Another Formula 1 race weekend, will it be the same result? On paper you would to say yes because Max Verstappen is usually on fire at the 2022 Mexican Grand Prix, having won there three of the last four events in Mexico City.
The key storyline to follow will be whether Sergio Perez can cause somewhat of an upset by winning his home race which would surely be one of the most memorable moments in F1 history.
High altitude and a very smooth track surface could bring Mercedes into play as the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is a race track like no other on the F1 calendar.
Altitude and tyres could shake up the field
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is 2,285m above sea level, by far the highest altitude circuit F1 goes to.
This means the air is thin, so the drag is reduced which actually doesn’t help the racing because the slipstream effect is less significant.
It also forces the teams to run big Monaco-style rear wings so they can have the downforce in the corners and use the characteristics of the Mexican venue to be fast on the straights.
The track is also very smooth and getting the tyres into the optimal working window is very difficult.
In 2021, Red Bull were expected to be on pole position having dominated practice, but Mercedes stunned them by locking out the front row with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
Some teams needed an extra warm-up lap in qualifying to get the tyres to work for their flying lap and we may see more of this on Saturday.
Track evolution is also big due to the dust and lack of track running across the year at the venue, so it really is all about that final run in Q3.
“The Hermanos Rodriguez circuit does not offer a lot of grip and the energy demands on the tyres are reasonably low, as the cars do not generate much downforce in the thin air at high altitude, especially in slow corners,” said Pirelli‘s Mario Isola.
“This year, the circuit might be more front-limited, as the current generation of car tends to understeer through slow corners, which Mexico has plenty of, and this can lead to some sliding on the front tyres.”
Mercedes optimistic about chances
Toto Wolff says Mercedes are cautiously optimistic about there chances this weekend but they are unlikely to be any closer than they were at the Circuit of the Americas.
The emphasis on mechanical grip in Mexico rather than aerodynamics probably won’t play into Mercedes‘ hands.
Hamilton expects Red Bull‘s energy recovery system will also see Verstappen and Perez further up the road.
“It’s high altitude and maximum downforce, which forces everyone to be on maximum downforce, even Red Bull,” Hamilton told Sky Sports
“I don’t know whether they were at their strongest on their maximum downforce, so we will see this weekend.
“They were very strong here last year, and I anticipate they’ll be very strong this weekend. I just hope we are in the mix.
“Red Bull had the most powerful engine last year, and I anticipate that they’ll have the most powerful one this weekend. They have more deployment than anybody.
“They have almost 100 percent deployment throughout the laps, where most other people have 70 percent or 80 percent.”
Aston Martin looking to continue their charge
Aston Martin are the team in form as they look to turn a ninth place in the constructors’ championship from three events ago, into sixth after this Sunday in Mexico City.
They are just one point behind Alfa Romeo and appear to have found a lot of time through understanding their car.
In Sebastian Vettel‘s case, it seems like the pressure has been lifted off his shoulders and he’s driving freely.
“I hope we can carry the momentum,” Vettel told the press. “In terms of overall pace, we were able to be a little bit stronger and closer to the points positions.
“Austin we were able to be more competitive than Alpine and McLaren for the first time this year which was a very positive surprise and we hope to keep that up, but we have to be realistic.
“Just looking forward to it, with a good car underneath me, and enjoying the racing I have left.”
That long run to Turn 1
Whilst there hasn’t really been a classic Mexican GP since it returned to the F1 calendar in 2015, the run to Turn 1 is always exciting.
Knowing that it’s not easy to overtake, the drivers get very punchy and there is usually contact or an incident or two.
In 2017, Verstappen brilliantly overtook Vettel into Turn 1 for the lead, before the Ferrari driver tangled with Hamilton on the exit of Turn 3.
Two years later it was Hamilton and Verstappen who got together whilst Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen also made contract.
Last season, Verstappen outbraked both Mercedes with a sensational move into Turn 1 as he went three-wide with Hamilton and Bottas, before going on to take a dominant win.
More of the same this Sunday please!
F1 budget cap saga coming to an end
Finally, the budget cap controversy might just be over as a press conference has been called for 17:30 UK time on Friday, ahead if the opening practice session, where Christian Horner will address the media.
It’s understood that Red Bull and the FIA have come to an agreement regarding a punishment for the Milton Keynes-based team which could see a financial penalty, plus a loss of wind tunnel time.
The terms were agreed last weekend in Austin, but an announcement was postponed due to the death of Dietrich Mateschitz.
It wouldn’t be an F1 weekend without an off-track topic making the headlines first.