Ferrari will start and finish 1-2 in the Mexican Grand Prix, according to chief value-hunter James Gray...
"Vettel will start second but this is a track that does not favour pole position"
If Max Verstappen is playing possum, he is doing a terrific job of it. Just a few days ago, he was telling us how impossible it would be for him to 'do a particularly good job' in Mexico. Today, he would have started on pole position had he not been penalised. Even after Saturday's session, he told us he was being 'honest' when he said how hard it would be to beat the Ferraris.
Vettel will not settle
The reality is that Valtteri Bottas' crash in qualifying, losing control of his Mercedes on the exit of the final corner and finding out exactly how little grip and downforce is available in Mexico, may not have changed much because Verstappen's second time was still good enough for pole position.
Even if the Dutchman had not been demoted to fourth place on the grid for ignoring the yellow flags when Bottas crashed, I would still have been backing the Ferraris to take victory. The market assessment of 2/5 for a red car to finish first seems bang on. F1 teams love to moan but the Ferrari engine is so fast at the moment that principals have been pestering the FIA to check that everything is in order with it. Of course it is, but it says a lot about how intimidating the Maranello pace is.
That does not allow for Ferrari to do their own thing and get something wrong but if we are value-hunting on their dominance we have to look to Sebastian Vettel. The German was fuming when Bottas prematurely ended the qualifying - "that was going to be a good lap" - and probably would have bettered the Red Bull's time.
As it is, he will start second on a track where leading off the line is not always an advantage and could mug his team-mate Charles Leclerc, the 11/10 favourite to win, at Turn 1 and after that the Ferrari train is unlikely to be stopped. Vettel has never won in Mexico but finished second last year and I am backing him at 13/5 to go one better this time around.
A tricky track at the best of times
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has a lot going for it, but it is not an easy race track for anyone. The altitude makes downforce hard to generate and engines difficult to cool, the lack of rubber on an under-used track makes grip a precious commodity and today the weather may play a part too with rain forecast before and during the race itself. Bottas has already demonstrated how easy it is to overstep the line.
So even if the conditions don't get you on reliability, it will still be extremely hard to keep cars facing the right way throughout and plenty of the lesser teams will be dreading what Sunday afternoon holds. With that in mind, there is an even-money bet on under 16.5 cars finishing the race that seems like a sensible option.
In defence of Albon
The second seat at Red Bull is going to be a difficult one to occupy as long as Verstappen is in the first one.
His phenomenal pace and marketability make him a confirmed No 1 by quite some distance and Pierre Gasly has already suffered because of it.
His replacement, British-born racer Alexander Albon, has been criticised for pre-Sunday crashes in Singapore, Russia and now Mexico where he lost track time because of an incident in FP2.
But team principal Christian Horner has been talking up his work in the team and he will start fifth on the grid fresh from his best ever F1 finish of fourth in Japan.
A 35/1 Thai winner is too much of a long shot even for me but Albon is 11/2 to finish on the podium and quietly dismiss the haters behind a Ferrari 1-2.