HAMILTON EXPECTING RAPID RED BULL IN RIVALRY RUN-IN

By Michael Lamonato

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes will have its work cut out to keep in touch with Red Bull Racing in Mexico City, but the Briton hopes the unpredictability of the season might play to his advantage.

Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is a danger circuit for Hamilton’s title campaign. Its high-altitude demands have made this a Mercedes bogey race over the years, whereas the Red Bulls have typically shone — Max Verstappen has won two of the last three races here and probably would have taken the lot were it not for first-lap damage in 2019.

Followed by likely Red Bull Racing-favouring on subsequent weekends, there’s potential for Hamilton’s 12-point deficit to Verstappen to blow out before the December finale.

But the fact the Dutchman was able to stretch his advantage into double figures with a nail-biting win at the preceding United States Grand Prix is giving the reigning champion hope on a weekend many are considering a Mercedes write-off.

The closeness of the cars appears to be generating unpredictable outcomes, and just as Verstappen beat him on his turf in Texas, so too might Hamilton strike back this weekend.

“We thought that we would be stronger, for example, in somewhere like Austin,” he said. “They were quite a bit stronger than us in the race. So I really can’t predict it.”

Teammate Valtteri Bottas also hinted Mercedes is expecting better fortune this year, having improved its power unit’s high-altitude performance.

“I think we've been able to optimise [the engine] a lot since, so I would expect us to be in a better place than in the recent years,” he suggested before arriving in Mexico.

But Red Bull Racing’s form on paper is fearsome, and Hamilton is keen to keep expectations grounded.

“Last year they out-qualified us here and they were down on power compared to us through the year,” he said. “Now they’re ahead on power, there or thereabouts … so they’re going to be rapid this weekend.

“Last year I think they were almost half a second ahead of us. Our car is not better than last year’s car, I would say, with those changes.

“It’ll be interesting to see how we fare with them this weekend.”

Meanwhile, Red Bull Racing’s strong run of form, with five podiums from three races, means its objective is clear and its confidence absolute.

“In Mexico the aim is to be one and two,” motorsport advisor Helmut Marko told Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport.

This could be a crucial weekend in the championship campaign.

MY RACE TIPS

Though I don’t think this will be a Red Bull Racing whitewash, on paper all signs point to Red Bull Racing this weekend, and with both drivers in superb form, I think Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez are poised to deal Lewis Hamilton some serious damage.

Pole position: Max Verstappen

Race podium: Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton