in Hungary was attained by an equal measure of fortune and valour, but it was on merit alone that the second-generation F1 driver emulated his Hungaroring heroics in Austin, TX. In recent weeks, Verstappen has (quite literally!) come of age, showing great character after a disappointing Italian Grand Prix, and attaining three consecutive top ten finishes since celebrating his eighteenth birthday on September 30th.
A first career race at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is a challenge that should be relished by Verstappen, who was still five years away from being born the last time the Mexican Grand Prix was held, a race won by Nigel Mansell in 1992.
The Mexican circuit is as simplistic as Suzuka and Monaco are tricky, with a straightforward layout and a long straight preceding a series of chicanes. This will suit Verstappen’s aggressive style and another points-finish should be a certainty for the emerging star. His Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. also produced an excellent performance in Austin, making him another strong contender for a top ten berth in Mexico City.
Indeed, strong performances from both factions of Red Bull (not just Toro Rosso) are expected, given the low average age of the four drivers within the Red Bull stable. Daniil Kvyat will be another driver to watch, having raced well until an accident forced his retirement in Austin.
HOME COMFORTS FOR PEREZ?
Given the long-term absence of the event, this circuit is an unknown quantity to even the most experienced drivers in the field. Ultimately, with Hamilton already champion, this race is set to be an open and exciting affair.
In the US Grand Prix, fifth place went to Sergio Perez. Like Verstappen, Perez has enjoyed a recent patch of finishes in the point-scoring zone, five from the last six after retiring at the Hungaroring. This run also includes an impressive podium finish at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.
PREDICTED TOP TEN
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Sebastian Vettel
3. Nico Rosberg
4. Valtteri Bottas
5. Kimi Raikkonnen
6. Sergio Perez
7. Daniil Kvyat
8. Felipe Massa
9. Max Verstappen
10. Felipe Nasr
For live updates of the Mexican Grand Prix, visit Motorsport24.com