Race starts at 1:10 pm in Mexico/3:10 am on Monday in Malaysia

Three rounds remain for the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship as the drivers and teams meet in Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez this weekend for Round 19. It comes right after the US Grand Prix which saw Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen score his first win in more than 5 years. His win, and Sebastian Vettel’s fourth place meant that Lewis Hamilton (who finished third in the race) could not confirm his fifth world title and match the total of F1 legend Juan Manuel Fangio.

It was at the Mexican Grand Prix last year that Hamilton confirmed his fourth title so he’ll be hoping to do so again even though he has not been able to get pole position on the starting line. In order to do so, the 33-year old Mercedes-AMG driver needs only finish this race in seventh place or better, regardless of where Vettel places.

The Constructors’ Championship remains more open, with the Mercedes-AMG team holding a 66-point advantage over Ferrari with 3 rounds remaining – 563 points to 497 points. Running in third is Aston Martin Red Bull Racing with 337 points, fairly secure in that position since the next closest team, which is the Renault Sport F1 team, has so far collected only 106 points.

Situated almost 2,300 metres above sea level, the circuit is F1’s highest altitude track, some 1,500 metres higher than the next on the list, Brazil’s Interlagos circuit. Although turbocharged engines are less affected by high altitudes, in order to create the necessary pressure, the turbocharger has to spin faster, and this is particularly demanding on that element of the power unit.

Another significant challenge is that the thinner air leads to lower levels of downforce. Thus the team install higher downforce packages on the cars where normally the opposite might be the case.

Braking conditions are also severe at this circuit. The high speeds that are reached and the frequent braking will keep the brakes running at higher temperatures. This is made more challenging as the thinner air also affects cooling.

With a slippery and smooth track surface leading to low rates of tyre wear and degradation, the softest tyres are being offered to the teams – the Supersoft, Ultrasoft and Hypersoft compounds. In light of the track characteristics, the teams have prioritised the pink-banded hypersoft, with Renault and Sauber leading the way. Both teams have opted for 10 sets of the softest compound, while the drivers of championship leaders Mercedes-AMG and Ferrari have chosen 8 sets of Hypersofts.

“The difficult part is that there is no grip and downforce, so it’s pretty slippery and the tyres don’t work the right way. So, I think this is why, in some cases, you can see big gaps in lap times. We’ll try to fix everything. This will be the main job to do. I believe everybody can still improve, and we’ll try as hard as we can, but I think the key point will be the tyres,” Sebastian Vettel said after his practice sessions.

[Chips Yap]

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