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#MexicoGP: Lewis Hamilton - a win is on the cards

2017-10-29 06:04

(Manu Fernandez, AP)

Michelle Foster

Johannesburg - Barring disaster, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton is set to wrap up his fourth world drivers’ championship title in Mexico on Sunday evening – all he needs to do is finish fifth or higher.

During the opening half of this season, the title appeared to be headed the way of the Maranello team for the first time in a decade, but the pendulum swung firmly in Hamilton’s favour during the summer break.

Fourth world title

The Mercedes driver has been in impeccable form, finishing inside the top two in all six F1 circuits and, more importantly, winning five of those.

Instead of lagging a full race win behind Sebastian Vettel, as he did after Monaco when the tifosi (Italian for fans) were preparing the banners in preparation for a Ferrari triumph, Hamilton arrives on the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez grid with a 66-point lead – and only a P5 away from winning a fourth world title.

The numbers are simple: if Hamilton is fifth or higher, he wins the championship no matter what Vettel does on the day; if the German is second on Sunday, Hamilton needs to be ninth or better; and if Vettel doesn’t finish inside the top two, Hamilton wins.

The T-shirts have been printed and the champagne is on ice, especially given Mercedes’ form at the Mexico City circuit.

The race returned to the calendar in 2015, with Nico Rosberg starting from pole and leading Hamilton home on the Sunday. Vettel crashed.

One year later, it was Hamilton starting P1 and taking the chequered flag ahead of Rosberg. Vettel was fifth.

Cutting a corner

The Ferrari driver, though, was left to ponder what could have been as the great “podium versus penalty” debate of 2016 played out.

Ironically, one week after Max Verstappen was robbed, as some would say, of a US GrandPrix podium, Formula One returns to the venue of his previous injustice.

Last season, Verstappen crossed the line in third place, 0.99 seconds up ahead of Vettel, with Daniel Ricciardo fifth.

Verstappen, though, was penalised five seconds for cutting a corner to stay ahead of Vettel. This elevated the Ferrari driver to P3, only for him to be hit with a 10-second penalty for dangerous driving when he blocked Ricciardo.

In the end it was Ricciardo in third, ahead of Verstappen and Vettel.

Team order rule

It must be noted that this year, whether it be P3 or P5, it would make no difference for Vettel.

Behind the leading three teams is one man perhaps more determined than any other to secure a good result tonight: Force India’s Sergio Pérez.

Having finished inside the points in the first two editions of his home race, the Mexican driver will be out to challenge for the “best of the rest” tag. But with Force India set to retain their team order rule for one more race, Pérez’s first task needs to be getting the jump on Esteban Ocon, something he was unable to do in Austin.

Meanwhile, fans and pundits will be hoping for a trouble-free weekend for Renault as reliability issues meant Nico Hülkenberg’s first match-up against Carlos Sainz came to naught, with the German retiring while Sainz scored his first points in yellow.

Another team looking for a reliable weekend is McLaren-Honda.

However, with Spain’s Fernando Alonso likely to start from the back of the grid because of engine penalties, points will not be easy to come by at a track where overtaking is difficult.

And spare a thought for Daniil “The Torpedo” Kvyat. The Russian driver was told this week – after scoring in Austin – that his career with Toro Rosso is over.

His F1 career may be over, too. His seat is going to Brendon Hartley, who will partner with Pierre Gasly for the rest of 2017. – TEAMtalk Media

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