Will Hamilton end the weekend hunting or haunted?
It’s a long shot, but there is the possibility that Lewis Hamilton’s two-year reign as F1’s world champion could be over by Sunday night in Mexico.
For that to happen Nico Rosberg would have to win for the 10th time this season while Hamilton finishes 10th or lower – a combination that has only ever happened once before in their whole careers in F1. In other words, for a Mercedes team chasing a record 17th victory in a season, the Hamilton’s W07 would almost certainly have to suffer a Malaysia-style, race-ending failure for F1 to have a new champion two weeks before Brazil.
How Rosberg could win the title in Mexico
Intriguingly, a month on from Sepang, it’s that costly engine blow-up which continues to play on Hamilton’s mind. His route to victory in Austin last Sunday had appeared from the outside just about as serene as any of his previous 49 wins, but Hamilton insisted afterwards that it hadn’t been that way for him. “I was petrified the whole race,” he said. “I am haunted by the sound l heard in Malaysia.”
Hamilton knows that any repeat of that unwanted sound would likely be it for his championship aspirations this year. But should he really be fretting quite that much? For all the Briton’s engine problems this season, Mercedes’s race-day reliability record is exemplary – Hamilton’s Sepang DNF is their only technical retirement on either car in the last 22 races.
That fact alone makes a Nico coronation in Mexico all the more unlikely. However, on the eve of Halloween, Hamilton will be hoping the next few days in Mexico don’t prove another haunting experience – and one which, this time, lingers into the winter. JG
Is this the weekend when Nico proves his champion worth?
It is telling on many levels – from Mercedes’ domination to F1’s current focus on off-track matters to the public’s general indifference to the prospect of Nico Rosberg being crowned champion – that the aforementioned fact Nico can wrap up the title this weekend has generally pass under-remarked if not unremarked.
Underpinning the apparent apathy towards Rosberg is the fashionable retort that were he to prevail, Nico would be a lucky champion and his coronation would be undeserved.
When’s the Mexican GP on Sky?
Given that Nico has won nine races this term and hardly put a wheel offline all year – race day in Monaco remains the only occasion when he looked distinctly below-par – it is surely an unfair brickbat. But Nico’s critics are surely on firmer ground when questioning Nico’s championship credibility on account of his failure to pass his team-mate on track, except during a computer-inspired burst off the line, in their four years together.
There is a very possibility Rosberg will win the war without winning a single battle along the way of a 21-race campaign.
Indeed, despite the depiction of Rosberg and Hamilton as arch rivals, they’ve barely fought at all: in the entirety of 2016, they have raced each other just twice away from a first corner: in Spain, where they crashed at Turn Four, and Austria, when Hamilton overtook his team-mate on the final lap. And that’s just about it.
Hamilton v Rosberg, wheel to wheel, head to head. It’s the battle the 2016 world championship is still waiting for. Will Mexico finally deliver it? PG
Is this F1’s Transfer Deadline weekend?
As crunch time looms in the F1 driver market, Mexico could be the last time drivers on the cusp have the chance to convince teams they deserve a race seat next year.
With just a handful of seats remaining, and many of those expected to be announced before F1 heads to Brazil, it’s almost as if Sportsclubsociety News HQ’s Jim White could be waving the chequered flag in his yellow deadline day tie this weekend.
The Formula 1 Gossip column
Jolyon Palmer is enjoying a late run of form as he duels with Kevin Magnussen for the second Renault seat alongside Nico Hulkenberg. But if the Briton was to miss out there, he still needs to perform to convince another team – such as Force India where his representatives are rumoured to have had talks – that he is worthy of a second year in the sport.
Then there is the fight between the Mercedes juniors at Manor. Despite having significantly more experience in the car, Pascal Wehrlein hasn’t blown away Esteban Ocon – with the Frenchman also being eyed by Renault.
If both stay within the Mercedes stable, there is a chance one could be on the move up the grid to Force India. And it could be very significant for their respective futures which one impresses Mercedes most to get the promotion. WE
Is this the weekend where Red Bull can do Lewis a favour?
Lewis Hamilton needs it for a miraculous title turnaround, Christian Horner needs it to finish an impressive season on a high, and Formula 1 needs it for the championship climax fans desire. But can Red Bull really challenge, or even split the Mercedes over the final three races? On the evidence of Austin, at least – the answer could be yes.
Both Daniel RIcciardo and Max Verstappen could count themselves unlucky last weekend. Had their afternoons not been spoiled by their respective Virtual Safety Car and gearbox woes, podium places behind Hamilton were well within their reach. What’s clear, however, is that both are more eager than ever to catch Nico Rosberg despite not being involved in this title battle. Ricciardo’s x-rated radio message when hunting down the German was proof to that, while Verstappen has shown that he will be more than willing to attack his experienced counterparts.
“Daniel and Max can definitely be very big friends of mine, but we shall see,” Hamilton, almost rubbing his hands in anticipation, told Sky F1’s Martin Brundle in Texas.
But what about Mexico? Red Bull finished just under 20 seconds down on Mercedes here last year, with even Valtteri Bottas’ Williams placing above them, but both the track and team have changed a lot since then.
“The track is going to be a completely different track when we go there, it will be more rubbered in,” said Ricciardo. “We’ll keep trying, keep doing what we can.”
Add to the changing track conditions that there is a strong possibility of rain on Sunday, and Red Bull could be well in contention.”Mexico should be pretty similar to Austin,” added a defiant Horner. “We’ve got to be in a position to capitalise on any moments they have.”
With Hamilton needing Nico Rosberg to finish below second ast least once between now and the end of the season, the world champion will be hoping for just that. MM