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Mexico win sees Hamilton edge closer to sixth title

NEWS STORY
27/10/2019

Over the years The Simpsons have brought us many memorable musical numbers, and while 'See My Vest' and 'Canyonero' are among our favourites, it was the townspeople's rendition of 'Kids' that came to mind yesterday as Max Verstappen dug himself into a hole and continued digging, leaving the race stewards with little alternative but to summon him.

Effectively boasting that he hadn't slowed down for the yellows after Valtteri Bottas' crash just ahead... what was he thinking?

Of course, Verstappen's three-place grid penalty benefits another precocious youngster, Charles Leclerc who will now head an all-Ferrari front row.

All eyes will be on the youngster who will have to contend not only with Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen et al behind, but a certain Mr Vettel alongside.

While the German fluffed it in Japan, should he make a Sochi-style start we can no doubt expect the team radio to burst into life shortly after as the squabbling begins.

Vettel has looked strong all weekend, while Leclerc has made a number of mistakes. Nothing major, we admit, but one has the feeling that this track is more suited to the German than his teammate. Let's just hope that there are no pre-agreements.

Whoever gets away best will give those behind a very useful tow, and we're sure Ferrari would prefer to see one its drivers aiding the other as opposed to Hamilton or Verstappen.

Mercedes has never really felt that comfortable in Mexico, even though the history books show Hamilton as having secured two of his titles here. While everyone is banging on about the fact that the Briton needs to out-score his teammate by 14 points, the fact is the title is already decided, all that remains is confirmation of when and where it will become official.

Hamilton doesn't need any heroics today, he merely has to bring it home, and surely wrapping up the title in Austin, or better still Brazil, will appeal.

Though Bottas will want to continue where he left off in Japan, yesterday's crash took a lot out of the Finn, and we don't just mean his breath. Bottas knows that the title was never really his, he also knows he has a great seat for next season, so why try to spoil things.

That said, in its determination not to hamper the Finn with a grid penalty, or worse, a pitlane start, the team has worked hard to repair his car, and even an hour before the scheduled start the work continues.

By the way, those parts replaced or changed on Bottas' car include: LHS and RHS front suspension assembly, power steering rack, steering column, steering wheel, LHS and RHS outboard rear suspension assembly, rear heave spring unit, RARB drop links, front wing/nose assembly, nose pins, rear wing assembly, deck wing assembly, brake master cylinders and brake lines, LHS rear view mirror and canard, LHS barge board, LHS bodywork, gearbox carrier, gearbox input shaft and input shaft torque sensor, front cockpit loom, floor, plank, seat belts, ERS pump filter and parameter changes associated with accident damage repair. Other than that the car is as was.

Following his grid demotion Max will head into today's race with the red mist already established. We know from history that Turn 1 has been the scene of many first lap incidents, and throughout the weekend it has been catching drivers out, even the best of them.

We would advise Mr Verstappen that the race cannot be won on the first lap, but he probably wouldn't listen. Youngsters, eh?

Of course, having won here for the last two years, Max already had incentive to perform well, and yesterday's action by the stewards will only further fire him up.

Thus far it hasn't been the best of weekends for Alex Albon, who crashed out on the first day, thereby revealing that Red Bull is short on spares. If he is to continue impressing Messrs Horner and Marko he would be well advised to simply bring the car home safely with as many points as possible.

And now for the fun part, the midfield.

Sadly, it appears that barring a major first lap shock, we can disregard Haas, Alfa Romeo and, to an extent, Racing Point, along with Williams, each looking set to enjoy a long afternoon making up the numbers.

Local hero Sergio Perez will be fired-up, and will be looking to give the crowd something to truly roar about, but in all honesty he will be lucky to make it into the points.

Though McLaren looks set to take 'best of the rest', Toro Rosso and Renault should provide some fun and games, though the Faenza outfit looks to have the advantage this weekend.

According to Pirelli, this is one of the hardest strategies of the year to call, due to the multiplicity of tactical options as well as the particular weather conditions this weekend.

A two-stopper would appear to be the optimal approach, and as no driver has more than one set of hards available, the best way would be to start on the mediums for 20 to 23 laps, then do an identical medium stint for another 20 to 23 laps, before finishing on the hards.

The second-fastest way is another two-stopper, but this time starting on the softs for nine to 13 laps, before going onto the mediums for 22 to 26 laps and then a final hard stint to the end.

The slowest approach would be a one-stopper, but it's a big ask to run such long stints here. The best way to attempt it would be mediums for 26 to 30 laps, then hard to the ends.

None of these strategies are set in stone though, and any permutation of the above strategies is possible, using the compounds in any order. A three-stopper could also turn out to be just as quick as a two-stopper, using any of the three compounds available, although there's always the certainty of dealing with traffic.

Though, like Friday and Saturday, the circuit was hit by heavy overnight rain, there are no after effects and the sun is slowly beginning to break through.

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin heading out.

"She's alive," declares Mercedes, as Bottas fires up his W10 and heads out.

Air temperature is 21.8 degrees C, while the track temperature is 41.1 degrees.

"I had no power for a second," reports Hamilton, "is everything OK?" "Yes, everything is fine," comes the reply.

Meanwhile, Leclerc says there are no deals in place in terms of his teammate.

"I think 11th is eighth really... we always have a shot," says Otmar Szafnauer. "And you know (Perez) as well as I do, he's really good on tyres, which is what we need round here."

Leclerc, Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Albon, Bottas, Perez, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Stroll, Magnussen, Grosjean, Russell and Kubica all start on mediums. Sainz, Norris, Kvyat and Gasly are on softs and Ricciardo the lone starter on hards.

As Leclerc leads the field away on the warm-up lap... the crowd roars.

They're away! Leclerc gets a great start, as does Hamilton who begins to draw alongside Vettel, however, as the German tucks in behind his Ferrari teammate in order to get the tow, the Briton is squeezed out.

Dropping back, Hamilton finds himself alongside Verstappen who has the line into Turn 1. In Turn 2 Hamilton has the line, they almost touch and in their efforts to avoid contact both drivers run wide and over the grass.

The rejoin behind Albon and ahead of Sainz, still side-by-side, Hamilton slightly ahead. However, Verstappen is struggling to get traction and loses places to Sainz, Norris and Bottas, with the Spaniard also managing to pass the world champion.

The Ferraris touch in T4 after Leclerc makes a mistake, while Verstappen runs wide again in Turn 5.

At the back Raikkonen is the meat in a sandwich with Russell and Magnussen being the bread.

The VSC is deployed halfway through the opening lap, in order to clear the debris from the Hamilton/Verstappen incident.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Leclerc, Vettel, Albon, Sainz, Hamilton, Norris, Bottas, Verstappen, Kvyat and Gasly.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Mexico City, here.

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1. Posted by Natcheztoo, 27/10/2019 22:18

"What good did it do for Ferrari to improve their car to be as fast or faster than Mercedes if they squander away almost every opportunity to win?

Oh: To hell with the V6's. Bring back the V10's. Or an open formula of 3.0 liters of any configuration. What is F1 doing? Heading towards and promoting electric racing? "

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