Lewis Hamilton was forced to put the champagne on ice last weekend, but he can be expected to seal the 2018 Formula One Drivers’ Championship at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 2.10pm ET).
Kimi Raikkonen took victory for Ferrari in the United States, nipping past Hamilton at the start and making his one-stop strategy work out to hold off the charging Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who finished ahead of Hamilton in second, to take his first win since 2013.
Ferrari showed strong pace all weekend after removing some of the updates they had introduced in recent races, but Hamilton’s sole remaining challenger for the title Sebastian Vettel could only come home fourth. Valtteri Bottas finished fifth for Mercedes.
Hamilton requires just five points from the remaining three races to be crowned champion, something that one seventh-place finish or one eighth and one ninth would yield. Given that the lowest he has finished in a race he has completed this year is fifth, and that he has suffered just one retirement over the course of the campaign, it is only a matter of time.
It was at the Mexican Grand Prix that Hamilton confirmed last year’s title, and while he can certainly be expected to get the result he needs to repeat that feat this weekend, he may not necessarily be in the running for victory. Both Ferrari and Red Bull were strong in Mexico last year, and it was Verstappen who took victory.
Verstappen has recovered from a difficult start to this season to put together a run of impressive performances thereafter. His second in the United States was his fourth podium finish in the last sixth races, and the fourth time this year has finished in the top two. With confidence and last year’s triumph behind him, he has a good chance of adding a fifth such finish on Sunday.
Renault took a decisive step towards securing fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship in the United States as their drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz came home sixth and seventh. That saw them move 22 points clear of Haas in fifth after a pointless weekend on home soil for the American team. Kevin Magnussen was disqualified for fuel irregularities, while Romain Grosjean retired early on due to crash damage.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon joined Magnussen in being disqualified, which saw his teammate Sergio Perez promoted from 10th to eighth, Brendon Hartley secure his best-ever finish in ninth for Toro Rosso and Marcus Ericsson take the final point for Sauber in 10th.
While it is Renault who are now very well-placed to claim fourth in the constructors’ standings, Force India have actually been just as strong over the course of the year. The 59 points they accumulated during the first 12 races of the year were wiped out when they emerged from administration under new ownership. They have since scored 47 for a total of 106 – the same as Renault.
The team have had both cars come home in the points in seven of the last 10 races, and would have done so again in the United States had Ocon not been disqualified. They have taken double points finishes in all three of the Mexican Grand Prix to date. That includes a fifth and seventh for Ocon and home driver Perez respectively at last year’s race, and they can be fancied to do so again this weekend.
Charles Leclerc has clearly been the quicker of the two Sauber drivers this year, earning himself a drive at Ferrari next season in the process. Ericsson has still shown sufficiently solid pace to secure five points finishes and he could be in the running for another in Mexico.
The Swedish driver, who won’t be on the grid in 2019, has qualified ahead of his teammate of the time in each of the three Mexican Grand Prix to date and finished narrowly outside the top 10 in both 2015 and 2016. Sauber have displayed good pace this year and at a relatively power hungry circuit, should again be in with a shot at points on Sunday.