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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Party time for Lewis Hamilton as Daniel Ricciardo aims to leave Red Bull in style: Mexican Grand Prix talking points

Mercedes driver all set to clinch his fifth world title, while Red Bull's departing Australian has a chance to claim what could be his final race win for the team

Lewis Hamilton, right, needs to finish seventh or higher at the Mexican Grand Prix to seal his fifth world championship. EPA
Lewis Hamilton, right, needs to finish seventh or higher at the Mexican Grand Prix to seal his fifth world championship. EPA

Ahead of Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix, which starts at 11.10pm UAE time, here are a few key talking points to watch out for during the race.

Party time for Hamilton

It's not often that Lewis Hamilton is content with qualifying third for a grand prix, but that is the case in Mexico.

Finish in that place after 71 laps of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and his fifth Formula One world championship is sealed. Indeed, seventh place is the minimum the Mercedes-GP driver needs to get the job done.

Hamilton is ultra-competitive and would ideally want to clinch it in style on the top step of the podium, but the Red Bull Racing cars have had a clear edge all weekend and if they can stay in front at the start, they will be hard to beat.

That will be fine for Hamilton: even if he fails to finish the race, as long as a Red Bull takes the chequered flag, the championship is still his.

Sebastian Vettel must win to have any chance of keeping his hopes alive. The Ferrari driver starts fourth, behind Hamilton, and he will need plenty of fortune to go his way if he is to head to the penultimate round in Brazil on November 11 still in the hunt.

Realistically, though, the party should start for Hamilton on Sunday as he becomes only the third man in the history, after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher, to achieve five world titles.

Ricciardo’s needed boost

Daniel Ricciardo, right, topped qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix. AP Photo
Daniel Ricciardo, right, topped qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix. AP Photo

It was no surprise that a Red Bull was on pole, given their practice form, but it was a shock which driver achieved it.

Daniel Ricciardo has in recent months been out-paced by Max Verstappen, but when it mattered most it was the Australian who took top spot.

Ricciardo has had a miserable time since winning the Monaco Grand Prix in May, the second of his two wins in 2018.

Since then he has been consistently put in the shade by Verstappen and has struggled with unreliability problems on his car.

The Australian has not finished on the podium since Monaco but he can now fight for an unexpected victory that could help him sign off from Red Bull in style.

He is departing the team after five years to join Renault after the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 25.

Ricciardo has achieved a lot in his time with Red Bull: seven victories in a car that has rarely been the best is an impressive effort.

It would have been a shame if his time with the Austrian team had tailed off in a whimper.

Saturday’s pole lap was a reminder of what he can do. Holding off Verstappen, Hamilton and Vettel over 71 laps may be a taller order, but it is one he is capable of achieving.

Advantage Renault in Class B

Nico Hulkenberg will start the Mexian Grand Pix from seventh on the grid for Renault. AP Photo
Nico Hulkenberg will start the Mexian Grand Pix from seventh on the grid for Renault. AP Photo

There have been effectively two races at every grand prix this season: the fight for victory between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, then the scrap between the other seven teams for best of the rest.

Renault already looked like winning it going into the weekend with an 18-point lead over Haas, but it is looking even better for them now, with Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz starting seventh and eighth respectively.

Meanwhile, Haas had one of their worst qualifying sessions of the year as Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen struggled to qualify 16th and 18th.

A tough task to score points from there and Renault should end the race a little closer to securing fourth spot and the extra prize money that goes with it.