So back-to-back race weekends again, great for the fans, less so for the drivers, especially those trying to regroup after a bad Sunday afternoon. As we drop across the southern Texan border before President Trump builds a wall over it, we look at five drivers who'll hope the El Día de los Muertos doesn't start a few days too early.
It’s been a poor few races for Bottas recently. Having missed the podium in the last three outings, it’s clear he’s not getting anywhere near the best out of the powerful Mercedes engine. Luckily for the team (and his teammate Lewis Hamilton), Sebastian Vettel could not capitalise thanks to a couple of unlucky DNF’s.
This has taken the spotlight off Bottas as his failures as a second driver have not been exploited in the drivers’ championship standings. However, they are being noticed in the paddock. Toto Wolff states he’s happy for his drivers to race and there’s no number one driver, so it’s now up to Bottas to show he can be considered as anything but a supporting act in the team.
At the start of the season one would’ve expected Perez, widely considered one of the best drivers outside the big teams, to have comfortably outperformed his teammate, the rookie Esteban Ocon. Yet no one needs telling how close the battle between the two has been, least of all the marshals tasked with clearing up bits of pink bodywork after another exchange of blows.
Whilst Ocon has got his head down and driven as well as he can, Perez has been getting more and more frustrated, and the results have turned in the favour of the young Frenchman. Perez needs to spend less time on the radio asking for his teammate to move and concentrate more on making sure he’s not behind him in the first place if he wants to give his home crowd something to cheer about this weekend.
Nico has had quite an easy ride in the Renault this season. Scoring regular points finishes and constantly out performing a poor teammate, he’s just been able to get on with things quietly.
However,the arrival of Carlos Sainz has shaken things up. Although Hulkenberg can point to bad luck with his engine in Austin, it’s not an excuse he can rely on. From being the undisputed main driver in the team, he’s now got a fierce challenge from the highly rated Spaniard. He needs good performances for the remainder of the year if he wants to keep his dominant place in the team next year.
It may seem a little harsh this one, because it's clear Stroll's Sunday performances have been improving through the year, and he’s showing some decent consistency recently. However, his Saturday showings are still woeful compared to Felipe Massa. He has only three appearances in the final part of qualifying compared to nine for Massa.
The power of the Mercedes engine will always help keep Stroll ahead of some of the back markers, but if he really wants to shrug off the accusations of being a pay driver then he must start to appear further up the grid come lights out on Sunday.
The Toro Rosso drivers
I was tempted to have these as separate entries to try to save me some time, but I’m sure you’d all see through that one, so both Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly can round off the pack together, something they’ll be hoping not to do come Sunday.
There are three races left to secure a seat for next year, and whilst both are in prime position, nothing is confirmed. Gasly can probably feel comfortable with his chances as he’s highly regarded within the Red Bull setup and performed admirably in his first two races. However Hartley was a bit of an obscure pick for a drive, having left the Red Bull setup (and open wheel racing) many years before.
At 27, he’s a lot older than most new entrants to the grid in the current era, and with the Toro Rosso ethos of preparing drivers for action in the main Red Bull team, there has to be some doubt whether he’s anything more than a stopgap until the end of the year. Whilst the Red Bull Driver program isn’t as bustling as it has been in the past, the new partnership with Honda could see one seat filled by the Japanese manufacturers. Someone akin to Nobuharu Matsushita, development driver for the Honda powered McLaren last year, might be in consideration before the season is through.
Who do you think needs a good result in Mexico this weekend? Let us know in the comments below!