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F1: Lights Out - What to look for at the Mexican GP

Max Verstappen’s title parade makes its next stop in Mexico this weekend, where the Dutch driver could find himself upstaged by his Red Bull team-mate, Sergio Perez.

National hero Perez is bidding to become the first Mexican driver to win his home race and may not get a better opportunity, with Red Bull having pulled clear of the competition in the second half of the season.

The Milton Keynes-based team have won eight straight races, clinching the Constructors’ Championship last time out in the United States thanks to Verstappen’s 13th victory of the campaign.

But with the newly-crowned two-time world champion admitting his attention has started to turn towards next season, could Perez claim a historic victory to light up what may turn out to be a mixed weekend for Red Bull?

WhatMexican Grand Prix
WhereAutodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City
WhenFriday 28th October - Sunday 30th October
How to watchSky Sports F1
OddsMax Verstappen 4/7, Charles Leclerc 9/2, Sergio Perez 9/2, Lewis Hamilton 12/1, Carlos Sainz 12/1

Checo flying the flag for Mexico

The vibrant Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has been a kind track to Red Bull in recent years, with Verstappen winning three of the last four races staged at the atmospheric circuit. 

Red Bull's Honda-built power unit has copped better than most with the race being staged 2,220m above sea level, which presents problems with cooling, and they are expected to have the strongest package once again. 

Verstappen is 4/7 to set a new record for wins in a single season by taking the chequered flag for a 14th time in 2022 and he isn’t easy to oppose given his history at this circuit and the way he recovered from a slow pit stop to win in the United States last weekend.

The 25-year-old will no doubt be keen to claim the single-season win record but with two races still to go after Mexico, he might be content to swap roles for one grand prix to support Perez in his bid for home success.

The Guadalajara-born racer hasn’t found the 2022 Red Bull car as easy to drive as his team-mate, but has still managed two wins this season and recorded his first podium finish at his home race when third last year.

The majority of the 350,000 spectators in attendance will be desperate to see Checo, who is 9/2 for victory, come out on top and that would provide a happy ending on a weekend when Red Bull will discover the extent of their punishment for breaching the budget cap.

The FIA will make an announcement on Friday after the team reportedly reached an “accepted breach agreement” with the governing body.

Ferrari nipping at Red Bull's heels

Whatever punishment is handed out, it isn’t to have a bearing on this season, which started out looking like being a two-way battle between Red Bull and Ferrari.

The Scuderia fell away after a strong opening but are bidding to end the season on a high with Carlos Sainz in a confident mood that the Italians can challenge.

The Spaniard saw his race in Austin end early after a first lap collision with George Russell, ruining his chances of a strong race having qualified on pole for the third time this year.

In total, Ferrari have started from the front of the grid on 12 occasions - Red Bull have secured pole six times - and are favourites to be the fastest qualifier once more with Charles Leclerc 11/10 and Sainz 13/8.

Leclerc was less optimistic about Ferrari’s chances than his colleague with the team still struggling to correct the tyre degradation that has ruined so many Sundays this season.

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Hamilton down but not out

Lewis Hamilton shares Leclerc’s pessimism when it comes to trying to end Red Bull’s dominance and the Mercedes driver has admitted he’s now unlikely to extend his 16-year record of winning at least one race in every season he’s been in F1.

The seven-time world champion came as close as he has all year in Austin when leading with six laps to go, only to be overtaken by Verstappen, and Hamilton believes that was his best chance at a win. 

Mercedes could prove something of a wildcard this weekend though. The Silver Arrows haven’t always enjoyed racing at altitude and may not thrive on the bumpy circuit, but there’s also a belief that the track, with its reduction in speed due to the altitude, may play to the car’s strengths in other ways.

Hamilton, who snapped a five-race run of missing the podium in the United States, is 11/10 for a top-three finish and whether he snaps his 2022 winless run on Sunday or not, the Brit has indicated there are plenty more Mexican Grands Prix ahead of him.

On the same day it was announced Mexico had extended its deal with F1 until 2025, Hamilton said he’s looking to sign a multi-year extension to his Mercedes contract, with his current deal due to expire next season.

The title race may have been a no-contest this year, but the 37-year-old says he’s confident that won’t be the case in future, as he eyes that record eighth world title.

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