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FORM GUIDE: Could Sergio Perez become Mexico's first home winner on Sunday?

Staff Writer

Samarth Kanal
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It’s high stakes at high altitude at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez – who’s favourite for pole, victory, the podium and points in Mexico City? Join in with our official predictor game, F1 Play to find out...

Vying for pole

Pole position has been too close to call in recent races with Max Verstappen winning qualifying in Japan by 0.01s and Carlos Sainz taking his third pole of the season last time out at Austin. In Mexico City, it looks set to be another tight battle between the Ferraris and Red Bulls.

It’s undeniable that Ferrari have had superior pace on Saturdays this season as the Scuderia have taken 12 pole positions this season – nine of those by Charles Leclerc, who took a new engine in the USA – so one would give them the favourites tag once again in Mexico City.

READ MORE: Pole-sitter Sainz says he 'paid the price again' after suffering sixth DNF of the season in United States Grand Prix start

2200627-scuderia-ferrari-usa-gp-race.jpg

Ferrari were rapid in Texas qualifying but Mexico is a whole different ball game

Red Bull will be doing their best to wrestle that tag away from their rivals, though. Sergio Perez also took a new engine and the resulting penalty in Austin, and he will be eager to start on pole in front of his home fans; team mate Max Verstappen might be kind enough to give him a tow down the circuit’s long straight too.

Although Mercedes took pole here last time out, in 2021, they don’t seem to enjoy the same power enjoyed by Red Bull or Ferrari. That power disparity will only be pronounced in Mexico City, where the higher altitude makes for thinner air. That also means brake and engine cooling is far more crucial here – something that Red Bull seem to be right on top of.

The skies are another factor; there's a small chance of rain throughout the weekend...

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Pole positions in the last 5 races:

  • 2021 – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  • 2019 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  • 2018 – Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
  • 2017 – Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
  • 2016 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

FAN VIEW: Max Verstappen has an incredible 13 race wins this season, but he has not been quite as dominant on Saturdays. He heads up the F1 Play voting to take pole in Mexico, but with less than 60% of votes. That is a nod to both the pace shown by Ferrari over a single lap and the threat here from team mate Sergio Perez.

AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 23: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull

Watch for spray – rain could shake things up in qualifying

In the mix for victory

Verstappen’s towering pace saw him dominate the race in Texas, where – even after an 11-second pit stop – the Dutchman managed to easily overhaul the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc and the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton for victory. Red Bull are favourites to take their ninth consecutive victory, something last achieved by Mercedes from 2018-19. And if Verstappen takes his 14th win of 2022, he will set a new record for wins in a season.

Ferrari have it all to do to stop Red Bull here. Their Racing Director Laurent Mekies conceded in Austin that Red Bull continue to enjoy a straight-line pace advantage over the Scuderia, and that will come in very handy for them in Mexico.

READ MORE: Mekies says Ferrari left with 'mixed feelings' from USA after Red Bull take eighth-straight win and constructors' title

So a ninth-straight win for Red Bull is very much possible. Having accomplished almost everything they could this season – bar a record-breaking 14th win for Verstappen – perhaps Red Bull will be focusing on giving Perez his first home victory this season, especially as he currently sits just two points behind Leclerc in the battle for P2 in the drivers' championship.

The Mexican driver hasn’t quite been on par in qualifying but, with victory in Singapore, he proved that he can turn on the pace on Sunday. With a new engine and no penalties expected in Mexico City, this could be Perez’s best chance yet for home glory.

Wins in the last 5 races:

  • 2021 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2019 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • 2018 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2017 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2016 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

FAN VIEW: Verstappen’s ability to prevail from just about anywhere on the grid in 2022 is highlighted in the voting to take the win in Mexico City. He has around 75% of the early votes from F1 Play gamers, with the local hero Perez a distant second on 14%. Lewis Hamilton is next with 6% after that near miss in Austin.

AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 23: Fourth placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Red

This is Perez's best chance to make history at home

Podium outsiders

Lewis Hamilton crashed the party in the Lone Star State, with the seven-time champion finishing second to Verstappen while Sainz retired, and Perez and Leclerc had to overcome engine penalties. That’s not to say that the Mercedes driver didn’t put in a shift – but Hamilton himself admitted that it’s still “highly unlikely” that his team can match Red Bull on pace.

So, Mercedes are still the podium outsiders heading into Mexico, and with a long straight plus the aforementioned perils of high altitude holding everyone’s power units back, the Silver Arrows will need some fortune to challenge for the rostrum on Sunday.

READ MORE: Why Mercedes' experimental front wing caused a stir in Texas

In the hybrid era, only Valtteri Bottas has managed to land a podium in Mexico City for a team other than Red Bull, Ferrari or Mercedes, as the Finn took P3 here for Williams in 2015.

And this season, Lando Norris remains the only driver from any team bar the top three to score a podium.

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Podiums in the last 5 races:

  • Mercedes – 6
  • Red Bull – 5
  • Ferrari – 4

FAN VIEW: Very little action for the ‘outsiders’ here with the big six absolutely dominating proceedings. It is noteworthy though to see Mercedes very much seen as on a par with the Ferraris now as George Russell and Hamilton go blow for blow with Leclerc and Sainz in the voting for podium positions.

AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 23: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes are capable of capitalising when Ferrari and Red Bull hit trouble

Points potential

McLaren’s Norris has the longest running points-scoring streak outside the top three teams. The Briton scored P6 in the USA, where McLaren out-scored Alpine – whose two-time champion Fernando Alonso was demoted from the points with a post-race penalty.

Alpine and McLaren are still front-runners for points, perhaps the former more likely to score than the latter, but Aston Martin are looking much improved in the midfield fight. Sebastian Vettel put on a show in Texas, the four-time champion taking a brilliant P7, while Lance Stroll ran as high as third before colliding with Alonso – for which the Canadian will be demoted three places on the grid in Mexico City.

READ MORE: 6 Winners and 5 Losers from the United States Grand Prix - Who got the crowd on their feet in Austin?

With a car frequently described as ‘slippery’, Williams might also hope to sneak into the points. Alex Albon’s hopes were somewhat curtailed by a five-second track limits penalty in Austin but P12 was a solid showing from the Thai driver.

AlphaTauri, who scored thanks to Yuki Tsunoda in the USA, will also be hoping that the high altitudes of Mexico suit their class-leading Red Bull power unit.

Points in the last five races:

  • Mercedes – 143
  • Red Bull – 135
  • Ferrari – 127
  • Aston Martin/Racing Point/Force India – 35
  • Alpine/Renault – 15
  • Williams – 14
  • Alfa Romeo/Sauber – 12
  • McLaren – 6
  • Haas – 4
  • AlphaTauri – 3

FAN VIEW: Fernando Alonso is expected to go very well again after being knocked out of the points in Austin by a post-race 30-second penalty. Sebastian Vettel, who has won Driver of the Day honours in both Japan and the United States, is also coming in for strong support as his farewell tour continues to go well..

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