Hamilton and Verstappen can take fight to Vettel

2017 Mexican Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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It will take a surprise outcome to today’s Mexican Grand Prix for Lewis Hamilton to miss his chance to wrap up the world championship.

Mexican GP qualifying in pictures
Nonetheless the race looks set to provide plenty of excitement. Two different cars were quick enough to dislodge the Mercedes from pole position yesterday.

Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen last shared the front row in Singapore with disastrous consequences – both crashed out. There’s no reason to expect a repeat today, but Verstappen will need an especially good start to overcome the likely disadvantage from his Renault power unit. And the pair have the two W08s lined up behind them ready to take advantage into turn one.

The first corner was a major bone of contention last year due to drivers cutting it. But the new measures put in place at the corner this year to discourage anyone from abusing track limits appear to have worked.

The low grip surface at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez means this race is usually a straightforward one-stop strategy. Much the same is expected today, including for the ten drivers who will have to start on used sets of ultra-softs.

However the limited run-off space at several points around the track means this is a venue where it’s not uncommon to see Safety Car appearances. Should that happen late in the race it could give an opportunity for drivers near the front to gamble on making extra ‘free’ pit stops.

Mercedes have usually been more competitive in qualifying than in the race but Hamilton reckons that isn’t so this weekend. “Our long run pace is definitely better than our qualifying pace,” he said, “so I’m not worried about that.”

“But you need a big [performance advantage] delta to overtake here, so track position is important.”

Hamilton can’t rule out a threat from his team mate, who was going well until he was unsettled on his first lap in Q3. As a result he had to complete his qualifying run with an extra lap of fuel on board, costing him potential time.

Kimi Raikkonen usually comes good on race pace. But Daniel Ricciardo in the other Red Bull seems to be having an off weekend and was struggling in the many slow corners yesterday.

One potential advantage Mercedes and Red Bull enjoy over Ferrari is that each of their drivers has an unused set of super-soft tyres. As well as offering them better tyre life in the second half of the race, it could help them find some of that performance advantage needed to make an overtaking move, especially if they can run long in their first stint.

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Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel27.213 (2)29.403 (1)19.872 (2)
Max Verstappen27.193 (1)29.450 (2)19.689 (1)
Lewis Hamilton27.216 (3)29.467 (3)19.959 (3)
Valtteri Bottas27.273 (5)29.522 (4)20.099 (7)
Kimi Raikkonen27.426 (8)29.600 (5)20.151 (8)
Esteban Ocon27.264 (4)29.878 (10)20.166 (10)
Daniel Ricciardo27.389 (7)29.822 (9)19.981 (4)
Nico Hulkenberg27.445 (9)29.814 (8)20.026 (5)
Carlos Sainz Jnr27.608 (12)29.682 (6)20.155 (9)
Sergio Perez27.328 (6)29.993 (11)20.219 (11)
Felipe Massa27.548 (11)30.320 (13)20.231 (12)
Lance Stroll27.544 (10)30.529 (15)20.685 (18)
Brendon Hartley27.861 (18)30.394 (14)20.346 (13)
Stoffel Vandoorne27.984 (19)30.157 (12)20.437 (14)
Fernando Alonso27.663 (13)29.803 (7)20.046 (6)
Marcus Ericsson27.860 (17)30.735 (16)20.581 (17)
Pascal Wehrlein27.830 (16)30.930 (17)20.563 (16)
Kevin Magnussen27.807 (15)30.940 (18)20.696 (19)
Romain Grosjean27.791 (14)31.010 (19)20.531 (15)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Esteban OconForce IndiaMercedes355.6 (221.0)
2Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes354.6 (220.3)-1.0
3Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes351.5 (218.4)-4.1
4Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes350.1 (217.5)-5.5
5Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari349.2 (217.0)-6.4
6Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari348.4 (216.5)-7.2
7Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari348.1 (216.3)-7.5
8Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari348.0 (216.2)-7.6
9Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes348.0 (216.2)-7.6
10Lance StrollWilliamsMercedes347.8 (216.1)-7.8
11Pascal WehrleinSauberFerrari347.4 (215.9)-8.2
12Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari347.0 (215.6)-8.6
13Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer346.1 (215.1)-9.5
14Brendon HartleyToro RossoRenault345.9 (214.9)-9.7
15Max VerstappenRed BullTAG Heuer345.7 (214.8)-9.9
16Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda344.4 (214.0)-11.2
17Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault343.2 (213.3)-12.4
18Carlos Sainz JnrRenaultRenault342.3 (212.7)-13.3
19Stoffel VandoorneMcLarenHonda335.9 (208.7)-19.7

Drivers remaining tyres

Lewis HamiltonMercedes1104
Valtteri BottasMercedes1104
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull11112
Max VerstappenRed Bull11103
Sebastian VettelFerrari1113
Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1113
Sergio PerezForce India1104
Esteban OconForce India1104
Felipe MassaWilliams1114
Lance StrollWilliams1114
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1132
Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren11122
Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1123
Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1150
Romain GrosjeanHaas1123
Kevin MagnussenHaas1123
Nico HulkenbergRenault1104
Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1104
Marcus EricssonSauber1123
Pascal WehrleinSauber1123

Over to you

Will the championship be won today? Can anyone keep Sebastian Vettel from victory?

Share your views on the Mexican Grand Prix in the comments.

2017 Mexican Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Hamilton and Verstappen can take fight to Vettel”

  1. Long drag strip start could see six or seven cars very close into first corner. Any thing on if one of the sides of the grid offers significantly better grip?

    1. @hahostolze I’m not so how big the difference is grip-wise between the sides, but for sure, the side of the odd-numbered grid slots is the grippier one as it’s the racing line.

      1. That’s what I thought. Oh joy, I can see a lunge coming…

  2. Hopefully this will turn out to be a cracking race, but I doubt it. Most likely it will be cars separated by 2 to 3 seconds after a few laps, and then closing slightly when pit stops happen. What will be interesting to see is if the undercut works or not: with the tyre warm up problems, it might be safer to stay out as long as possible. Then again, if someone like Verstappen manages to turn his second tyre set on quickly, it forces all the others to pit as well.

  3. I can see both Hamilton and Bottas doing what Bottas did in Russia. Getting a better start than the 2 drivers in front then using Mercedes power to be infront of them before the 1st corner. I predict that by the end of the 1st lap, it will very likely be either 1 or both Mercedes at the front. The great long strait will help them out here I should think. They just need to get the start right. I think Verstappen is very good at starts, but that usually is round the first few corners which are quite some way off the start here. We will have to wait and see what happens.

    1. Different here though. Altitude means the engines have less of an effect.

  4. Looking forward to this race.
    Has anyone ever noticed how little Vettel seems to worry about his image or status in the sport? At least he is always extremely honest about his own perceptions. There have been so many examples, but yesterday was another: I didn’t believe that Ferrari had the pace to challenge that Red Bull time set by Max, so when he did pip him for pole, it seemed like a wonder lap. But Seb just said later that he knew the Ferrari had the pace and that he just needed to put the lap together.
    When he is asked about driving mistakes (even when he isn’t), he always mentions them. It seems he is a perfectionist, mostly controlled (but in some situations not, and we have seen thos outbursts). But with that, the media and us spectators will always tend to underaprecciate his achievements, because he really doesn’t sell them.
    I have great respect for Lewis, this year and in his whole career, but both him and Fernando approach the media work differently and not rarely to the expense of Seb. Let’s see how Max will be.

    I was so glad yesterday that Fernando did what he did. It makes me at least hope for a four-way championship challenge next season, with four cars capeable of giving eight drivers (realistically five) a shot at the title. Wouldn’t that be a dream?

    1. @magon4 Pretty exciting things in line for next year indeed! Though I’d be happy if more realistically we see a McLaren on the podium at least once in 2018. Then 2019 should be game on!

    2. Wouldn’t that be something! Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel, Verstappen and Ricciardo for the title! Shame really that Ferrari and Merc have two lesser nr 2 drivers.

      I have no clue how good Vandoorne will be and who knows how good Renault with Sainz and Hulkenberg might be next yr. 2018 could be an epic season! (Probably ruined by engine penalties and reliabilty with next years harsher rules kicken in)

    3. @magon4
      It was indeed a wonder lap from Vettel, It was about getting the “perfect lap” when it counts the most. The “perfect lap” is the ultimate step for any driver to become an absolute champion. Take nothing from Verstappen who is an outstanding talent, but you can see how the experience of Vettel , a great qualifying specialist, emerge.
      Verstappen sector times in Q2 were : S1 : 27.193 (record); S2 : 29.642 ; S3 : 19.689(record) with a total of 1.16.524 a time which was only beaten by Vettel’s pole position time. Verstappen went to lower his S2 time in Q3 by 2 tenths 29.450 but the failed to repeat his S1/S3 sector times. By summing Verstappen best sector times in Q2/Q3, he would have set a virtual time of 1.16.332 faster than Vettel’s pole time 1.16.488
      Verstappen put the blame on the tyres which behaved differently between Q2 and Q3, my personal opinion is that Vettel’s experience just made the difference.
      Vettel had another motive to deny Verstappen the pole position which is the record of the youngest ever poleman (21 years 73 days). Verstappen who is 20 years 28 days old, would still have the hole 2018 season to break that record.

      1. agreed @tifoso1989, but Seb admits as much (“I just had to get it together”) indicating that he was not pleased with his performances before that lap, while Lewis or Fernando would most likely at least hint at the idea that they somehow outdrove the car.

    4. @magon4 All drivers were saying they made mistakes and that it’s hard to put a good lap together here.
      Hamilton: “It just wasn’t the cleanest of sessions” and “I think that last lap could have been a couple of tenths quicker”
      Raikkonen: “I struggled to put a decent lap together” and “made mistakes here and there”

      Verstappen didn’t blame the tyres, but he said HE couldn’t get them to work.

      Vettel has had plenty of Q3 sessions this season where he just didn’t get it together even though Ferrari looked destined for pole. Of course then immediately it is “Mercedes has a magic boost button” (If only Bottas had this button …).

      Now Vettel finally gets a good lap together and he is the “humble and open veteran specialist”.

      Verstappen did have a relatively poor lap though. He admitted as much. Hamilton too. Which is immediately clear since they didn’t improve from Q2. For Hamilton it didn’t matter since he was too much off the pace, but Verstappen would have gotten pole if he had put in a decent lap.

      1. Verstappen was just very very marginal off his Q2 time, Given the fact RBR has no magic Q3 button, this was very close to the cars limit.

        To my opinion the Q3 engine mapping ruines quali, RBR can be strong all weekend, but a pole is near impossible due engine mapping.
        It’s a bit like traction controle in the 90ties.

    5. Vettel always owns up to his mistakes? Hahaha. Did you watch the aftermath of his shunt into Lewis in Baku?

  5. are sector times best achieved throughout qualy or only on fastest laps?

    1. Sector times are best achieved throughout qualy. Verstappen best S1/S3 times were achieved in Q2

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