YES, BUT WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?
Still plenty to play for in F1 2018
Okay, it’s the Lewis and Sebastian Show on Sunday as they fight it out for the title – but there are plenty of other battles to keep an eye on at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez as the 2018 season draws towards its conclusion.
Hamilton is odds-on to take his fifth world title, and Vettel will be runner-up: but who will be third in the Drivers’ Championship? It’s an all-Finnish fight, with just four points separating Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen from Mercedes man Valtteri Bottas.
The two have Mexican history: in 2015 they clashed after 21 laps and Kimi lost out, retiring while Bottas went on to claim his second podium of the year. ‘We’re racing hard,’ said Valtteri. ‘Usually there’s enough room for two cars but this time there wasn’t, and of course I wasn’t going to back off.’
His determination also carried him past Räikkönen into fourth place in the drivers’ standings, but Kimi had the last laugh – he finished fifth overall that season with Bottas one place behind.
It’s seventh place that will really grab Mexican fans’ attention this weekend. That, and the ‘best of the rest’ description, has belonged to Sergio Pérez for the last two seasons but he is eighth at the moment, four points behind former teammate Nico Hülkenberg.
Right behind them sit four drivers covered by just 12 points: Haas’s Kevin Magnussen, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Checo’s teammate Esteban Ocon and Renault’s Carlos Sainz.
Renault’s German driver Hülkenberg has momentum: he arrives after a superb sixth place in Texas and ready to fight till the end. ‘Everything is still possible for us,’ he insists, ‘three races remain and we have to back this result up in Mexico. We’ll take these next three races a step at a time and aim for double points at each weekend.’
That’s because Renault are locked in battle with Haas for the ‘best of the rest’ team title behind F1’s big three teams, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Renault claimed their season-best team result in Austin with Sainz seventh behind Hülkenberg, putting some clear air between them and Haas – 106 points to 84.
Haas had a disastrous home race, with Romain Grosjean out after two laps following a collision and Magnussen disqualified from a points-scoring finish because of a fuel consumption infringement.
‘I still disagree with Formula One having to run on these rules,’ said a disgruntled team principal Guenther Steiner. ‘One day we’ll get to have a good show, but at the moment it isn’t.’ But it will be at the AHR as the two teams duke it out.
‘We can’t stay comfortable as we know anything can happen between now and the end of the season,’ says Sainz, ‘but this result definitely gives us a boost and we have to relish this and repeat the form in Mexico.’
There are only nine points between McLaren and the rebadged Racing Point Force India, while behind them just four points separate Toro Rosso from Sauber, for whom Charles Leclerc has been a revitalising force ahead of his move to Ferrari in 2019.
Checo boasts the best result by a driver outside the top six, with third place in Azerbaijan, with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly next-best after a fine fourth in Bahrain. So, realistically, seven teams are usually scrapping over 13 points: the other 88 usually go to the Big Three, so with such fine margins there is still plenty to play for, starting right here in Mexico on Sunday.
Unless you are a Williams fan: with a measly seven points the once-great British team is staring at 10th place, its worst showing since 1973 and 1974 when it hadn’t yet adopted the famous Williams name.
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