It was a magnificent, but more importantly a morale-boosting performance from Valtteri Bottas to claim the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, his third race victory of the season, and is now the only driver that can challenge Lewis Hamilton for the 2019 championship, which means for the first time in Formula One history, a team, which in this case is Mercedes, will win six-consecutive driver and constructor championships after Mercedes claimed their sixth-straight Constructors’ Championship at Suzuka!
However, with Ferrari showing fantastic speed over one lap, and Red Bull Racing-Honda normally very strong at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, there will be a lot of factors for Mercedes to deal with as we head into Round 18 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, the 2019 Mexico Grand Prix.
Hamilton (338 points) leads the championship by 64 points over his Mercedes’ teammate Bottas (274 points), the only driver that can challenge Hamilton for the world championship, and this weekend, Hamilton can move to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships if (and please note that you must finish inside the Top 10 in the race to claim a point for setting the fastest lap):
1. Hamilton wins the race (with the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes fourth or lower.
2. Hamilton wins the race (without the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes fifth or lower (with or without the fastest lap).
3. Hamilton finishes 2nd (with or without the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes eighth or lower (without the fastest lap).
4. Hamilton finishes 2nd (without the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes ninth or lower (with or without the fastest lap).
5. Hamilton finishes 3rd (with the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes ninth or lower.
6. Hamilton finishes 3rd (without the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes 10th or lower (without the fastest lap).
However, you sense it is going to be uphill struggle for Hamilton and Mercedes this weekend given the challenges they have had in recent times at high altitude in Mexico, which could very well mean that the championship goes onto the Circuit of the Americas the week after the Mexico Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc (221 points) is third in the championship, and the best of the rest for Ferrari despite finishing the Japanese Grand Prix in seventh after fighting back through the field after colliding with Max Verstappen on the opening lap, forcing Leclerc to come into the pits to change his front wing.
Verstappen (212 points) is still fourth in the standings for Red Bull Racing-Honda despite having to retire from the race at Suzuka due to damage suffered to his car after the collision with Leclerc. Vettel (212 points) is now level on points with Verstappen for Ferrari after finishing second behind Bottas in Japan, but still trails Verstappen in the championship due to having more wins than Vettel (two wins to one).
Behind the Top Five in the world championship, Carlos Sainz Jr. (76 points) is sixth in the world championship for McLaren-Renault, followed by Pierre Gasly (75 points) and Alexander Albon (64 points) for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, who will be changing their name to Scuderia Alpha Tauri-Honda in 2020, and Red Bull Racing-Honda respectively, while Sergio Pérez (37 points) for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes and Lando Norris (35 points) for McLaren-Renault complete the Top 10 in the standings following the disqualifications of both Renault drivers (Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg) from the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix after both cars were found to have had illegal pre-set, automated brake bias system after a protest by Racing Point-BWT Mercedes.
Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (612 points) have claimed their sixth-consecutive title, and have an unassailable 177-point lead over Ferrari (435 points), who have a 112-point lead over Red Bull Racing-Honda (323 points). Ferrari can claim second in the 2019 Constructors’ Championship this weekend if they outscore Red Bull Racing-Honda by 21 points or more.
Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (111 points) have increased their grip on fourth, while Renault (68 points), after the disqualifications of both their cars from the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, are slipping back into the clutches of Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (62 points), and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (58 points), with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (35 points) and Haas-Ferrari (28 points) in a battle for eighth, while Williams-Mercedes (one point) look set to remain in last barring a minor miracle in the last four races.
So, who will win the 2019 Mexico Grand Prix?
Mercedes have a poor recent record at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez due to the track characteristics in part, but more specifically the higher than usual altitude, which affects the usual cooling package of their car, meaning that they have to allow more air into the car to cool various components, including components within the power-unit, thus reducing the overall performance of the car.
With that being the case, I look towards both Ferrari and Red Bull Racing-Honda, and while Ferrari have shown a great upturn in form since the mid-season break generally, I am going to tip Max Verstappen to grab his third race victory of 2019, and place heavy pressure on Charles Leclerc in the battle for third in the world championship.
And, with that, the championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will continue onto the United States!