Hamilton eyes Mexican win
Lewis Hamilton says he wants to win his fourth world title with victory in Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix rather than finishing fifth. The Mercedes driver is on the brink of cementing his place as the most successful British driver in the history of the sport, if he seals the title in Mexico.
Momentum appears as if it is with the Mercedes driver, he has won five of the last six races which have allowed him to build a sixty six-point lead over title rival Sebastian Vettel. Vettel’s hopes have all but collapsed, thanks to reliability problems and collisions in the last three of the four races.
Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Hamilton said “I plan to win. I’m not here for anything else but number one. I was just thinking about it as I was walking in here. It is true that I only need to finish fifth.”
“But I thought, I think to myself, ‘How would I feel if I was to finish fifth and win the world championship?’ It wouldn’t feel great.” Hamilton last wrapped up the title two years ago in Austin with three races to go.
Ten years ago, in his debut season, he lost the championship by a single point. The following season, in 2008, he overtook Timo Glock at the final corner to seal his first title by one point, while being under pressure from Vettel.
Hamilton added “I want to be on the top of the podium. You want to be up there…as a racing driver, you constantly want to show your performance and your strength and you never want that to waiver. So, that’s my goal this weekend.”
Mercedes need to be at top of the game
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team needs to be “at the very top of their game” if they to fend of Ferrari and Red Bull so they can secure Lewis Hamilton his fourth world title this weekend in the Mexican Grand Prix.
The Englishman only requires fifth place in Sunday’s race to seal the title and give Mercedes their fourth consecutive drivers’ championship. Mercedes wrapped up the constructors last weekend in Austin, the team has won the race for the past two years.
However, this year’s race on paper will be more challenging for Mercedes as they have struggled at high downforce circuits this season and also struggled with the setup of their cars. This means that Mercedes are expecting a stern test from Ferrari and Red Bull.
Wolff told Sky Sports “Our target may be clear – but it will not be easy to achieve this weekend in Mexico. This is an unusual circuit where the cars run at maximum downforce owing to the high altitude.”
“Some of our most difficult weekends this season have come with the car running at maximum downforce, so we expect a tough and close-fought battle with both Ferrari and Red Bull.” Wolff says it’s important that the team remain at the top of the game to seal the title.
If Hamilton does seal the title, Mercedes would be the first team to win both world championships both before and after a major regulation change.
“Although the constructors’ title is now secure, we are only halfway to hitting our objectives for the season. When we set our targets at the start of the year, it was to become the only team to win both championships across a major regulation change.” Added Wolff.
Team bosses discuss four-wheel drive
A move to four-wheel drive cars is to be discussed at a key meeting on Tuesday between the teams, Liberty Media and the FIA as they look to outline the vision for the next set of regulations from 2021.
The broad agreement is for the current turbo-hybrid V6s to be retained, with some parts of it being standardised across all teams in a bid to reduce costs and tighten the competitive order. However, some of the manufacturers are in favour of retaining the complicated MGU-H, which recycles energy from turbo heat, at the heart of an F1 engine.
One alternative to the MGU-H is to introduce a front-axle kinetic energy recovery system (KERS). The KERS system was used between 2009-13 and recovers energy from the front axle for drivers to deploy later in the race.
Front-axle KERS would help improve mechanical grip in corners and allow cars to follow each other more closely, but the technology is expensive and would add further weight to already very heavy F1 cars.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Autosport “How do we compensate for 60% of electric energy that is being lost? There are various possibilities and front motors is one.”
“It’s not that we are absolutely stuck on implementing front motors but we have to discuss all possible technologies that can compensate for the lack of power.” However, introducing the system could create the same situation the sport currently has with engines
Gene Haas said “We have to be very careful before we say ‘let’s just throw a four-wheel drive car out there’, because it could be another one of those ones where one team will probably hit a home-run.”
Formula One wants to attract independent suppliers, however, this idea may please current manufacturers, but it will not help smaller teams or encourage new independent suppliers.
Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said: “Liberty will have to take a position and to accept maybe to make some people unhappy. It’s going to be extremely difficult to make fans.”
Stricter track limits for Mexico
The FIA has imposed new rules about track limits at the first corner at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix. The move is to prevent a repeat of the problems that marred last year’s race.
On the opening lap of last year’s race, Lewis Hamilton cut across the circuit running across the grass and re-joined in the lead. The stewards decided that the Mercedes driver didn’t gain an advantage so didn’t ask him to concede the position.
However, later in a nearly identical move, Max Verstappen cut across the grass in an identical way in his battle to defend against Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen went on to take third place on the road.
However, Verstappen was handed a penalty post-race – dropping him off the podium – because stewards felt he had unfairly benefitted. Track limits are again a talking point ahead of this weekend’s race, following Verstappen’s penalty for cutting the track in Austin when he overtook Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap.
The FIA has placed 50mm high inner kerbs between turns one and two, two and three to avoid drivers cutting the corners. In his race notes race director, Charlie Whiting has made clear that drivers will now have to go around the second series of speed bumps before they re-join the track, which in theory will cost them time.
“For safety reasons, any driver who either passes to the left of or runs over the orange kerb sections on the driver’s left between Turns 1 and 2, or who passes to the left of the bollard on the apex of Turn 2, must re-join the track by driving around the end of the orange kerb sections on the driver’s left between Turns 2 and 3.”
Further limits have been placed at Turns 8 and 11, where other speed bumps have been put down. With Whiting adding “”For safety reasons, any driver whose car passes completely behind the kerb on the apex of Turn 8 must re-join the track by keeping wholly to the right of the orange kerb parallel to the track on the exit of the corner.
“For safety reasons, any driver whose car passes completely behind the kerb on the apex of Turn 11 must re-join the track by keeping wholly to the left of the orange kerb.”
Verstappen backs out of apology
Max Verstappen has backed out of apologising for criticising stewards following his demotion after Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.
The Dutchman hit out at “one idiot steward” who awarded a five-second post-race penalty, which demoted him off the podium in Austin, for overtaking Kimi Raikkonen after running off track.
Speaking at the press conference ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, Verstappen said “It’s a shame we miss out on the podium as they take it away again but it’s just one idiot steward who always makes the decisions up there against me.”
“The crowd is loving it and then you do something like that on world TV. The way they did it is unbelievable. The sport makes no sense. They kill the race like that.” Former F1 driver Mika Salo, who was a steward at the race revealed he received death threats in the wake of Verstappen’s demotion.
While Verstappen admitted, he regrets his use of words but hasn’t made a full apology.
“After a race, emotions always run high, especially when you have been taken off the podium. I could have used different words but l still think the decision wasn’t correct. I was angry. But the words were not correct.”
However, he still insists that the punishment was unjust because other drivers had breached the Austin track limits throughout the weekend without penalty.
Williams not restricted by Martini
Williams’s technical director Paddy Lowe has dismissed suggestions that the team’s driver line up will be restricted by title sponsor Martini. The team currently holds the last major seat on the grid, as Felipe Massa is out of contract at the end of the season.
Earlier this month the team tested both Robert Kubica and reserve driver Paul di Resta in private tests earlier this month but it is believed the team could wait until after the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to make a decision.
However, it is understood that as part of the teams Martini sponsorship requires 18-year-old Lance Stroll’s next partner to be over the age of 25, to avoid a situation where both drivers have to contest races without carrying any reference to the alcohol brand.
Lowe told ESPN “What’s most important for the team is to pick a driver line-up that will give us the best performance and most exciting racing potential.”
“There are some issues around advertising and Martini but if it came to it, I’m sure Martini would understand the importance — if that’s what we were to choose — to have the best line-up for racing rather than for advertising”
Can Lewis Hamilton seal his fourth world championship this weekend? Formula One Vault will bring you full live coverage from 15:45 on Friday with first practice. Qualifying coverage from 18:45BST Saturday, with race coverage from 18:30GMT on Sunday. (Note clock change)