If Lewis Hamilton fails to register a single championship point in this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, then a likely victory for Nico Rosberg will see the Mercedes AMG Petronas driver seal a first world title at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Rosberg makes the journey south from Austin, scene of a dominant victory for team-mate Hamilton last weekend, with a 26-point advantage over the Brit. With twenty-five points available for a victory, and only fifty on offer once the chequered flag falls on Sunday evening, a margin of 51 would give the German the championship.
His mantra of “one race at a time” has proved a potent weapon thus far, but Rosberg looked edgy last time out, likely conscious of the fact that any slip ups at this stage will hand the ever-potent Hamilton an opportunity to reclaim ground in the title fight he won’t need a second invitation to take.
A fiftieth career win for Hamilton in Austin came off the back of a dominant weekend, with pole position and a lights-to-flag victory allowing him to dock seven points off Rosberg’s points lead. A repeat performance is a must for Lewis.
Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer will simply be hoping not to extend their current trend of tripping themselves up after another patchy showing in Texas. Young protegee Max Verstappen managed to accidentally pit himself on lap 27 before an engine issue forced him to end his afternoon early – and in doing so he brought out the Virtual Safety Car that afforded Rosberg the chance to make another pit stop and defend against Verstappen’s team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo, for second.
And what of Ferrari? Well, the sport’s most successful team has certainly made steps forward this season, but at best it can hope to hang on to the coat-tails of Red Bull between now and the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi next month. They too endured a difficult weekend in America, notably in leaving a wheel gun attached to Kimi Raikkonen’s car during his second pit stop and forcing him into retirement. His team-mate Sebastian Vettel eventually claimed a lonely fourth. For the Scuderia, the changes to the technical regulations for next season can hardly come fast enough.
Williams and Force India are set to continue a fascinating duel for fourth in the Constructors standings. With three races left in his F1 career, Felipe Massa will be hoping to go out on a high, as will Nico Hulkenburg as he signs off with Vijay Mallya’s outfit before a switch to the works Renault team next season. Hulkenberg’s team-mate, Sergio Perez, is already confirmed at Force India for next season, and Williams are expected to retain the services of highly-commended Finn Valterri Bottas.
In theory, all Hamilton can do between now and the season’s end is replicate the dominant form and calm persona he displayed last weekend and hope for Rosberg to slip-up in the final three races. Given the German has never handled a title fight in the prime seat, that always remains a possibility, but if the latter can take the spoils in Mexico, then you would have to say the championship fight has all but run it’s course.