Hamilton rates chances of wrapping up sixth title as thin as the Mexico air

Lewis Hamilton could surpass the five world titles achieved by the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio in the Argentine’s home continent on Sunday as he chases a sixth for himself.

Hamilton, who finished third behind Sebastian Vettel and now his only rival for the title, teammate Valtteri Bottas in Japan, has the chance of wrapping things up in Mexico City.

It’s unlikely that Hamilton will get the job done in Mexico, however, because even if the Englishman wins the race with a point for the fastest lap, second or third for Bottas would take the title race on to Austin, Texas.

Should he finish second or third, even with a fastest lap, it’s practically game over because Bottas would have to finish lower than seventh or eighth. And, bar an unlikely technical failure, that’s not going to happen to a driver of Bottas’ calibre cocooned in a Mercedes chassis.

“Mexico is generally our worst race of the year because of the way our car is set up and it’s going to be a tough one for us,” Hamilton is quoted by BBC Sport’s Andrew Benson after the Japanese Grand Prix. “I’m hoping for a better weekend, but I think it’s going to be very hard to beat the Ferraris with those long straights.

“We have no hope of getting by on those straights, that’s for sure, but even if you look at the others, the McLarens are picking up some serious speeds on the straights, so are the Red Bulls so I think it will be a tricky one. I don’t anticipate it will be Mexico. I think we will be battling for a good few races.”

Add into the equation that Mercedes does not expect the high-altitude Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit to favour its car, and also the competition expected from Ferrari… a number of factors would have to go his way to get the job done three races before the season’s end.

“There is no sense of entitlement in this team for future success, so we were quickly back to our usual race preparation routine after Japan,” added Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff. “We know that the four remaining races are not going to be easy and we expect Mexico to be the most difficult one for us.

“The high altitude of the track brings some fairly unusual challenges as the low air density affects the downforce of the car, the cooling and the engine performance. It’s a combination that doesn’t particularly suit our car, but we will give it everything to try and limit the damage.”

As alluded to by Hamilton, Red Bull could also pose a threat in Mexico and be in with an outside chance of victory. Max Verstappen has won the last two Mexican grands prix, so there must be something about the thin air that plays into the hands of the team’s legendary aerodynamic package.

“I’m looking forward to going back to Mexico, as the last two years have been pretty special there with the two wins,” said Verstappen in his team’s preview.

“I really enjoy driving there. The track is very different as it’s at high altitude, which makes it low grip. The corners are also very technical, so you have to work hard to make sure you get the best out of it but it’s a good track for us normally. I expect it to be a little bit more difficult this year because of Ferrari’s pace but I think we can still have a very good race.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.