[F1 2017 NEWS] MEXICO GRAND PRIX: RACE PREVIEW

F1 returns to Mexico this week, the sport spreading positive energy at an important time, with the nation recovering from its deadliest earthquake in 30 years, Mexico City one of the worst hit by the 7.1 magnitude tremor.

… and record-setting crowds are expected - with tickets to the Grand Prix sold out weeks before the event.

SOUNDBITE (English) SERGIO PÉREZ,
F1 DRIVER, FORCE INDIA:
“Well, the Mexicans are very enthusiastic. They love Formula 1, they really support me a lot - and that’s the main difference. The passion, and the organisers how they prepare the whole weekend throughout the season. It’s something extremely good.”

Force India’s Sergio Pérez will have lots of support as the hometown hero, but at the front - Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to finally crush the title campaign of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

… the Scuderia’s top man 66 points adrift - and Hamilton only needing to secure fifth place or better in Mexico to win a fourth title.

In terms of past masters - the only multiple winners at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez are world champions, with Jim Clark, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell all having two each. Hamilton’s first was last year.

Gerhard Berger also has plenty of history there, not only because of 1992 World Champion, Nigel Mansell’s mega pass on him at the fearsome final corner, the Peraltada, in 1990. But also his maiden win in 1986.

SOUNDBITE (English) GERHARD BERGER,
F1 DRIVER, 1984-1997:
“It was a day very important in my career, it was a day very important for Pirelli, [and] a day very important for Benetton. So we been a nice group together, the Italian group with Pirelli and Benetton, [and] me as Austrian and we had a big celebration that day.”

To challenge Hamilton at the front - Vettel will need something he’s never had in Mexico, a clean weekend.

He crashed out in 2015, and finished fifth last year after being handed a 10-second time penalty and two penalty points on his F1 superlicense for an illegal move under braking against Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, and an expletive-filled rant over the team radio, after Max Verstappen cut the Turn 1 chicane and failed to give the place back.

It’s the likely title decider as the crowds pack the grandstands - to once again see the Grand Prix gladiators clash.