Mexican Grand Prix 2015: 5 Bold Predictions for Mexico City Race
It has been more than 23 years since Nigel Mansell won the last Mexican Grand Prix for Williams—his first of five straight victories to open the season, en route to a dominant championship campaign.
Now, Formula One returns to Mexico City for the first time since 1992 and a rebuilt Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. The circuit's famous Peraltada corner has been sacrificed in the name of safety, but the track still looks fast and exciting.
The circuit is more than two kilometres above sea level, but the power output from the current hybrid, turbo-charged engines will not be affected the way normally aspirated engines were in the past.
With Lewis Hamilton wrapping up the drivers' title last weekend at the United States Grand Prix, that drama is over, but there are still plenty of interesting storylines to watch for in Mexico, including the battle for second place in the championship between Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg, jostling among the teams in the constructors' standings and Sergio Perez's long-awaited home debut.
As of Tuesday, the BBC is predicting fair weather for the weekend in Mexico City, which will be a relief after the torrential rain in Austin, Texas.
To help prepare you for Sunday's race, here are five bold predictions for the first Mexican Grand Prix in a generation.
A Surprise Winner
At this point, any winner other than Lewis Hamilton would qualify as a surprise.
With the title now locked up, though, no matter what Hamilton says, his motivation cannot be the same. No doubt he still wants to win, but he doesn't have to.
And with just a week between the U.S. and Mexican Grands Prix, the hangover from the victory celebrations will allow someone else to claim the win in Mexico.
And who will that someone be? Nico Rosberg, last seen on the top step of the podium four months ago in Austria.
Rosberg will be keen to avenge what he saw as an unfair move by Hamilton at the first corner in Austin.
"I was ahead in mid-corner and so I have the right to a piece of track—and he is driving me off the road, banging into me," he told the official F1 website. "There was a quite heavy contact for me on the steering wheel when we banged wheels—so that was definitely one step too far."
Even with Hamilton getting by at the first corner, Rosberg still looked to have the race won in the final stint, until a mistake in the final laps allowed Hamilton through again.
That has often been the case for Rosberg this year, one mistake costing him a race. A mistake-free race and victory over Hamilton is necessary for his confidence as Rosberg looks ahead to another long offseason of wondering, "What if...?"
A Strong Home Result for Sergio Perez
On average, F1 drivers actually perform slightly worse in their home races than they do elsewhere.
Despite that, Sergio Perez is in the midst of a fine run of form that began with fifth place at the Belgian Grand Prix in August. In the last two races, he was third in Sochi and fifth in Austin.
Were it not for team-mate Nico Hulkenberg's suddenly discovered talent for driving into other people, Force India could be seriously challenging Red Bull for fourth in the constructors' championship—they are currently 48 points behind, even with the German's three retirements in the last four races.
"The recent results give us real momentum as we head to my home race in Mexico, where I’m determined to give my fans something more to celebrate," Perez said after the race in Austin, per a team press release.
It will likely take a retirement or two among the Mercs and Ferraris, but a home podium is not out of the question for Perez.
A McLaren Hat-Trick
For most of McLaren's history, if you mentioned the team scoring a hat-trick, you probably meant they had just won three races in a row. Those days are becoming a distant memory in Woking, England, though; their last victory came nearly three years ago in Brazil.
But McLaren have scored points in two straight races—the second time this year they have accomplished that modest feat.
With an upgraded engine in Fernando Alonso's car, there was a chance for both cars to finish in the top 10 in Austin, but the Spaniard retired late in the race and Jenson Button finished sixth.
"As we've been saying throughout the year, we know we've got a lot of work still to do, but it's clear that we're making progress, together with Honda, and that's encouraging for us all," racing director Eric Boullier said in a team press release.
"We'll be on track again in just five days' time, in Mexico City, so let's hope we can build on today's result when we get there."
Expect at least one McLaren back in the points in Mexico as they chase Sauber for eighth in the constructors' standings. They are suddenly just nine points behind.
Williams to Clinch 3rd in the Constructors' Championship
OK, maybe this isn't that bold at this point in the season, but Williams are 70 points ahead of Red Bull (they finished 85 behind them in 2014) and can clinch third place in the constructors' championship in Mexico if they score 17 more points than the Bulls.
A year ago, deputy team principal Claire Williams told the official F1 website: "From where we are now, 2015 should almost be a dress rehearsal for a championship challenge in 2016."
Although Williams have just three podium finishes this year compared to nine in 2014, another third-place finish in the championship will help, particularly in terms of the financial rewards, as they chase Mercedes and Ferrari next year.
Even with the increased prize money, though, Williams face a tough battle against teams spending two or three times as much money on the development of their cars. And with relatively stable regulations for next year, it will be difficult for the team to find any innovative design solutions that would allow them to bridge the gap to Mercedes.
Still, finishing third—ahead of Red Bull—will be a huge accomplishment for the team from Grove. But perhaps third is the ceiling for an independent engine customer in the current era of F1.
Top Rookie: Carlos Sainz Jr.
At this point, it is difficult to attribute Max Verstappen's lead in the championship over Carlos Sainz Jr. purely to bad luck on the Spaniard's part. After another brilliant fourth-place finish in a wet-to-dry race in Austin, Verstappen holds a 45-18 lead over his team-mate.
But the U.S. Grand Prix was also Sainz's best result of the season: seventh place. With that boost to his confidence, we're tabbing the Spaniard to beat his team-mate this weekend for the first time since the Italian Grand Prix nearly two months ago.
Felipe Nasr scored a fantastic sixth for Sauber in Russia, but the Swiss team regressed to its usual position this season in Austin: on the edge of the points. And at Manor, Alexander Rossi has been a star since his arrival at the Singapore Grand Prix, beating team-mate Will Stevens three times in three races and matching the team's best result of the season—12th—at the U.S. Grand Prix.
This weekend, though, top rookie honours will go to Sainz as Toro Rosso fight to catch Lotus for sixth in the constructors' championship (they are currently seven points behind).
Follow me on Twitter for updates when I publish new articles and for other (mostly) F1-related news and banter: