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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Lewis Hamilton all set for F1 coronation, and Kimi Raikkonen has statement to make: Mexican GP talking points

With just three races to go, Graham Caygill looks at what the motivations will be for three drivers from three different teams

Mercedes-GP driver Lewis Hamilton is closing in on a fifth world drivers' title. AP Photo
Mercedes-GP driver Lewis Hamilton is closing in on a fifth world drivers' title. AP Photo

No let up for Hamilton

There are many reasons why Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of winning his fifth Formula One drivers’ title.

Outstanding speed, calmness under pressure, and an ability to maximise the most from his Mercedes-GP car on the majority of weekends is why he needs only five points from the remaining three races of the 2018 season to be assured of his fourth championship in five years.

But another reason is the high expectations he holds for himself and the team he drives for.

He did not triumph last Sunday in the United States, finishing third behind Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen.

But he did finish ahead of title rival Sebastian Vettel and made it all but impossible for the German to catch him at the top of the standings as a consequence.

A good day for most people, but Hamilton is not most people. He put a brave face on a winning streak of four races coming to an end but immediately made comments about he and the team going “back to the drawing board”.

Hamilton has this title effectively won, barring some freakish misfortune in the final three races, but he was concerned by the speed of Ferrari and Red Bull Racing.

His inner drive means you can be sure that in Mexico on Sunday, where he only needs to finish seventh to become champion, that he will not be cruising around in the top six, content to do the bare minimum to get the job done.

That is what has made Hamilton one of the all-time greats and why, with his refusal to let standards drop, that he will again to be the man to beat in 2019 when he goes for title No 6.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen's second place in Austin last weekend, having started 18th, was one of the drives of the season.. Reuters
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen's second place in Austin last weekend, having started 18th, was one of the drives of the season.. Reuters

Verstappen’s best chance

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit has been a happy hunting ground for Max Verstappen and Red Bull in the past.

The Dutchman gave the team arguably their most dominant victory in recent years in the 2017 event and he acknowledged in the United States that this weekend is probably his best chance of another victory, to go with his win in Austria in the summer, before the season ends.

The fast sweeping sections of the track, and a slow-speed stadium part of the layout play into Red Bull’s hands and give them a better chance then usual of fighting with Mercedes and Ferrari on a level playing field.

When horsepower is not a factor, at venues such as Monaco, the team have usually stepped up and it would be a surprise not to see Verstappen fighting for the win on Sunday, given his excellent form at present.

His second place in Austin last weekend, having started 18th, was one of the drives of the season.

After a rough start to the year the 21 year old has grown stronger by the race and the consistent way in which he has outperformed highly regarded teammate Daniel Ricciardo since June should not be overlooked.

A fifth win of his career on Sunday would be a fitting reward for his performances.

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Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen proves he still has the pace to challenge at races in the future. Reuters
Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen proves he still has the pace to challenge at races in the future. Reuters

Raikkonen should enjoy last days with Ferrari

You have to go back 11 years to November 2007 for the last time that Kimi Raikkonen won back-to-back races.

Now, having broken a victory drought with his success in the United States that had stretched back to March 2013, it might be greedy for the Finn to start thinking of another triumph straight away.

But, Raikkonen proved last weekend that he is still capable of fighting at the front thanks to a display of strong pace, good tyre conservation and impressive defensive driving.

The frustration is he has not done it more often and that is why Ferrari have moved on at the end of the campaign at the expense of Charles Leclerc.

Raikkonen is at Sauber, the team he started his F1 career at back in 2001, next season and the chances of fighting for podiums, let alone victories, is remote.

So he needs to take advantage of having a fast car while he has one and another strong showing in Mexico could also make Ferrari question even more if they were too rash in dropping the last driver to win a world title in their car some 11 years ago.

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