F1 Preview: The Mexican Grand Prix
October 26, 2016
It may have seemed a long time coming, but Lewis Hamilton may just have breathed a vital shot of adrenaline into his title aspirations following his 50th career Grand Prix (GP) victory in Austin on Sunday. With the gap on title rival and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg now reduced to 26 points, could it be conceivable for the most successful British driver of all time to mount a stunning comeback as the campaign reaches its climax?
This was Hamilton at his imperious best, controlling the race from start to finish as he cruised to victory for the fourth time in the last five races held in the USA. No engine glitches, insurmountable predicaments and free from any unfavourable headlines, this was as much a symbol of release and resurgence for the reigning champion as it was a statement of intent.
Without a win since the end of July, the USA has always been a hallowed circuit for the 31-year-old given his outstanding record there, which even includes a success in 2007 when the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway venue blessed the sport with its spectacular setting. Such has been his dominance in this part of the world; it provided the perfect opportunity for Hamilton to keep the title race alive and adds further fascination to his compelling rivalry with Rosberg.
The current leader received a significant stroke of luck at the Circuit of the Americas following a fortuitous-timed virtual safety car which enabled him to make the podium in the runner-up position. His performance was the archetype of unruffled consistency, steady, but not spectacular – a result that leaves the destiny of the championship firmly in his own hands.
With just three races remaining, two second-place finishes and a third would be sufficient for the German to lift his maiden Formula One (F1) crown. The hardest race to conquer is always the one that could win you the championship and that was never going to be in Austin – the location where Hamilton clinched his third world title 12 months ago.
However, attention turns to the Mexican GP this weekend – a track that Rosberg can relate to with great optimism as it was he who emerged victorious in the Land of Enchantment last time out following its reinstatement to the Formula One calendar following a 23-year exile. At the time, it was also Rosberg’s first victory for more than four months – a similar chapter to that of Hamilton before he came up trumps in America.
Given its lack of presence on the F1 agenda in recent years, it is impossible to gauge who can be counted on at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and who the dependable drivers are on this circuit which was extremely difficult to master prior to its upgrade and resurfacing of its rough facade in 2015. Nevertheless, it has provided some groundbreaking moments such as in 1992 when Michael Schumacher achieving his first of an eventual 155 podiums in Formula One.
Expect either Hamilton or Rosberg to spearhead another Mercedes one-two finish, although it is possible for the latter to wrap up proceedings after Sunday’s race has concluded. The German will be crowned champion if he wins and Hamilton retires or fails to finish in the points.
Ultimately, Hamilton needs to keep piling the pressure on and the only way he can do this is if he replicates the form he showed in America from now until the end of the season and hope for Rosberg to be cursed by a non-finish. History suggests the German has proved to be fallible when the nerves start to jangle and the competition is at its most intense.
Hamilton can be backed at 9/10 and his arch-rival at 1/1 respectively, with the ever dependable Daniel Ricciardo the next best option at 20-1. The British driver will equal the great Alain Prost’s total of 51 victories if he is the one spraying the podium champagne in Mexico. Then again, Hamilton isn’t chasing history – he is hounding the present. Like any true champion, he is not prepared to give up without a fight.