The high altitudes won't favor the Mercs.
The Mexican Grand Prix will take place this weekend at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. This infamous track is named after Ricardo and Pedro Rodríguez, who both died on the track. The newest layout has been part of the F1 calendar since 2015, though the first Mexican Grand Prix took place in 1962.
The Mexican Grand Prix has never been won by a Mexican driver, but there's a realistic chance it may happen this week. This will be Sergio Perez's fifth Mexican GP, but this time he's in a competitive car, and he returns as an F1 race winner.
Looking at the scale of the support he received at the US Grand Prix, we can only imagine how hard the fans will be rooting for Checo on his home ground. We've read various F1 driver autobiographies over the years, and they all agree that winning your home Grand Prix is almost as thrilling as winning your home Grand Prix.
With the stage set, and the personal stakes explained, let's drill down into the more technical details of the upcoming race.
The track record for the 1960s was held by Jacky Ickx, driving a Brabham BT26A. He completed the original track in 1:43.050, which is roughly as fast as a modern Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car can do it. The current lap record is dominated by Formula E, but the track setup is entirely different for the EV racers.
Valterri Bottas set the modern F1 car record in 2018 with a blistering time of 1:18.741. Oddly, the all-time F1 record belongs to Nigel Mansell and the Williams FW14, who went round in 1:16.788. If you want to be technical about it, Max Verstappen is the unofficial lap record holder, with a time of 1:14.758. This time was set during qualifying, so it does not count.
Earlier this week, Brembo posted a specially designed brake setup for the Mexican Grand Prix. It's painted in the colors of the Mexican flag, but it's the comment from the Brembo technicians we're most interested in. The techies rate tracks on a scale of one to five, with one being the least demanding on the brakes. The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is rated as a five, which makes sense looking at the track layout. There are three parts of the track where drivers have to brake from over 200 mph to 60 mph in just under three seconds and within 180 yards. That's minus 5.6 G, in case you were wondering.
The Mexican Grand Prix is going to be tough on the cars and the drivers. Thankfully, it won't be a hot day, giving the drivers some relief on the insane G forces their bodies will be subjected to.
Only five races left, and still, a clear winner has not emerged. Max Verstappen currently leads by 12 points, which is nothing. That's one DNF for Verstappen and a fourth-place for Hamilton, and they're tied with four races to go. Anything can happen.
Still, F1's technical guru, Mark Hughes, studied the remaining races closely and predicted an outcome based on various factors.
A Red Bull victory is predicted for the Mexican GP. Mexico City is 6,500 feet above sea level, which isn't ideal for Merc's turbo setup. It tends to run hot in the thin air, which means it won't be functioning optimally.
The Honda powertrain in the Red Bull has proved itself as this track before. Verstappen set a blistering 1:14 in 2019 but was penalized three places. In short, Red Bull knows how to set up a car for this track, while Mercedes may still be a few steps behind. Max Verstappen is certainly the safest bet, it seems.
It's no secret that Max Verstappen enjoys Number One status at Red Bull. As such, and as the current championship leader, it makes sense that Red Bull would want a win for Verstappen, as it would increase his lead and take him one step closer to winning his first world championship. But will they allow Sergio 'Checo' Perez to compete properly?
A second driver can be a helpful defense tool, protecting the Number One in the front. We saw it at the US Grand Prix, although Perez's disconnected drink pipe meant he wasn't at his best. But a home Grand Prix brings that extra motivation Perez might need to unleash the kind of drive we've never seen from him before. "It's just great to finally have a team and a car that we can dream of a victory in my home country. We have a chance to make a big result happen this weekend, so I will prepare as well as I can, and we will see what we can achieve," said Perez.
We know he's talented, but will Red Bull free him completely? And if Checo finds himself ahead of Max, will team orders see him relinquish position at his home race?
Pirelli announced its tire selections for the Mexican Grand Prix, and they are precisely the same as the US Grand Prix.
As you might have seen, COTA was extremely rough on the tires, and Max Verstappen drove like a beast to keep Hamilton at bay for those last few laps.
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is a different kind of track, however. The track is much smoother and less abrasive. The most significant risk is the high-speed braking zones, leading to wheels locking up, creating bald spots. And with thinner air, there's less downforce, meaning lock-ups occur easier.
Still, Pirelli is quick to mention that the top three teams in 2019 ran a one-stop strategy on the medium-hard compound, though Charles Leclerc in fourth place made two stops on a medium compound.
Hermanos Rodriguez hasn't seen a lot of action since the 2019 Grand Prix, so drivers will likely be facing a slippery surface, much like they did in Sochi.
Usually, this late in the year, Hamilton would have been crowned the world champion, but he's currently in second place.
We won't dwell on that because there's so much more going on behind the scenes. The points gap between the constructor's championship is just 23 points in Merc's favor. It gets even better further down the line.
The battle between Ferrari and McLaren is epic. McLaren finally broke its losing streak at Monza, and the Ferraris have been consistently rapid since their recent engine upgrade. McLaren is in third place with 254 points, and Ferrari is in fourth, just 3.5 points behind. This battle is so much more interesting than the big boys duking it out in front, mainly because McLaren and Ferrari are the most critical legacy manufacturers in the F1 world.