After the Japanese Grand Prix, the Formula 1 Circus moves to another continent. The Mexican Grand Prix opens a series of three races that will be held in America: Mexico, the United States and Brazil. After the introduction of the Dutch and Vietnamese Grands Prix in the 2020 Formula 1 calendar, the Mexican Grand Prix has been on the table for a long time. But during the month of July the event organizers and representatives of Liberty Media come to an agreement to extend the Grand Prix’s stay in the calendar for another year, and discussions are underway for a renewal until 2022. As for 2019, Mexico will be the eighteenth Grand Prix of the twenty-one on the calendar and could crown Lewis Hamilton for the sixth time World Champion, ending the fight for the title as happened in 2017 and 2018. Lewis Hamilton approaches the weekend with 64 points ahead of his only remaining rival, Valtteri Bottas, and would only need 14 to graduate again World Champion. The British driver, however, as is his custom, preaches calmly:
"I can’t remember if I beat Valtteri by 14 points this season, in some races. If it happened, it was probably in a race at best, so I guess it could be a tough weekend. Valtteri has been strong all season, he also won the last race, so I expect him to be very strong this weekend. Many people underestimated us this year. Maybe they said we were hiding, but the truth is that Ferrari had a great car, even if it didn’t prove it right away. The most difficult challenge for everyone is to understand the tires, it is always something that creates headaches for everyone. This year was a different challenge, if we look at the qualifications it was probably the weakest year for me. I think I made some nice laps, but obviously I didn’t do as well as the others. The races were stronger on my part, continuing the streak that I started last year and this year I think I was even more continuous. You have to maintain your consistency, trying to extract the greatest performance from one weekend to another and it is a very difficult thing for all of us. Those who value us underestimate our value. Who is not an athlete does not understand what it means for us to pass from one race to another maintaining a constancy of values. Those who turn on the television only see some hours of the weekend, while in the background there is a lot of work that you can not know. You have to keep the motivation for yourself, for the team, point the team in the right direction. With these machines, so complex, it is very easy to take a wrong direction".
Ultimately, if the Englishman were to win and take the fastest lap, Valtteri Bottas would only have to get on the podium to prolong the fight, but both Scuderia Ferrari drivers and Max Verstappen could make the feat more complicated than expected. If instead Lewis Hamilton were to win, but without scoring the fastest lap, then Valtteri Bottas could also settle for fourth place, to prolong the fight for the title. Obviously these results are such when Lewis Hamilton won the race, otherwise if he were not able to go beyond the fourth place, regardless of the position of Valtteri Bottas, the Englishman would not win the title in Mexico. However, it is clear that it is only a matter of time and, as much as the Finn can try, the sixth title is widely available to Lewis Hamilton, who would thus enter the Olympus of Formula 1, second only behind Schumacher. The press conference on Thursday is monopolized by the British driver, but the topic of the day is not so much related to the possible victory of the title of World Champion. The main topic concerns her Instagram posts. Lewis Hamilton is one of the few to use his social profiles to talk about issues close to his heart, and express their feelings and emotions. For example, recently there has been a lot of activity in environmental campaigns. But, above all, through a post the British driver asked himself many questions about the possibility of withdrawing from the world of Formula 1:
"I am a human being. Like everyone I have ups and downs, I have not tried to convey a message other than this. I think it’s hard for viewers to relate and understand that celebrities are also human people who have feelings and have their ups and downs. Some people care, some people don’t care, and some people just don’t care. In those moments maybe I didn’t have the best feelings, but I have many exceptional people around me and I received so much support from my fans and my family. There are so many things going on in my life right now. Now I just feel positive and optimistic on the eve of this weekend, because I go back to doing what I love".
"I believe that we must always try to maintain optimism. It’s not always easy but I think in the past I’ve proven I can do it most of the time. There are so many things that happen to everyone in their lives, and I think it’s important to be open to everything that happens outside. I am always open and transparent in communicating my emotions, whether people like it or not. But now I am totally focused on these four races and doing everything possible to complete the work. Also because the team has done a fantastic job and I want to keep doing something positive. Then we will also think about the plans for the future. We get to this weekend knowing that Ferrari is exceptionally fast especially on the straight and here the straights are an important part of the circuit. I don’t know when we’ll get another pole, unless it rains. In that case it’ll change everything. As we have shown in the last races, qualifying is not necessarily fundamental. The important thing is to go fast in the race. This has been a good track for Red Bull and Ferrari in the past. We have greatly improved our understanding of the car and how to use it. Maybe we will have a better chance than the past”.
However, Lewis Hamilton explains that he is not interested in a career future in the world of Formula E.
"I am absolutely not interested in Formula E and so it is not something I think I will do in the future. A lot of people have opinions about how I use social media, but in the end they are my profiles. We all have a voice that we can express, it depends on how you choose to use it. For my part it is not the simplest position, because it is true that we ride around the world, we race with F1 cars and surely we have the chance to see more parts of the world than an average person. But this also gives us the opportunity to raise awareness, to raise our voice on concrete problems. I also reflect on the effect I can have on the world. It’s something I’ve become more aware of as time goes by. I know there’s no quick fix, no magic wand that solves problems. It takes time to understand the implications. It’s all about education and instruction. I’m trying to highlight problems in particular areas. If people then choose to listen to me and inquire, that’s up to them. However, I think it is good that I can talk about these issues. I was watching a documentary and it’s sad to see things that maybe we’re not aware of. This inspired me to want to do more and to communicate to people things they may not be aware of. By the end of the year, I’ll make sure that I don’t use any more plastic and non-recyclable things, and that I don’t use them in my office and in my family. So I try in my personal life to make as many changes as possible. Compared to the past I try to fly less and fly with commercial flights. This is an important habit that I have changed. I have avoided travel if I can. I have been more with my family in the UK, instead of going on holiday abroad. hich was pretty drastic. I also try to have an electric car at home, I sold many of my cars. Some I want to keep because I love them and I worked hard to get them, even though I don’t drive them much. I made some hybrid cars and then electric and towards the end of the year I will get a new hybrid car. I’m constantly trying to make changes but it’s not something you can do overnight. I want to continue on this path and sensitize people close to me. Among friends but also in my team, pushing people to change. Reduce carbon emissions, reduce plastic. I’m working with Mercedes on biodegradable bottles... on the interior of leather, to have artificial leather. There is no reason why not to do it. I try to work with Tommy Hilfiger to make the clothes I design sustainable and with eco-friendly fabrics. This has led Tommy Hilfiger himself, who works in a sector that is very damaging to the environment, to worry and push in this direction. I don’t know what I can do more. I love racing and I want to keep doing it. Our sport has started to make progress, but the whole industry has to push for F1 to do more. We will do everything we can to support the more ecological plans for the future".
Hamilton also responds to those who accused him of inconsistency through an Instagram post:
"There are some people who have advantage from the bad time this week, especially the media, who try to knock me down with their hatred and their negativity. I just want you to know that I forgive you and that this has only given me more fuel to insist. So I will keep my head down, focused on what I like to do and try to be better in every way and shape. I would like to thank all those who have spent part of their time to send me beautiful messages. Compassion was not what I was looking for, but I am really grateful for the positive feelings and affection you send me".
And about the criticism received on social media, the Briton says:
"I don’t spend much time reading the comments honestly. I’m aware that everyone has a right to their own opinions. Some will see it as me and some will see it as the opposite. It’s part of the game. I try not to get hit in the negative by these things. I think it’s important for each of us to feel good about ourselves and know that you’re doing something positive, beyond those who try to denigrate what you’re doing. You have to stay true to your values, and that’s what I try to do. There are so many people by my side who are constantly raising my spirits. I am not alone. I have great people on my team, my friends, my family and as long as I have them by my side I don’t care what others say".
Finally, speaking of the three-year confirmation of the Mexican Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton expresses his happiness:
"I love coming here. Mexico and Mexicans have a wonderful culture, they are warm and very friendly people. I have a Mexican friend I met a while back, I spend time in Colorado where there are many Mexicans. This Grand Prix is really unique also for the altitude that subjects cars, pilots and tyres to a particular stress. Since we came here the first time there has always been a very important presence, which grows from year to year and the atmosphere is extraordinary. I do not see how this Grand Prix can ever be taken off the calendar. I just hope we can make sure that when we leave this place, we also leave a positive impact on the city. In any way. We know that there are many people in need and need in this country and I think we can do more in this sense".
Regarding the upcoming Mexican Grand Prix, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has doubts about the possibility of winning against rivals such as Ferrari and Red Bull Racing:
"When we started this adventure in Formula 1 the goal was to defend with honor the Mercedes brand, get some victory and maybe a title, but the string of successes that led us to beat a record that seemed unbeatable fills us with pride. Surely we are not satisfied and as always we have prepared in detail the next appointment, on paper, however, is the worst for us. We will suffer, air density and altitude are a combination that will put a strain on our aerodynamics, cooling and performance of our engine. We will do our best and try to limit the damage in front of the always beautiful Mexican public".
Indeed, Scuderia Ferrari’s main team, Mattia Binotto, is convinced that Maranello’s cars can win in Mexico:
"After two races in which we could have done better, we are in Mexico City with the desire to bring home the maximum result. We will try to conquer the sixth consecutive pole position and then aim for the victory. The Mexican one is however a track full of pitfalls, some of which are linked to the fact that you race at over two thousand meters, which makes the development of the thirst and the power unit settings very difficult with specific adjustments. The circuit offers curves of different kinds but also long straights on which from year to year are beaten the records related to top speeds. The compromise between top speed and cornering speed will dictate the aerodynamic load choices with which we will get on track".
And so, while the media delight on the one hand in speculating on the retirement of Lweis Hamilton, on the other they put a word in the internal dynamics between the two Ferrari drivers. In this regard, Charles Leclerc says that he is not responsible for the hierarchical decisions to the intent of the team, but to address directly to the head, thus closing the subject:
"For my part I am happy with my performance. The main goal was to improve over the course of the season. I conceived this challenge as a huge opportunity to stand by Seb and learn from him. And I think I’ve achieved most of my goals. I’m happy with the way I’ve grown this year. There are still many things to learn for sure, but I’m happy with this first season. I’m not the one making the decisions for next season. But one thing is for sure, I think I’ve worked pretty well this season and I’ve improved a lot. I completely understood the situation, as I said at the beginning of the season. I think I’ve been fast in some races, I’ve shown what I’m capable of. Now I let Mattia and the management decide".
On the hypothesis of a new team game at the start in case of a start from the front row, as happened in Sochi, the Monegasque says:
"First of all we need to get a good position in qualifying, both, and then we’ll see how it goes. But we haven’t talked about it yet. We will do what the team asks, and if they ask us to do it, we will do it. There is a long way to get to Turn 1. As there was in Sochi. I don’t know if pole is the best starting position, but we will give everything to get it and we will see what will happen".
Despite the good performances of the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers, there was one thing that made the SF90 engine speak for itself. His speed on the straights has certainly not gone unnoticed, and in fact when a team brings an improvement doubts always arise from rivals. In fact, they suspect that Ferrari is circumventing the rules. In response to these allegations, Charles Leclerc says:
"Whenever a team goes through a good time, everyone looks at the little things and tries to destabilize the environment. That won’t happen. I trust in Ferrari, there is no problem with our engine. These accusations do not concern us".
After three consecutive victories at Spa, Monza and Singapore at least one Ferrari has always been present on the podium. And in Mexico the chances of winning are equally high, given the characteristics of the track. In Japan Charles Leclerc was satisfied with sixth place, after making a mistake at the start. But the Monegasque, accused of being too impulsive, says he has learned from his mistake and is ready for the Mexican Grand Prix:
"I think at the first corner it was probably useless to take so many risks, I lost a lot of points and it was just a shame, it wasn’t necessary. I made a mistake. As I said, I will learn from this by paying a little more attention to the next departure. I saw the images, it would have been wrong not to be penalized. We had a chat with Verstappen, he knows that I made a mistake and that these things happen. I think cars are getting faster and faster, so the limit is different than in the past," he explained: "So it’s possible that a curve like the 130R isn’t as difficult for us as it was 10 years ago, but there are others that are a lot tougher now that they’re much faster, and they’re a bigger challenge than before. I’ve always been very strict with myself, I don’t want to hide my mistakes. Every time I make one, I recognize it. It’s the best way for me to get over it. I analyze everything and when I find something I don’t like, I try to find the solution and that’s why I’m so hard on myself. Although I would like to go back and change something, I don’t think I would erase the mistakes, because they are always an opportunity to learn. Continuity will be very important next year, especially if we have a car that can fight for the title. It will be a fundamental aspect on which I will work".
In 2018 Leclerc took a great seventh place in Mexico, second best result of what was his wonderful year as a rookie.
"On this track I had the chance to have a free practice session in 2017 and last year’s race, so it is one of the tracks I know less. That said, for the characteristics that distinguish this circuit I like. Also because of the walls that are always very close, which I like as a pilot. The atmosphere is also special, as is driving in the stadium area, where you can see the two wings of the audience cheering in the stands".
In Japan Sebastian Vettel scored valuable points thanks to the second place, after the disastrous Russian weekend:
"I didn’t have time to enjoy pole, because we had the race right after. But it wasn’t that before there was something overly negative. Of course, some things didn’t go my way, but there wasn’t all this need for pole. Too bad then for the race, because without some burrs would have been a perfect day".
And about the title fight, the German driver adds:
"I think Mercedes obviously had the best car in the last two years, and I think there are other drivers who could have had a great chance of winning a championship. But it must be stressed that it is the combination of team and driver that makes the difference. As much as I did not love these years of their victories, especially when we fought to the end in the last two years, we must appreciate all this. It’s not just Mercedes or just Lewis. It is the set of the two that has led them to a point where they are very, very difficult to beat with really minimal mistakes. So this is thanks to both the driver and the team and I think it’s right to always mention both" concluded the German.
Mexico is a new challenge but Vettel preaches calm, not to fuel the hopes of the fans:
"Us favorites? I don’t know. On paper, you see a lot of straights here, and you think the SF90 has a head start. In fact, there is also a rich guided section and certain types of curves present here do not smile too much at the characteristics of our car".
Max Verstappen, on the eve of the Mexican Grand Prix, says:
"I’m curious to check the performance of the Honda engine with the altitude there is in Mexico. I think we will certainly have no chance against Ferrari in qualifying. Maybe we will have a few more ahead of the race. With the Honda power unit we will have to wait and see how competitive we will be".
While his former teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, comments on the disqualification that hit his team explaining his mood about it:
"These difficult times are part of the majority of sports. But in our sport it is a recurring problem because there are so many variables and many things can go wrong. Now I feel good and I think my weekend will be wonderful. But maybe something will happen and everything will go wrong. There are so many things that can happen out of my control. That’s why sometimes F1 is not the most beautiful sport. I asked myself: why did I choose this sport? Sometimes it happened. But inside I love Formula 1. I love the challenge behind it. I love her even after what happened with Japan’s results".
Now I see anger and frustration in the team, but we are also all ready to forget and ready to take back the points we lost. It’s called motivation, and you feed it using the emotions of the worst days. I think it’s the best thing to do. How right it is to celebrate the best days. I was frustrated by the disqualification because eight points would have been great for me. I think that for Renault this season has been difficult, especially to find stable results. We had high expectations because we should have improved the results of 2018. But we didn’t. And when we did well, sometimes the disqualifications came, like in Singapore and Suzuka. Something always seems to stand in the way of our competitiveness. But if I were to sit down and say 'poor us', we couldn’t move forward and improve. We have to let go of the past, is the only thing to do. We will learn from the mistakes we make and we will try again. Now I am continuing to look at my pole last year to charge ahead of this race. And in general, for many in the paddock this is the most fun time of the year, between Mexico and the United States: I think we will use happiness and positivity to try a good result”.
The Mexican driver of Racing Point, Sergio Perez, puts a lot of faith in the next Mexican Grand Prix, where surely many fans will be waiting for him:
"I think it’s the best Grand Prix ever on the calendar and it’s certainly the most special for me. If there is a weekend in which I want to be perfect and do very well, that’s it. A hundred points? It would be very special to do this here, but more than anything else I can’t wait to give the fans a great race. Last year we were doing a good Grand Prix but then we had a problem with the brakes. We’ve had some unfortunate competition here in the past. For example, 2015 with the Safety Car that came out at the wrong time for us, so I hope that this weekend we can continue the positive moment we are experiencing completing a good race".
Regarding the environmental assessment raised by Lewis Hamilton, the Mexican driver says:
"Making our voice heard is important because many listen to us, especially someone like Lewis. It is very important that he can send these messages on social media. They are positive messages, many people follow him. If we can make a mark, if we can help, I think it’s our obligation to do it. I don’t see anything wrong with what Lewis does".
And on the confirmation of the Mexican Grand Prix, he adds:
"This was great news for our country and for Formula 1. I think Formula 1 wants to have more races like Mexico, there aren’t many races where fans are so warm and not just with me, but with everyone. This is something extremely positive. There are tracks like Monza, like England that are unique and very special for us. It was very nice for me to know that the Mexican Grand Prix will continue for another three years, especially because it has grown a lot in recent years. The race is increasingly important and I hope it will last much longer, not just for the next three years".
Thanks to the latest results, Carlos Sainz Jr. managed to rise to sixth position in the World Drivers Championship. Clearly, the Spanish driver hopes to continue the positive trend:
"Getting up to sixth in the drivers' championship is encouraging and it only increases our motivation to keep pushing until the end of the year, it won’t be easy to keep this placement, but I will fight to do it with all the weapons we have. Among the manufacturers we have made another important step, but we must remain focused. I’m excited to get back in the car for the Mexican Grand Prix, it’s a fantastic event and a challenging track. I want to give my best and aim for important points again. I can’t wait to meet many local fans over the weekend".
Those looking for redemption are his teammate (and show on social networks), Lando Norris:
"Mexico usually gives good races, and the track should adapt to some of the characteristics of our car. But I do know that we have to work hard to make the most of the weekend. It is an interesting track in which to drive with the stadium section which is unique".
Compared to previous editions, the FIA adds a third zone for the use of the Drag Reduction System; in addition to the two zones confirmed respectively on the right of the pits and on the Recta Trasera (between turns 3 and 4), with a single detection point fixed at the exit of curve 15, The new zone is added between turns 11 and 12, with detection point established after turn 9. In addition, former Formula 1 driver, American Danny Sullivan, is named adjunct commissioner for the race. He has also done so in the past, the last at the Hungarian Grand Prix. For the Mexican Grand Prix, Pirelli, the sole supplier of tyres, carries C2, C3 and C4 tyres. Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, says:
"The Mexican Grand Prix has always been unpredictable, where there is a fantastic atmosphere especially in the stadium sector, where drivers feel the fans in the stands. This track has several points where you can overtake, and in recent editions we have seen a wide variety of strategies, as well as changing weather conditions. Altitude affects performance and aerodynamic set-ups, which also affects tyres. Here the single-seaters generate less downforce with rarer air and greater slippage: the three compounds harder than one step compared to 2018 should allow drivers to push to the maximum".
The first day of testing, which takes place Friday, October 25, 2019, is partly affected by bad weather. During FP1 the track is wet from the rain and quite dirty, fifth times scored count very little. Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in 1'17'327. However, the most significant times are only scored in the final twenty minutes of the session, after the interruption caused by the accident of Lance Stroll. Charles Leclerc set the second fastest time, 0.1 seconds behind the British Mercedes driver.
A comforting result, given that the Monegasque scores the time with Medium tires, instead of Soft tires. Max Verstappen finished in the top-three, followed by Alex Albon, while Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel occupied the fifth and sixth positions. The German driver of Ferrari is author of several braking locks. The rarefied air of the track, positioned at high altitude, makes the cars difficult to drive. It is much more interesting the afternoon session, as this is held in dry track conditions. FP2, however, is affected by the incident involving Alex Albon, who was then forced to pit for the rest of the session. The session is briefly interrupted to allow the reefs to be reset. At the end of practice, Sebastian Vettel scored the best time, turning in 1'16'07. Also in this case the fastest driver marks the time with Soft tyres, even if the Maranello team tries the Medium tyres for a long time. In second place is Max Verstappen, detached by 0.1 seconds, which in turn precedes the other Ferrari driver, Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque car shows little stability, so much so that the team intervenes on the torsion bars. Despite the first position at the end of FP2, Sebastian Vettel preaches calmly and admits that there can be ample room for improvement:
"This morning I was the gardener of the curve. I was always on the lawn, almost like cutting grass! In the afternoon, however, it went much better because I found a good pace and things went right. Today Charles and I shared the work: I drove more with medium tires, which overall behaved well, but we still lack a complete picture of the situation. As for the soft ones, I had the opportunity to test them for just two laps, so it is difficult to make a judgement. In the long run I had medium tires, which I think were not bad. We still have work to do tomorrow both in terms of balance and in relation to the sensations that the car transmits to me. Max seems strong but I understand that all three top teams are very close together. Let’s see how it goes tomorrow".
Verstappen also seems to have a good feeling with the track, being second to 0.1 seconds from the German Ferrari driver:
"Today was a positive day. We tested some things on the car, which improved over the day and towards the end, it was nice with the balance. Clearly, there are things that need to be improved, but we cannot complain, given the timescales in sectors two and three. I don’t think I can fight with Ferrari for pole, as they were very fast on the straights, and there aren’t many corners here, where to make a difference, but it seems that we are well on the long runs. Now, we focus on the race, where our pace seems to be very competitive, and if we can keep our tyres under control, then we can think of finishing very close in the race”.
Disconsolate, however, Alex Albon says:
"I don’t think I took too big a risk, I was just too aggressive in the corner. The conditions were tough, I was drag-free, with aerodynamics feeling less that it was a factor that made the circuit more tricky. The car was not bad anyway, we’ll see how it will go in FP3 tomorrow, but especially in qualifying".
To confirm the good feelings of Red Bull is Toro Rosso, with both cars in the top-ten: Daniil Kvyat sixth and Pierre Gasly seventh. Charles Lelcerc had to face more difficulties not only in the fast lap, but also in race conditions, given that the Monegasque has encountered some problems with tyre management:
"As far as I’m concerned, the first session went better than the second, in which I encountered some extra difficulties. I struggled with the balance of my SF90 and there are still some improvements I can pull out of my driving. In general on this track the grip is very low because of the altitude that makes the aerodynamic load less effective. I think that to win this race it will be important to get a good start and stay ahead until the first corner, because being behind another driver creates considerable problems, especially because it affects the cooling of the car. That is why the qualification will be of great importance. Our rivals seem competitive and therefore we will wait tomorrow to understand what the values in the field really are. But I think our potential is interesting".
It seems to be worse at Mercedes in qualifying simulation, as during FP2 Lewis Hamilton was even slower than in FP1. The Anglo-German cars show however to have great competitiveness with regard to the race simulation, since they have turned on average in 1'20"-1'21"0. The British driver is not satisfied with the result of this day of testing, as he suffered from poor grip and found difficulties in using Soft tires, while the Hard tires were more reliable. The Mexican circuit continues to be an unknown for Mercedes, as they haven’t won since 2016.
"It hasn’t been a great day, but for us it’s always like this in Mexico. There were no big problems today, we’re just trying to figure out the tires. From short to long run with variable temperatures it is difficult to understand perfectly how to work these tires, but it is part of the game. The car looked good in FP1. We made some changes for FP2 but track conditions changed, so it was difficult to get a good set-up. I couldn’t even get a perfect lap, so there’s definitely a lot more to give. We will study tonight trying to understand what to improve in view of Saturday and Sunday race".
Valtteri Bottas adds:
"It was not one of the easiest days for us, the track looked slippery and I had problems with the car balance in the first session. We improved in FP2 and the car balance looked good, but we still had grip problems. Both Red Bulls and Ferraris look very strong, but there are many things we can improve this weekend. The soft compound suffers on this asphalt. Last year was not optimal, but this year we managed to make some improvements and I managed to do more laps. However, towards the end I turned with the Hard, which seem more reliable and consistent. It can be very interesting because we could see very different strategies in the race".
And the Mercedes prnicipal team, Toto Wolff, confirms:
"We had some difficulties today, with a car that wasn’t competitive enough. It will not be easy to try to make the tires last as long as possible. It will be our rivals ahead to manage the pitch and they will try to do it until the end. We knew from the beginning that this would be a difficult track for us, one of the most complicated of the whole calendar. We have to try to work again on performance: if last year we suffered a lot from graining, this time we are missing something on the engine level".
Carlos Sainz finished the test with the eighth fastest time:
"I think it was another pretty solid Friday, which didn’t end in the best way with a bad FP2 lap with the Soft, but overall I felt comfortable with the car and the set-up. We have not made any major changes throughout the day and have completed our work plan, and that is good news. It looks like this weekend will feature graining and its management. We will analyse the data collected and try to be ready for qualifying".
And his teammate, Lando Norris, didn’t make it past the tenth:
"I’d say it was a good day. I struggled with the blocks in Turn 1 and we had some problems with the car. Things went better in FP2 and especially towards the end of the session. The main thing is that the areas for improvement are clear for the team and we will work on them. I am sure we will come back stronger tomorrow".
The climate in Mexico continues to slow down the teams. In the night between Friday and Saturday the rain once again wet the track, so much so that in the free practice before qualifying the drivers manage to sengnare significant times only in the last ten minutes. The track, wet and cleaned from the rain, forces the drivers to wait again for the evolution of the rubber coating that settles on the asphalt, so they perform the tests with intermediate tires during the first part of the session. The FP3 are quite hectic: Pierre Gasly is hit by an intestinal virus, as happened also to Tatiana Calderon - driver of the Porsche Super Cup - during the day on Friday, and for this reason he does not take part in the FP3. The mechanics and technicians of Scuderia Ferrari work feverishly on Sebastian Vettel’s car because of a problem with the sensors on his SF90. While both drivers of the Renault team do not take to the track because of a hydraulic loss occurred on both cars. Despite the various difficulties faced during the morning, the FP3 ended with the Scuderia Ferrari cars marking the first half with Charles Leclerc, 1'16'145, and Sebastian Vettel, who is only 0.027 seconds behind his teammate. But the Mercedes are no less fast, and both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton manage to score times significantly lower than the previous day. Max Verstappen, probably focused on another program, scored only the best sixth time, preceded by Carlos Sainz Jr... Given the results seen in free practice, it seems that Scuderia Ferrari drivers can be the favourites to win pole position, thanks also to the huge difference in speed they enjoy on the straight. Moreover, since the end of the summer break the pole has always been conquered by a driver of the Maranello team. The problem remains however the management of tyre consumption in the race, even if the weather could meet the Maranello team. In qualifying the first significant time is marked by Sebastian Vettel, who runs in 1'16"859, but this limit is quickly beaten by Alexander Albon, who runs in 1'16"175. The Thai driver is 0.5 seconds ahead of Charles Leclerc.
Between the Monaco driver and the Red Bull Racing driver, Lewis Hamilton is next. The other Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, is fifth, before Max Verstappen, thanks to a time of 1'15"949, becomes the first driver to fall below the limit of 1'16"0. Alex Albon then moved up to second, 0.2 seconds behind Max Verstappen. Charles Leclerc also reduced the gap to just 0.4 seconds. The difference in performance of the cars of the Anglo-Austrian team derives from the second sector, the one where the aerodynamic load is most important. The fight for qualifying in the second phase sees committed, as well as the Williams, the Racing Points and the Haas. Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean, George Russell and Robert Kubica were eliminated. In Q2, the first cars to take to the track were the two Toro Rosso cars of Daniil Kvjat and Pierre Gasly, before Lewis Hamilton scored the fastest lap. Soon after is the turn of Sebastian Vettel, who scores a time of 1'15"914. Max Verstappen follows, 0.2 seconds away, which in turn precedes Charles Leclerc, 0.3 seconds behind the German. Alex Albon is fifth, while Lewis Hamilton, after a driving error, compromises his second attempt with Medium tires. Valtteri Bottas is also the author of a driving error in the first lap, but with the second attempt he climbs to fourth place. Local driver Sergio Pérez takes seventh place, ahead of Nico Hülkenberg, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo. Towards the end of Q2 the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers took to the track to make a new attempt with Soft tyres, while the two Mercedes drivers continued to use Medium tyres. The two drivers of the Maranello team are not able to improve the times scored with Medium rubber, which is therefore the compound with which they will start in the race. The two Mercedes drivers, on the other hand, monopolize the first two places in the ranking. At the end of Q2 Carlos Sainz Jr.
He moved up to fourth place, while McLaren’s other driver, Lando Norris, moved up to sixth. Sergio Pérez was eliminated by a few thousandths of a second. In addition to the Mexican, the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg and the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen did not pass in Q3. In the decisive phase the first driver to close a lap is Lando Norris, beaten immediately by the two leaps of Toro Rosso. With the arrival of the drivers of the top teams the ranking is changed. Valtteri Bottas scored a time of 1'15"338, beaten by the time trial scored by Lewis Hamilton, 1'15"290. Shortly after, Sebastian Vettel leads the time classification thanks to a lap completed in 1'15"170, before Max Verstappen manages to score a time of 1'14"910. Alexander Albon is in the middle of the Mercedes, while Charles Leclerc is second, 0.1 seconds from the Dutch driver of Red Bull Racing. In the second attempt Sebastian Vettel and Alex Albon did not improve, in the first sector, as does Charles Leclerc, who improved both in the first and in the second intermediate, but made a mistake in the third. A few seconds before the end Valtteri Bottas left the track at the last corner, hitting the barriers, with the car heavily damaged. Shortly after, Max Verstappen passes on the point, which improves the time, but under the yellow flag. At first the result is validated. But after having at first acquitted Max Verstappen, analyzing the mini-sectors of the lap that guaranteed him the pole position at the Mexican Grand Prix, the FIA decided to summon the Dutch driver. What changed the Commissioners' minds were the statements made to journalists by the Red Bull pilot, who admits candidly, both to the media and at a press conference, not to have slowed down despite having seen the accident of Valtteri Bottas and the yellow flag exposed.
"I was aware that Bottas had come to the wall. No, I didn’t slow down, so if they want to cancel my lap time for that session, they’ll erase it".
Ed Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner tries to defend his driver by telling the media:
"There were no yellow lights in that sector during the last run. Max Verstappen completed the lap because there were no reports about it, so did Lewis Hamilton. We had a great day, for us it is amazing to center pole position and also Alexander Albon defended himself well".
Max Verstappen’s pole position was therefore cancelled by the stewards, who penalized him by three positions on the starting grid and subtracted two points from the Superlicense. So the two Ferraris come up in the front row. For Charles Leclerc it’s the seventh pole position. At the end of qualifying Valtteri Bottas, protagonist of the incident in the final stages, asks the organizers to modify the barriers at the point of the accident.
"We knew our rivals would be very strong this weekend. After FP3 we understood that we could play pole position but we feared that if they put it all together they would simply be faster even if I was quite satisfied with my first lap in Q3, I still remained a tenth behind Max (Verstappen) and then I went back on track with a small set-up change. Unfortunately, however, I accused understeer and I lost time, especially in the last sector. Starting from pole position after qualifying in second position is a bit strange, but our approach to the race does not change: it will be important to keep the first position at the start. First to Turn 3 will have a big advantage because being in front allows you to have less cooling problems than the cars that follow. The straight that leads to turn 1 is very long so we will have to resort to all our speed on the straight to defend against the attacks of those who follow us. I expect an interesting race".
More disappointed is Sebastian Vettel, having been forced to lift his foot from the accelerator due to the accident involving Valtteri Bottas:
"I made a mistake in the first attempt, I was pretty confident that I could improve in the second attempt however, unfortunately I had to slow down for the double yellow flag and so I lost the lap. The car is good, so I would have liked to get a better position, because I think it would have been possible, but we will see how it goes tomorrow because the race is long. We hope to make a good start, but it will be difficult both for the brakes and for the cooling in general and then we will see how it goes. Also for the compounds will be quite an adventure, because all the first six cars have decided to start with the medium compound and then we will see who can keep them longer. I look forward to tomorrow".
Team principal Mattia Binotto, from Scuderia Ferrari, also talks about what should be done in case of a yellow flag, but without making any explicit reference to the case involving Max Verstappen:
"First of all, I hope Bottas is okay. That’s the important thing. I know he’s doing all the checking. Our drivers with yellow flag raised their foot, then in addition to yellow flag this is a safety theme. I think it’s safe to slow down. There were yellow flags on display, you can not slow down, do not do it means breaking the regulation. Both of our drivers were improving on their lap. Hard to say if it was enough or not, but both were fighting for pole. It would be played on cents. Too bad, but the accident happened. Both our drivers slowed down, there was nothing else to do".
The Italian manager is asked what will happen at the start, remembering what happened in Sochi:
"Better not to pose the problems of Russia. The race will be long, we saw a great degradation of tires on Friday, the straight is very long, taking the wake is important. But I think it is important for us also the result of today: to have the positions we deserve".
The prospects for the race are uncertain for Ferrari, which will start on a par with rivals with Medium tyres:
"More than a stop? It will be difficult race, top teams have qualified all with Medium tires, so we all fear the degradation of the tire, We know that starting with Mediums will be important. Those who start with the middle school can then also put the hard. Tomorrow we will see, I do not say the good, but definitely different situations. Data change from Friday to Sunday. True that degradation on Sebastian was good, but I am convinced that everyone seeing the data on Friday ran for repairs by acting on set-up and tyre management during the race. The qualifying ranking shows that we are all close. It will be a race to play, strategies will have their importance".
It will be necessary to keep the focus alive on Lewis Hamilton, as the British driver admits that without the accident that involved his teammate, he probably could have obtained the pole position:
"Even without Valtteri’s accident, I don’t think I could have fought for pole. Today the others were much faster than us. In my lap I had a lead of two and a half tenths before the last sector, I don’t know where it could end: I had to lift my foot when Valtteri made the accident, but it was not all there time. I definitely left them something, but I definitely could not beat Verstappen. This race is always difficult for us. I don’t expect it to be easy, but maybe if it rains tonight or tomorrow, there will be a hotter race. It will be tough. Red Bull is also very fast in the long run, so it will be difficult to keep up".
On Sunday 27 October 2019, at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc maintained the first position, while Sebastian Vettel resisted the attack of Lewis Hamilton. The Briton was joined by Max Verstappen, but the two were able to continue, although Alexander Albon and Carlos Sainz Jr. behind the two Ferrari drivers, while Max Verstappen is also passed by Valtteri Bottas. In contact with the Dutchman, Lewis Hamilton damages the bottom of his car, which forces him, throughout the race, to change his driving style. Also on the first lap, Charles Leclerc made a long run at turn 4, and was lightly hit by Sebastian Vettel’s car. On lap 4 Max Verstappen passed Vatteri Bottas at turn 13, but his right rear tire punctured: the Red Bull Racing driver was forced to make almost a lap without cover, before being able to pit, to change the tyres. Max Verstappen opted for the use of Hard tyres at the stop. On lap 7 Valtteri Bottas passed Carlos Sainz Jr. And took the fifth position. Three laps later Sergio Pérez passed Daniil Kvjat and took eighth place, before the Russian entered the pits to change tires. Lando Norris also stops on lap 12. At the restart the front left tire is not well fixed, which forces the Englishman to stop at the end of the pit lane, and be returned to the pitch of the British team, to fix the tire. McLaren is not penalized for unsafe releases as the driver was stopped for precaution, before knowing, with certainty, that the wheel was not well fixed. On lap 14, Alex Albon, who still has Medium tyres, stops. On lap 15, Leclerc returns to the pits. Medium tyres are also fitted to the Monegasque’s car. Carlos Sainz Jr.. Sebastian Vettel was in the lead, 1.9 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton, 8.9 behind Valtteri Bottas and 17.5 behind Charles Leclerc. Alex Albon and Sergio Pérez follow. The Mexican is waiting for lap 20 to change tires. Lewis Hamilton stops on lap 23. The British driver’s car was fitted with Hard tyres. The Mercedes driver returned to the track in fourth place. On the same lap there was a collision between the cars of Max Verstappen and Kevin Magnussen. On lap 30 Sebastian Vettel, who has not yet made the break, remains in the lead of the race with 6.1 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas, 12.6 seconds over Leclerc, 18.3 seconds over Lewis Hamilton and 24.5 seconds over Alex Albon. The German Ferrari driver lost some time during the dubbing phase, before stopping in the pits during lap 37, to mount Hard tires. Valtteri Bottas had also stopped a lap before, he too switched from Medium tyres to Hard tyres.
Thus, Charles Leclerc takes the lead of the race, followed by Lewis Hamilton, Alexander Albon, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo, who has not yet stopped. On lap 42 Charles Leclerc made his second stop, switching to Hard tyres. The pit stop is not perfect, and the Monaco crash loses four seconds. The Ferrari driver returned to the track in fifth place, but soon moved to fourth place, as Alex Albon also made his second stop. Lewis Hamilton takes the lead, followed by Sebastian Vettel, with a margin of about 3 seconds. On lap 50 Daniel Ricciardo returned to the pits to change tires, and went from sixth to eighth place. Thanks to the voice-overs, Valtteri Bottas approaches Sebastian Vettel, as well as Charles Leclerc reduces the margin on the Finn. On lap 57 the Monegasque missed the braking point in turn 1, and lost the opportunity to pass Valtteri Bottas. Further behind Daniel Ricciardo attacks Sergio Pérez, but he also makes a mistake in braking, goes along the escape route and allows the Mexican to keep the seventh place. In the last laps Sebastian Vettel reduced the margin on Lewis Hamilton, but without being able to worry him. Lewis Hamilton won the Mexican Grand Prix: for the British driver it is the success number 83 in his career. The victory in Mexico is the number 100, as a manufacturer, for Mercedes. The third place of the team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, does not allow Lewis Hamilton to mathematically conquer the sixth title of World Champion, the third consecutive. The second place of Sebastian Vettel represents the endless 120 podium in his career. Followed by Charles Leclerc, fourth at the finish, then Alex Albon, Max Verstappen, author of an incredible comeback, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly, but the latter climbs to ninth place due to a ten-second penalty given to the Russian driver for contact with Nico Hulkenberg at the last corner. Nico Hulkenberg climbed up to tenth place. Lewis Hamilton prevailed and won his tenth win of the season. Now the points ahead of Valtteri Bottas are 74, and missing only three Grands Prix at the end of the season would simply keep this margin above 52 points to win the title mathematically in the United States, at the Austin circuit. In Texas, in case of victory of the team-mate, the British pilot would be enough even to arrive ninth at the finish line.
"I am honored by the opportunity I had today to win this race. I like to race and live one race at a time. I had wanted to win the Mexican Grand Prix for some time, but we always had difficulties that prevented me from passing first under the checkered flag. Today the car and the team were perfect and keeping Ferrari behind was not easy. First of all, I want to applaud this incredible audience. I think the atmosphere here in Mexico is the most beautiful one ever. Today’s result was truly exceptional. I have to thank enormously my team, the people who are here and those who continue to work hard at home. We thought we were behind our opponents, more in trouble, but we held on and even though I had damage at the start I went ahead I thought I was behind Ferraris and Red Bulls because I had a car damage. It was a struggle but my second stint was very good".
Initial contact between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton compromised the Briton’s race. But despite the problem that accompanied him throughout the race, Mercedes' lead still managed to finish first.
"I had a couple of crazy turns today, I was pushed on the grass in the beginning and then Max hit me. It was not easy to recover from there afterwards: I was missing a big piece of my bottom, so the back was moving a lot and I had to really change the dynamics of how I was driving. I don’t know how I got him to move on, but I did. The guys also did a fantastic job with the strategy: we stopped pretty early and honestly I thought it might be too soon, but in the end everything went well. Today I really wanted to offer something to the fans; they were all out there during the parade of the drivers who supported me, so I really wanted to give them a good performance and I am so grateful that we won".
Lewis Hamilton also talks about the behaviour of Max Verstappen during the Grand Prix, having been involved in two accidents with both Mercedes drivers:
"Each driver is different from the other. Some are smarter, some are aggressive, and some are stupid. Through the experience that you do on the track you know who to give more or less space. Verstappen is one of those to which you should give space because otherwise you will probably find yourself hooked to his Red Bull. And so most of the time, you act like it. I didn’t have a lot of room for him personally. Our collision was not intentional, Verstappen is simply a magnet for this kind of thing".
However, Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner defends the performance of his driver:
"Actually, he had a lot of patience with Ferraris. He was ahead of Lewis and he braked fast; which then allowed Lewis to move around and risk outside. Lewis’s front wing started to wobble afterwards and both ended up on the grass. It was a tough race. I don’t think Max did anything wrong at the first corner. What happened with Bottas was difficult. Max passed him, but Bottas' front wing punctured his tyre at the exit of the bend. It was just bad luck. Some times you are fine, others not. He could have fought for victory with the speed he had".
The series of successes of Red Bull Racing on the Mexican circuit was thus interrupted. But there is to take into account the race of Alex Albon, who managed once again to finish the race in the top five. Since he joined the official team, the Thai driver has never fallen below the sixth position, proving to have great consistency despite Red Bull is not a car easy to drive.
"It was really exciting to occupy the third position at the start of the race and see that the Ferraris didn’t run away. In terms of pace and race pace I’m growing is this for me is very positive. We made two stops and in particular the out lap after the first pit was terrible because I found myself in front of Carlos Sainz losing a lot of time. In the end the one-stop strategy turned out to be better, but I don’t know if I could make the hard tyre train last until the checkered flag. The mechanics were fantastic, in the race they made a tyre change in less than two seconds, 1.9, and then Friday I had given them a lot of work to do. I wanted to do a good race to thank them and I succeeded, I can not wait to get back on track to continue to grow and get closer to the top positions".
As for the Scuderia Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel is satisfied with the second place. The German driver finished just two seconds behind Lewis Hamilton.
"Surprisingly the Hard tyres worked very well and it was a very intense race. I managed to keep Bottas behind even though he put a lot of pressure on me. Hamilton had an exceptional consistency throughout the race. We only managed to get close in the final but it wasn’t enough. I’m happy because it was a good race. In terms of strategy we could have dared more to try to win but it was still a positive Grand Prix".
As for the strategy, the German driver says:
"Today we weren’t wrong that much, we just didn’t think hard tires could last as long, if fitted very soon as Lewis did. He took a risk that paid off. We, for our part, tried both strategies: two stops for Charles, one for me, and the final result shows that they were both good. On Friday we had a lot of graining, but today there was no graining at all: this made the difference helping those who decided to risk. It is clear that we cannot be satisfied, because if you start from the front row you expect, as a team, to collect the victory. In the final laps we lacked the speed necessary to try to force in order to grab success. For Lewis and Valtteri today everything really went perfectly while we probably missed a bit of luck".
After starting from the top of the grid, Charles Leclerc still failed to win, but finished the race in fourth place.
"Maybe I need to be more decisive about strategies. I have to work, I’m not yet at SEB level. He made the right choice today. I was happy with the first part of the race, then we stopped early to cover on Albon and we put the middle school. The second stint did not go as we wanted and the third was even worse, it was complicated. I’m disappointed and like me the whole team is disappointed. We are working hard, the car is in qualifying and there was in the race today. But Mercedes with Hamilton did a very good job, we did not expect that they could get to the end with a single stop".
Mercedes is so efficient that it also received the compliments of Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto:
"When we stopped Charles, it was not yet clear that one-stop strategy would be the most appropriate. Especially when you’re at the top, you can’t take that chance, especially on a tyre wear issue. Mercedes dared. Their choice could pay as well as condemn them. In the end he paid and this must be recognized. Perhaps we should have been more courageous ourselves, daring something more. But if you look at the data, you will see that our doubts were legitimate".
"Hamilton stopped before Seb: at that point, if we had stopped Vettel the next lap, in any case we would have lost the position on the Mercedes. So we kept Seb on track as much as possible to shorten the second stint and be able to push more in the final. Friday and Saturday we had ascertained that tyre consumption was quite high. But the results of the race, with the incredible longevity manifested by the toughest compound, took everyone by surprise".
Three races before the conclusion of the 2021 World Championship, the controversy on the Ferrari engine does not subside, and at the Grand Prix concluded Mattia Binotto intervenes for the first time on the issue:
"It is a shame to read these polemics on the internet or in the newspapers. Other competitors in the past had a similar advantage and no one blamed him for it. Evidently our supremacy over the straights doesn’t like it, but we don’t blame others for being so fast in the corners. Are they because they have a trick? I don’t think, as we don’t have it in the straight. If we’re really up front right now, we should just be proud of it. The question of a possible complaint doesn’t interest us. It is a problem of our opponents, not ours. The FIA sees the telemetry data of all and performs continuous checks at every single race. I have no complaints or complaints from the FIA".
There are only three Grands Prix left, which will be held in the United States, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. The Constructors' World Championship is now widely won by Mercedes, which is preparing to celebrate the Drivers' World Championship with Lewis Hamilton. For Scuderia Ferrari we can only hope to win a few more Grands Prix before finally focusing on the 2020 season. When the Maranello team will be called to the rescue and to try to stem the excessive power of the Anglo-German team, ruler of the turbo-hybrid era.