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Lewis Hamilton after winning the Japanese Grand Prix (photo: Getty Images)

F1 Slipstream Saturday: Bienvenidos, Mexican Grand Prix & More

The story of the race is, no surprise, Lewis Hamilton.  Should Hamilton finish fifth or better, the driver’s championship is over, regardless of where Sebastian Vettel takes the checkered flag.  Such a scenario really means the the title is a fait accompli, meaning that Hamilton, in essence, has already won the title.  For Vettel to overtake him, Vettel would have to win the next three races and Hamilton would have to finish out of the points.  Even including for a DNF or two, Hamilton and Mercedes have been too strong this season to have three consecutive bad races.

The better story regarding the Mexican Grand Prix is that it is even happening at all.  If you may not recall, Mexico suffered a 7.1 magnitude earthquake on September 19 of this year, with over 300 people dying, 6,000 enduring injuries, and widespread destruction throughout the city.  Yet, just a little over a month later, the race will go on – that’s quite a statement.  

There’s something to be said for the power of sport at times.  Is the Mexican GP just another race on the calendar for a bourgeois series that often seems to neglect the politics of its locales?  That decision is yours to make.  Outside of that question, sport still has the ability to bring people together and work as a cathartic event that, even if for a moment, sheds the worries, stress, and concerns of a community, maybe not for everyone, for at least some.

Odds & Sods

– At the United States Grand Prix, Max Verstappen made a move while battling Kimi Raikkonen where he drove off the track and overtook Raikkonen.  Though Raikkonen may encouraged Verstappen to leave the track, the rules state that any positions gained through such a manner will be negated.  Other drivers in the paddock agreed with the decision to penalize Verstappen, taking away his third-place finish.  

While the steward’s decision may have been in line with the letter of the rule, there has been another take on the matter: that there’s too much pavement surrounding the tracks.  The thought is that there used to be more gravel which meant that keeping the racing on track was paramount and that drivers now, with the luxury of more pavement and lack of hazards, don’t feel the danger of leaving the track.  

That perspective is an interesting one and will be worth watching as to whether or not the governing body or track organizers make any moves to change the layouts.  Change may not occur over the break but it may be something that happens over the next couple years.  

Fernando Alonso re-signed with McLaren to the surprise of, well, no one, really.  Alonso surely had an offer or two somewhere, and IndyCar may have been a legitimate prospect, but there was no way that he was going to give up the money and his position on the grand stage to race IndyCar.  That McLaren is moving to Renault engines next year will be a strong boost to confidence within the team and should things fall right, Alonso may steal a win  at some point.

This year’s silly season has been a bit of a tame one as many of the driver has remained with their current teams.  That Renault procured Carlos Sainz from Toro Rosso in their engine swap deal with the team, was a coup, but otherwise, the stories have been predicted.

One of the interesting comments, however, has come from Daniel Ricciardo who was pleased that his teammate at Red Bull, the aforementioned Verstappen, had committed to the team for the next three years.  Verstappen has often overshadowed Ricciardo in the headlines but trails his teammate in the points by a wide margin; though some of the discrepancy in points owes to a number of mechanical failures for Verstappen.  What Ricciardo is really saying is that he now becomes a name for the driver’s market in a year, and teams will recognize his consistency and acumen.  

– Daniil Kvyat is out at Toro Rosso.  Kvyat has been an intriguing character in F1, at times displaying amazing promise and pace and following it up with dreadful moments and results that do not seem to befit his abilities.  The Red Bull junior program has seemingly had enough of the yo-yo performance aspects and has moved on, declaring that they will have Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley in their seats next year.  Gasly is no shocker as he has been moving through the ranks but Hartley is a wild move as at age 27, he’ll be going full time, making him a different kind of development project.  It’s difficult to determine if the moves are crazy thinking or wryly amazing.  

Mexican Grand Prix

Built in 1962 in a park, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit is one that has seen a number of changes over the years.  The most prominent is alterations to the nearly 180 degree Peralta turn, where Ricardo Rodriguez died in an accident in the first year.  Its high altitude makes things difficult both for the mechanical set-ups but for the drivers as well.  The track layout features 17 turns and just over 2.6 miles in length.  Jim Clark leads all drivers with three victories, while Mercedes drivers have claimed the two races since the race’s return to the schedule, with Nico Rosberg winning in 2015 and Hamilton doing so in 2016.  

About Huston Ladner

Huston Ladner
Promoted to editor this season, Huston works through some of the site’s biggest columns while writing one of his own: Happiness Is… (Fridays). “Stranded” on the islands of Hawaii, the aspiring college professor also helps anchor our IndyCar and Formula One racing coverage while coordinating Pace Laps, our multi-series news update (Mondays) each week.

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One comment

  1. Although Hamilton is not the most endearing driver out there his talent is obvious. As for Vettel and Ferrari, they are both frontrunners imho. Not up to the standard at Mercedes. And I think Fernando for all his talent, has painted himself into a corner with his career.