Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2018

Mercedes make big gain despite missing front row

2018 Mexican Grand Prix Lap Time Watch

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Red Bull may have locked out the front row of the grid for the Mexican Grand Prix but Mercedes has made more progress at this track in the last 12 months than the pace-setters.

The W09s lapped two seconds quicker than they did last year. Compared to their rivals, this is their best showing in terms of year-on-year lap time gain: only two other teams made greater progress.

The weekend began with Mercedes being told they could use a controversial rear wheel design intended to help with tyre temperature management.

Even so they were no match for last year’s winners Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo, who set pole position, lowered Red Bull’s 2017 time by 1.7 seconds.

“Red Bull were really fast in the middle sector,” said Lewis Hamilton. “The Renault engine seems to be working well in the high altitude and so does their high-downforce package. I think they were probably in a league of their own today, so I’m happy to be as close as I am.”

Ferrari customers Sauber and Haas were the most-improved teams as they have been at the majority of races this year. Sauber posted the biggest gain of all, as they have at every race since the Monaco Grand Prix, a legacy of their switch from 2016-spec engines last year to current 2018 examples this year.

Haas again made the second-biggest step forwards, despite the fact neither of their drivers made it out of Q1, as they also failed to last year.

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Yesterday the Ferrari factory team confirmed its suspicions from Austin that its latest upgrade had made the car slower, not faster, and so they are not running it.

Their cars one-and-a-half seconds faster than last year – a respectable gain, but less than their front-running rivals have made, which is reflected in Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen lining up fourth and sixth respectively.

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2018 Mexican Grand Prix

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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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7 comments on “Mercedes make big gain despite missing front row”

  1. All Hamilton has to do is finish with 5 points and keep Vettel behind and he’s WDC 2018. I suspect he will be cautious from the start. He may even let Vettel jump him at the start and see what damage Verstappen and Vettel can do to each other.

    1. He doesn’t need to keep VET behind, 5 points with VET winning will be enough for him to be crowned.

      1. Or no points for Hamilton and not winning for Vettel– Vettel has to score 70 points, and since second is only 18, he’d be at least 2 points short.

    2. @johnrkh Or simply put it this way: Hamilton needs to finish 7th at the very least to be able to clinch the title regardless of Vettel’s finishing position while, on the other hand, a race win is a ‘must’ for Vettel to have any chance of preventing the WDC getting decided on this venue as he’d need to outscore Hamilton by at least 21 points to achieve that.

  2. 1.7 faster than last season’s pole time. Approximately 4 seconds faster than 2016 equivalent pole time, and 4.7 quicker than 2015 equivalent lap.

  3. Thomas Bennett (@felipemassadobrasil)
    28th October 2018, 8:24

    Why oh why did I predict a Bottas win?

    1. @felipemassadobrasil
      With the potential for ‘carnage’ on the first lap (see pre-race analysis), there is an outside chance of Bottas capitalising on it. He did grab an (uninspiring, but still) 2nd place after Vettel and Hamilton collided last year, and 5 out of 6 Renault engines didn’t survive the 2017 Mexican GP. The ingredients are there, let’s see what the start will dish up for us.

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