Jenson Button thinks Mercedes may have a better chance of beating Red Bull to victory in Brazil as Interlagos is “more of a normal track”.
Red Bull, and specifically Max Verstappen, are aiming for a clean sweep of the American swing after the first two races produced identical podium line-ups.
Verstappen just held on from Lewis Hamilton in a thriller at the United States Grand Prix but had a much bigger margin to spare in Mexico, where Sergio Perez at his home race filled third spot for the second consecutive grand prix.
Mexico’s altitude was said to suit the Honda engine more than its Mercedes equivalent and the same is expected to apply in Brazil, although the effect is likely to be less marked.
However, Button thinks there are parts of Interlagos where the Mercedes power unit will come into its own, as the teams and drivers prepare for the third and final sprint qualifying weekend of the campaign.
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“The corners are very different around Sao Paulo [to Mexico], more positive than negative,” the 2009 World Champion told Sky F1.
“But also, you need a really strong engine to pull you up that hill out of the last corner…and Mercedes does still have that on Red Bull. It’s more of a normal track.”
Damon Hill, who was on punditry duty alongside Button in Mexico, feels the Red Bull pace advantage may again be on display at Interlagos.
By Mercedes’ own admission, Red Bull were faster in the race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez despite having started only third and fourth on the grid due to a disappointing final 12 minutes of qualifying.
“Red Bull definitely had a big advantage around Mexico and you just can’t afford to give any advantage,” said the 1996 World Champion.
“So if it’s an altitude thing, maybe Red Bull have got a couple of tenths more in Sao Paulo.”
Hill, speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, said Hamilton keeping hold of second place in Mexico from a charging Perez had required the “brilliance” of the seven-time World Champion.
It meant Hamilton trails Verstappen by 19 points in the Drivers’ standings rather than 22 with four races of the season remaining.
“Only Lewis’ brilliance really kept him ahead actually on used tyres,” said the former Williams, Arrows and Jordan driver. “Right at the end he managed to keep the gap just big enough – he had to.”
Planet F1 verdict
Brazil will be huge in the Drivers' Championship
Mercedes will once again be on the back foot this weekend.