Fresh from a thrilling Grand Prix in Texas, the teams and drivers make an immediate trip south to Mexico City for this weekend’s showdown at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Lewis Hamilton made history there last year, and he could well do it again if he secures his fifth world championship. So, do the stats bode well for the Mercedes star? Let’s find out…
Hamilton could have achieved that fifth title in Austin had he outscored chief title rival Sebastian Vettel by eight points. But a masterclass from race-winner Kimi Raikkonen and a superb drive from Max Verstappen meant the Briton had to make do with third place, extending his lead over his German counterpart by three points.
And so, following nicely on from Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, it’s another modern classic that hosts the season’s 19th round – Mexico’s popular Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. All eyes will be on Hamilton – who secured his fourth world title here last year – and he knows if he finishes seventh or higher, then he can put a fifth trophy in his cabinet.
So without further ado, let’s dig into the data and see who’s got the wind in their sails heading to the Mexican Grand Prix…
The form book…
Formula 1 cars arrived in Mexico in 1962 for a non-championship race, returning the following year for a proper, bona fide Grand Prix. That 1963 race was won by Jim Clark, while for the next few years, Mexico’s fiesta vibes meant it became the traditional season-ender for Formula 1.
Since then, Mexican fans have had to endure two lengthy spells without Grand Prix action, but the country was welcomed back onto the F1 calendar in 2015. And in the three races at the upgraded track, we’ve seen our fair share of entertainment and great racing.
Much of the talk this season has been the Mercedes vs Ferrari battle, and it’s perhaps the former team who have the upper hand in Mexico. They’ve won two of the last three Grands Prix here, with Hamilton following up on Nico Rosberg’s 2015 triumph a year later.
The Prancing Horse are tied on two Mexican GP victories with Mercedes, but those wins came in 1970 and 1990. They’ll obviously be buoyed by their morale-boosting Austin win, though, and have often secured victories this season when the odds were against them.
It’s hard to say who is the favourite this weekend, with this circuit only recently returning to the calendar, and it is by no means guaranteed to be a tussle between red and silver cars, with a certain Milton Keynes squad listing the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez among their strong tracks.
Red Bull proved their strength here last year, Max Verstappen producing a fine performance to secure what was the third triumph of his career. Team boss Christian Horner spoke of their chances of glory following the United States GP, admitting 'both the guys can be strong in Mexico', so we could well see another enthralling battle between the top three teams this weekend.
The stats that matter…
Lewis Hamilton has finished on the podium at the last nine consecutive races, the second-longest streak of his career behind his 16-race run in 2014-15 (the record is Michael Schumacher’s 19 in 2001-02).
His team mate Valtteri Bottas has finished second on seven occasions this season, the most ever in a single season without winning a race (surpassing the six scored by Francois Cevert in 1973), although he can still lose that record if he wins before the end of the year.
Sebastian Vettel has never finished on the podium in Mexico (he was promoted to third by Max Verstappen’s post-race penalty in 2016, only to then receive a penalty himself that relegated him to fifth).
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo has the most retirements of the 2018 season with seven, whereas nobody else has more than five (Alonso, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Leclerc and Hartley). Ricciardo also suffered six retirements last season, as well as being the first retirement in the 2017 Mexican GP.
Max Verstappen was the 2017 Mexican GP race winner when he led all 71 laps (the Red Bull driver is the active leader in laps led on this track, nine more than Lewis Hamilton).
Sergio Perez has scored points on all three previous appearances at his home race – but he is still yet to score a top-six finish in Mexico, something not achieved by any Mexican driver since Pedro Rodriguez was sixth in his last home appearance in 1970.
Nico Hulkenberg, currently P7 in the drivers' standings, has a great chance to score his best-ever finish in the F1 world championship, having been ninth in both the 2014 and 2016 seasons for Force India.
Haas' Romain Grosjean has been the slowest qualifier in Q1 in Mexico for the last two years in succession, and only progressed from Q1 by one place in 2015. He has also only scored one point on this track (10th for Lotus in 2015).
Fernando Alonso has exited Q1 at the last three races – and if he’s knocked out in Q1 again this weekend, it will be his worst run since this qualifying format was first adopted at the beginning of 2006.
Lance Stroll finished sixth in the 2017 Mexican GP, the best result of his career other than the podium finish he scored in Baku last year.
It's altitude that really makes this circuit unique - the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez sits over 2km above sea level, making the 4.3km lap a breathless experience.
It is the highest on the F1 calendar and that has implications on car performance. There is only 78 percent of the oxygen available at sea level, which means the internal combustion element of the power unit produces less power and the brakes are harder to cool in the thin air.
The track still largely follows the outline of the original 1959 circuit, the main difference being that the spectacular – and spectacularly scary – Peralta corner is now bisected, with the circuit instead winding through the old Foro Sol baseball stadium, providing one F1’s most unique vistas.
And with the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez located just to the east of the city, with a metro station ready to whip you into the downtown at the end of each day’s racing action, the Mexican Grand Prix is a fantastic chance to properly mix sport and culture.
The hypersoft makes its fifth and penultimate appearance this season in Mexico alongside the ultrasoft and supersoft. The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is one of the fastest tracks on which Pirelli’s softest compound will be used this year, allowing the drivers to make full use of the pink tyre’s record-breaking potential.
So will they aim for one stop or two? The pit lane is one of the longest of the year: this increases the time needed to make a stop and will probably encourage the teams towards a one-stopper. Last year, a one-stopper was the winning strategy but there were some two-stoppers, helped by a Virtual Safety Car.
“The nomination we’re bringing to Mexico is effectively the same nomination that we would take to a street circuit, so we expect the teams to keep a close eye on wear and degradation in order to manage their pace so that a one-stopper is possible, given that the total length of the pit lane means that significant time is lost,” explained Pirelli’s Head of Car Racing, Mario Isola.
“The weather will be another important factor: in the past we have seen a variety of conditions in Mexico at this time of year. It’s a track that has traditionally produced a few incidents with a safety car probability of more than 60%, so keeping some flexibility in the strategy will be paramount”.
Heavy rain in Austin caused problems for the drivers in Friday practice, and it could be a similar story this weekend – with the forecast currently predicting light rain on the opening day of Mexican Grand Prix action.
However, as it stands, the rest of the weekend is set to be sunny, with highs of 20 and 21 degrees Celsius on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Should be an exciting one then...
When does the Mexican Grand Prix start?