Seven-time world drivers’ champion Lewis Hamilton has a steep hill to climb after Max Verstappen extended his lead to 12 points after beating the Mercedes driver at the US Grand Prix.
If we had to pick a moment where momentum swung into the Dutch driver’s favour it would be the win at the Circuit of the Americas. Despite a late charge from Hamilton, his rival held on for an important win at a crucial stage of the season.
Ahead of this weekend’s race in Mexico City, we look at what to expect from a track that Red Bull has dominated at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit.
The Honda power unit has performed well at high altitude tracks in the past and will have a clear pace advantage over their rivals, Mercedes, this weekend and at Interlagos. In fact, the race in Mexico takes place two kilometres above sea level. The Red Bull’s set-up has its benefits for the 4,3 km long track as well as having a Mexican driver in Sergio Perez driving for the team at his home race. Another aspect to consider is that Hamilton is likely to take another engine penalty this weekend and therefore will start lower down on the grid.
It remains to be seen from Friday’s practise sessions as to which Red Bull is faster but what’s clear is that team boss Christian Horner will use team orders on Sunday to give Verstappen as many points as possible in order to maintain his championship lead.
Mercedes is worried about reliability issues with its internal combustion engine (ICE) and is likely to see Hamilton take a penalty to reduce the risk of engine failure during the race.
The track hasn’t been used since 2019 due to the pandemic and the owners laid down a hefty investment to have the Autodromo modified by Hermann Tilke seven years ago.
Apart from Mercedes and Red Bull, the Ferrari and McLaren teams will likely be battling in the ‘best of the rest’. In terms of past form, Charles Leclerc started on pole in 2019 after Verstappen’s grid penalty, Hamilton ended up winning the race.
The Ferrari’s power unit upgrade has seen them score points in the last several races and they’ll need to lean on it as the power-sapping high altitude circuit. The more the better, essentially. Expect the AlphaTauris and Alpines to be fighting in the points positions, too.