George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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Mercedes chief Toto Wolff believes his team can spring another surprise in this “challenging” 2021 season at the Mexican Grand Prix this weekend. Conditions at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez are expected to favour their Red Bull rivals this weekend, but the Silver Arrows boss believes “anything is possible” for his team.
The race in Mexico takes place at a far higher altitude than at any other Grand Prix on the F1 calendar.
The track is 2,285 metres above sea level, meaning the field will be racing in what Mercedes calls “unique atmospheric conditions”.
Finely-tuned machines like these F1 cars can be affected in significant ways by these factors, meaning the engineers have a tough job on their hands getting their vehicle settings just right for the conditions.
Red Bull have historically fared well at this venue, as their cars have generally been able to adapt to the higher altitude better than their Mercedes counterparts.
Wolff, however, believes this season has so far shown that the trend might not necessarily continue.
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“We’re all excited to be back in Mexico City, it’s such a vibrant place, full of character and we always receive a warm welcome,” the Austrian said. “We’re looking forward to being back there and the atmosphere at the track is always electric.
“Red Bull have gone well there in the past and it hasn’t been our strongest circuit.
“But this year has shown that anything is possible and circuits where you were previously weak, you are suddenly strong, and vice versa. So, it adds a layer of unknown in the build-up, which only increases the excitement.”
It seems Red Bull agree with that assessment, as one of their main figures had said something similar in the build-up to this weekend’s action.
Adviser Helmut Marko believes his team should have the advantage at the next two races, but admitted it might not necessarily be the case.
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“The high altitude tracks of Brazil and Mexico should suit us significantly better. It’s just that so much has already happened this season,” he said.
“So-called Mercedes tracks weren’t Mercedes tracks in the end and the same goes for Red Bull tracks.”
While it was Max Verstappen who took victory last time out at the United States Grand Prix, Wolff has nothing but praise for the job Lewis Hamilton did in Austin.
“The last race in Texas was more proof of just how intense this championship battle is,” he said.
“It’s challenging, it’s pushing both teams to higher levels and the positive pressure we’re putting on ourselves is making this a hugely enjoyable fight. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Lewis put together a perfectly executed charge on the alternative strategy, to try and snatch the win away from a very quick Max. It wasn’t enough in the end, but we know that we gave it our all and Lewis was relentless in his chase for the win.
“Valtteri [Bottas] drove very well after starting in a tricky position because of the grid penalty, which was the right call for us to make for the remaining five races. He gained positions, scored some good points and that was useful for us in the constructors’ battle.”
Mercedes’ lead over Red Bull was slashed to just 23 points in Texas, and with the next two races supposedly favouring Christian Horner’s team, that gap might close even further over the next fortnight.
Meanwhile, in the drivers’ standings, Verstappen has a chance to extend his 12-point lead over Hamilton and put himself in a commanding position heading into the final four races of the season.
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