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The strategies to look out for at the Mexican GP

Strategy has been a race-changing factor throughout this year's F1 season and the Mexican GP is set to be no different. RacingNews365.com takes a closer look, ahead of Sunday's race.

The Mexican Grand Prix weekend has already thrown up a surprise with Mercedes locking out the front row of the grid for the race, despite everything pointing towards a relatively comfortable pole position for Red Bull. Valtteri Bottas will lead the field away when the lights go out at 13:00 in Mexico (19:00 UK time) and the opening seconds of the race will be crucial. Lewis Hamilton starts from second place, with championship leader Max Verstappen in third and the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez in fourth. Further behind, multiple drivers, including McLaren's Lando Norris, have been hit with grid penalties for excessive use of power unit elements and they will be hoping to come through the field.

The start could be decisive

The run to Turn 1 is the longest of the year and contact is almost inevitable somewhere in the field. Mexico returned to the F1 calendar in 2015 and each of the last five races since then have seen contact towards the sharp end of the grid in the opening corners. The most recent occasion was two years ago when Verstappen and Hamilton didn't want to give each other any room, so they clumsily tripped over one another and went across the grass at Turn 3. Pole position isn't necessarily the best place to start because you will be towing the entire field down to Turn 1. Mercedes will be hoping that Bottas and Hamilton are not side-by-side because they will be punching a massive hole in the air for the Red Bulls. Surely, Mercedes will discuss a way to 'box' Verstappen in so that he can't get alongside Bottas and take the lead. It's possible that the leaders are three-, or four-wide, going into the braking zone, and then it will all be about who's willing to be the most aggressive by putting their car and race on the line. If Verstappen manages to emerge in the lead, he has to be the big favourite for victory once again, given how strong his pace was on Friday on the Medium and Hard tyre compounds. Should Verstappen stay in third place, he still has a chance, but would likely have to overtake at least one Mercedes on the track, and overtaking is very difficult at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Due to the lack of running at the track since 2019, the dirty side of the grid (where Hamilton and Perez are starting from) is even dirtier, so Verstappen could be in prime position, even though he was disappointed on Saturday.

Any chance of a two-stop?

If there are no Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car interruptions, a two-stop race looks unlikely. In 2019, Verstappen managed to complete nearly all of the race on a single set of Hard tyres. Perhaps the driver in third or fourth place, after the opening laps, could pit early and possibly trigger the leaders to react, but it will still be a big ask and there is simply too much time to gain back. You lose around 25 seconds when pitting and the warm temperatures are unlikely to degrade the Pirelli rubber enough to cause some strategic variance. The undercut will not be as powerful as normal due to the low tyre wear, and an overcut (going long in the first stint) may be an option if you manage your tyres well. This is why the start is so important for the race, because there are not many opportunities to overtake your rival in the pit-stop phase.

What do Pirelli say?

"Practically all the drivers tried to get through Q2 with the Medium tyre in order to run the fastest strategy for the race, which is definitely a Medium-Hard one-stopper, as there's quite a significant time loss in the pit lane, and it's difficult to overtake," said Pirelli boss Mario Isola. "This option also gives a lot of flexibility around the strategy. As expected, with more rubber laid down, the Soft tyre showed a very solid performance in qualifying and so it could play a role in the final stint of the race."

Don't expect to see much of the Soft tyre

Yuki Tsunoda will be forced to start the race on the Soft tyre, because he made it into Q3 on that tyre compound. He will start from 17th place after taking on numerous new power unit elements and he is likely to be one of the few drivers to use the Soft tyre on Sunday. The Soft tyre was wearing out very quickly, which is why most drivers wanted to avoid it completely in Q2. However, the Medium and Hard tyres don't have much tyre degradation and are fast enough to make them the perfect compounds to use for the race. Getting temperature into your tyres could be key if you're in a close battle, so watch out for any struggles on the out laps from the pits. This could bring the overcut into play.

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