The second leg of the America’s double-header continues in Mexico City this weekend. But really, I don’t think we can start talking about the up coming Mexican race without mentioning a few talking points from Austin, Texas last weekend.
I’m not talking about Lewis Hamilton delivering another stellar win in his Mercedes, or the fact that that championship is pretty much over as Sebastian Vettel is now 66 points behind with only 75 points left on offer for the remaining three races.
The main point for me was the controversy that erupted after Max Verstappen was given a five second penalty for overtaking Kimi Raikkonen on the last lap of the race by going over track limits. There’s been quite a lot of outrage over the incident and I thought I should wade in on the subject.
Verstappen clearly did go over the track limits at the apex of turn 17 on his way past Raikkonen and the rules are quite clear that a penalty is required if you take an advantage without making an attempt to neutralise the advantage e.g. give the place back.
What has aggrieved me is that again there does not seem to be any consistency because all weekend there were plenty of times drivers were off the track without incurring penalties. Some may say that no advantages were gained in those instances. Well that’s a lot of nonsense, because drivers don’t go beyond track limits unless there is an advantage in doing so.
Never mind that it ruined what was up to then a great drive by the Dutchman. It’s important to have accuracy and consistency when making such important decisions in sports, let alone Formula One. We’ve come a long way with having driver stewards involved in ruling over racing incidents. We now need to step it up more so these controversies don’t ruin the racing. Guest stewards don’t work, and we need to make stewarding roles permanent for the whole season.
Anyway lets turn our attention to Mexico, which in only three years has become quite a unique event. Numbers of two hundred thousand were being banded around for the Sunday last year, which is super impressive. Drivers have also been saying how adrenaline pumping it is whenever they drive through the stadium section in the last part of the track. The roar of the crowd is audible through the helmet every time and that is saying something.
It’s held in Mexico City, which as you know, is over two thousand metres above sea level. The high altitude means thinner air, which equals less power for the engines. It also means less air for the wings. So even though you run high downforce, the grip is not the same and the cars slide around a lot. So much so that it feels like Monza levels of downforce, which is the track an F1 car runs the lowest amount of wing on due to the long straights there.
Mexico also has long straights too, which mean it’s a killer for brakes too. Teams will be working hard to get the brakes and engines cool enough for the race.
I think Mexico will see a similar pattern as we saw in Texas, in that Mercedes will still have a slight advantage with Ferrari and Red Bull within striking distance behind them.
What is starting to draw more attention for me now is the battle of ‘best of the rest’ as that is really heating up. Force India have had a stellar year and will probably get forth place in the championship behind the big three, but it’s not been easy for them. Renault – along with their new super impressive driver Carlos Sainz – have really improved in the second half of the season and I think they will be out to show that pace wise, they have be best car behind the big 3.
You also cannot discount the improving Mclaren – pace wise, not reliability wise – and the underachieving Williams to put in a good fight for best of the rest.