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Mexican GP - Preview

2016-10-30 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2016-10-27 13:33:23)

Just three more races to go and the driver’s championship is still alive after Lewis Hamilton won his home race in America last week. However with the gap at 26 points and three to go, it’s possible Rosberg that Rosberg can be crowned champion if he wins and Hamilton DNF on Sunday.

We have only had the one race at this circuit so there are no great form lines to follow but looking at last year’s grid it was a bit ‘Noah’s Ark’ with team mates largely lining up side by side which suggests it is a car track rather than a drivers track. The lay out is a bit boring so there’s not a lot of room for the driver to make a difference.

One thing that is very different about this circuit is that it’s at altitude and as a result the air is thin which results in a 20% loss in downforce. The team run with a high downforce set up but get Monza like levels of grip, only here there are more turns and it is very easy to have a spin. The straight line speeds are very high due to the thin air so the brakes have to work well. The track surface lacked grip last year and the sliding about means tyre wear is high and the altitude/thin air makes cooling more difficult, and that applies to the brakes as well. It would be very tricky in the rain but the forecast is for warm, partly cloudy weather with a small chance of a thunderstorm on Sunday, so very likely it will be dry.

Mercedes have dominated qualifying all season with the exception of Monaco so there is no reason to expect that to change although they were only 0.4 ahead of Vettel’s Ferrari last year so maybe Red Bull can get closer this year. Their car produces a lot of downforce which is good currency in these conditions. They are the only possible alternative to another dominant weekend for Mercedes but the very long straight will handicap them. They struggled at Baku and Monza, two tracks that also feature long straights so this is not a perfect fit for the Red Bulls, making a Mercedes win all the more likely.

The season has seen very distinct swings for the two title protagonists. Rosberg started with four wins in a row then Hamilton had six wins from seven races before Rosberg got four wins from the next five. Is it time for a Hamilton run of wins? On the face of it, yes, it is very possible. His attitude was much better in America and if he can keep that up he is a hard man to beat. Rosberg was the winner here last year but Hamilton had won the title the previous weekend and was in party mode for the rest of the season, ‘allowing’ Rosberg to win all the remaining races. That is not the case this season.

Rosberg is in that funny stage of almost having won the title….but knowing that he can still lose it. He cannot afford a DNF and a Hamilton win because then his lead would be 1 point with two races to go. I expect a more conservative approach from Rosberg, 2nd place is fine were as Hamilton has to push. If Hamilton has to win he will concentrate on doing just that whereas Rosberg can be happy to sit in 2nd place and maybe try and force an error, but knowing all the time that 2nd place is fine. A Hamilton – Rosberg 1-2 would suit Rosberg more than Hamilton but both would be reasonably happy.

Of course they may not have it all their own way. Red Bull has been closing the gap as the season has gone on and in the last ten races they have scored seven 2nd places and a win. They have the potential to piss on somebodies parade and we have to expect that they will get at least one more second place in the last three races and that is a big worry for both Mercedes drivers. They have to be perfect to prevent a Red Bull from getting in amongst them and adding to the pressure/excitement. The two long straights on this track will not play to the strengths of the Red Bull who still prefer corners to straights so maybe Mercedes will have a race to themselves after all.

Ferrari is looking poor now. Vettel just seems to be going through the motions, hoping that next year won’t be so bad but with the team looking so at odds with itself, there is little reason to expect that they will. I bet he wishes he had never left Red Bull who will have a great chance to win the title again next season. The Ferrari lacks downforce and that might well be highlighted this weekend. They failed to get a car to the finish line last season, so I am expecting little from the red cars but there might be a chance for Raikkonen to beat his team mate again, hopefully at decent odds.

This is a big race for Perez and Force India who are still in a close battle with Williams for 4th place. I say close but the truth is that they are comfortably better than Williams and if they get a decent bit of luck they will get that 4th place with ease. Perez is on a run of seven consecutive points finishes and with the top speeds here likely to be of Azerbaijan proportions, who knows; maybe he will repeat his podium finish from there. He qualified 2nd in Baku, by far his best qualifying performance of the year and his podium came from 7th on the grid as he had to take a five place grid penalty.

That bodes well for his chances here as the two circuits share low grip, slow corners and a super-fast straight. With a Merc PU, good traction out of the slow corners (his other podium came at traction critical Monaco) and good reliability, Perez could well be the star of his home grand prix. A top six finish is best priced 11/10 and while that’s a realistic target the odds are poor, 11/10 for something he has achieved five times in eighteen starts. Why not aim higher and go for podium number three at more generous odd?

2 points Sergio Perez to finish on the podium @ 18/1 with Coral

Williams are just about hanging onto Force India but that’s mostly down to a couple of DNF’s for Hulkenberg in recent races. Williams did get a podium finish here last year with Bottas coming 3rd but they have since fallen behind Red Bull and Force India so it’s very hard to see a repeat of that. Their car will love the long straight but it’s on record that it also hates slow corners so there will bits of the track it will hate.

McLaren had a very good weekend in the U.S. last week having looked poor in qualifying. The safety car lottery was a big factor in that but this looks like a track that should suit them a little better as it has some heavy braking zones and no long duration corners. The long straight will be a challenge but a point’s finish is not out of the question.

Carlos Sainz was one of the starts of the show in Austin finishing a season best equalling 6th but the race was very much mixed up by a safety car and his qualifying position of 10th was more indicative of his true pace. The 2015 Ferrari PU in the back of his Toro Rosso is down on power and it will not enjoy the long straight although Kvyat did qualify 7th at Baku, however the car has slipped down the competitive order since then.

Haas were another team to luck into the points in Texas but as become the norm recently, they lost the second car with brake problems. That they still haven’t sorted out this problem already is a worry especially as this is a track that will find out any weakness with a cars brakes. This could be very messy for Haas.

2 points Gutierrez not to finish @ 11/4 with Ladbrokes and Hills

2 points Grosjean not to finish @ 10/3 with Hills

Renault couldn’t quite manage points in Austin and they would need a few retirements to back to scoring ways in Mexico. Manor is still ahead of Sauber by that single but very valuable point and a power hungry circuit will play to the strengths of their Mercedes engine which should keep them off last place, leaving that to the underwhelming Sauber.

We won our bet for the race to be won by less than 5.5 seconds last week as Hamilton just coasted home in the dying laps, worrying all the time that his car might let him down again. These power units need looking after to reach the end of the season intact and everyone will be taking it easy at the end unless they are in a close fight for points. That was the fourth race in a row with a winning margin of less than five seconds whereas there had only been two in the previous fourteen. Of course the field has bunched up as the season has gone on but it has more to do about winning without putting any undue stress on the PU’s. With the two favourites for this race in the same type of car, in a very close championship battle, it is very likely that they will try and win by as small a margin as is comfortable and we should see another narrow winning margin once again.

4 points winning margin under 5 seconds @ 5/4 with Betvictor, Bet365

The next update will be around 30 minutes before the start of qualifying.