Mexican Grand Prix Betting: A Verstappen hat-trick or Ferrari flat out?

Ferrari and Red Bull F1 cars
Red Bull and Ferrari have had some epic battles in Mexico before

Lewis Hamilton has won world titles in Mexico before but it is not always a happy hunting ground for him. James Gray casts his eye over the lie of the land ahead of race weekend...

"Ferrari's improved engine has been one of the few constants in 2019 and their straight-line speed has been exceptional."

When Lewis Hamilton lined up in the grid in Mexico last year, he knew that finishing anywhere in the top seven places would be good enough to complete his masterful season and seal the world title with two races to spare.

It would be nice to think that the smaller margin - a Valtteri Bottas podium would be enough to delay the Brit's celebrations - is down to his team-mates ability to apply pressure but in actual fact it is as much to do with the rejig of the calendar, meaning there will be three more races after this weekend's Mexican Grand Prix, title race or no title race.

Previous winners

2018: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2017: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2016: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2015: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2014: Not held

How can Lewis Hamilton win the title this weekend?

Hamilton will win his sixth world title at some point and in many ways, you feel he would love to seal it next time out in America, a country for which he has so much affinity and where he is extremely popular.

However, it was here that he clinched the title last year and Mercedes, who have sewn up the Constructors' Championship, prefer to get these things done as quickly as possible.

Essentially, Hamilton needs to lead Bottas by 78 points when they fly up to the US to be assured of the title; his current margin is 64.

So if Hamilton wins in Mexico and picks up the fastest lap bonus point, Bottas will need to finish second or third to keep the race alive: the Finn is 23/10 to make it onto the podium.

If the defending world champion does not himself finish on the podium, then we are guaranteed a (brief) wait until next week's US Grand Prix to see him crowned for a sixth time.

Mercedes and Mexico don't mix

Taking the title implications out of it, 7/4 shots Mercedes have generally struggled at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, which is more than 7,000 feet above sea level.

The altitude and thinner air means there is less downforce and less engine intake, both elements that F1 cars do not tend to like and Mercedes in particular.

The Silver Arrows have not won here since 2016 and even then, one of their most dominant seasons ever, they were just two tenths quicker than the Red Bulls.

Verstappen hat-trick?

Speaking of Red Bull, we would be pretty remiss not to mention their chances this weekend given that Max Verstappen, 4/1 to take victory this weekend, has won the last two races in Mexico City.

However, the Dutchman has been pretty low on his own chances, claiming after the Japanese Grand Prix that there was not 'one track left this season where we can do a particularly good job'.

The only thing that might change Verstappen's assessment is the forecast: rain is expected at some point on every single day of the race weekend with the heaviest stuff coming on Sunday for the race.

It has almost become a cliche to say that Verstappen is one of the best wet-weather drivers on the grid but it remains true and when you combine conditions that already limit grip with rain, he must surely rub his hands together.

Ferrari at a canter

All of that though relies on variables. One thing that has been constant in 2019 is the improved Ferrari engine. We know all too well how capable Ferrari are of getting it wrong in strategy or reliability, but their straight-line speed has been exceptional this year.

The speed trap data from Mexico last year showed both Ferrari and Sauber - with their Ferrari engine - drivers clear of the field, something we can expect a repeat of this time around on a track with a short lap but a very long straight.

If the weather stays clear or only partially affects running, it is hard to look beyond either Sebastian Vettel, at a very attractive pre-weekend price of 7/2, or Charles Leclerc (15/8) on Sunday and Ferrari are odds-on favourites at 5/6 to come home first.

Saturday too has been a red car day with the last five Grands Prix all seeing a Ferrari driver take pole and Leclerc is an even-money favourite to do so again, although seeing his team-mate at 4/1 to be fastest in qualifying in the same car certainly intrigues.

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