Lewis Hamilton thinks the 220mph charge down to the opening corner of the Mexican Grand Prix holds the key to him winning his fourth world championship in glorious style.
Hamilton will start only third after he was beaten to pole position following a rousing display by rival Sebastian Vettel, who edged out the ever-impressive Max Verstappen.
Hamilton, who leads Vettel by 66 points with just three rounds remaining, needs to finish just fifth to become Britain’s first quadruple world champion.
But the 32-year-old Englishman wants to seal his place in history by taking to the top step of the podium in front of a 135,000-strong capacity crowd at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
The 800-metre dash to the first turn is the longest on the calendar, and Hamilton, who was nearly half-a-second adrift of Vettel in qualifying, has said it represents his best chance of victory.
“I tried to deny Sebastian but it was not to be,” Hamilton said. “It was a difficult session and it has been a difficult weekend.
“Out of all the good qualifying sessions I have had this year it was not at the top of those.
“Overtaking here is very difficult but there is a long way down to turn one so we should have some fun.
The race is going to be very tough, but I hope I remain close if I am not where I want to be after turn one.
“Winning the title is obviously the goal and to do it on Mexican soil would be pretty neat.”
Hamilton has been in blistering form since the summer break, winning five of the six grands prix staged, including a dominant victory in Austin last weekend.
But the British driver has failed to trouble the top of the time sheets this weekend and he has his work cut out to seal his fourth crown in the manner he so desires.
Vettel delivered a dizzying time at a track which is more than 2,300 metres above sea level, to edge out Verstappen by just eight hundredths of a second and claim the 50th pole of his career.
“There is not much point looking at what others are doing and at what Lewis is doing,” Vettel added.
“We need to maximise everything we can and then it depends on Lewis.”
Verstappen, controversially stripped of his podium finish in Austin after he was penalised for an illegal last-lap overtake on Kimi Raikkonen, was in danger of further punishment here for apparently impeding Valtteri Bottas during qualifying. However, no further action was taken by stewards.
Hamilton needs nine points to join Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Vettel as a winner of four or more titles, and to surpass Sir Jackie Stewart – here this weekend – as the only other British driver to have won three.
Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso on Thursday confirmed he will take part in the Daytona 24-Hours race in January.
The McLaren Honda driver, who took part in the iconic Indianapolis 500 this year, will race with the United Autosports LMP2 team, driving a Ligier JSP217 car.
Alonso, who last week agreed a new contract with McLaren, said: “The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic US endurance race and one of the world’s great races.
“It’s not part of the Triple Crown (of the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and Le Mans victories) but, as I have always said, my aim is to be a complete driver — and this experience will help me in the preparation for any other endurance race I might take part in.
“Before I went to Indy, I had never driven on an oval and now I know what an oval is and how to deal with it. I am excited to go back and race in America.
“After the great time I had during the month of May, for the Indy 500, I am looking forward to taking part in another legendary race that will bring back all those amazing sensations that US fans gave me.”
Alain Prost believes the arrival of on-loan driver Carlos Sainz has filled a void at Renault following the Spaniard’s promising debut at last weekend’s United States Grand Prix.
Four-time world champion Prost, who is a Renault advisor, backed team boss Cyril Abiteboul’s assessment of Sainz’s performance as “remarkable”.
Sainz, the highly-rated son of former world rally champion Carlos Sainz, finished seventh after switching teams from Toro Rosso following the Japanese Grand Prix.
“He did a remarkable job,” said Abiteboul. “It’s not easy to change teams in the middle of a season. There have been previous circumstances when things have not happened that way in other teams in the history of F1.”
Prost, who helped guide Sainz through the weekend of his first experience racing for a factory works team, said he felt his arrival had filled “a big hole” in their plans.
“It’s always a small risk when you change a driver in the middle of the season, but it was exactly what we wanted,” said Prost.
“Unfortunately, we had a problem with Nico (Hulkenberg) so we had to get Carlos in the points and if you want to build something, you know you can’t have a big hole somewhere.
Sainz replaced Jolyon Palmer in the team, the Briton having struggled to make a consistent impact.
“It’s not being rude with Jolyon, but we are constructors and we need to have everything not perfect, but better.
“We know we have a lot to do still.”
Sainz, who is under contract with Red Bull until 2020, has been loaned to Renault until the end of next year.
Prost said the team decided to switch drivers to boost their bid to finish strongly in the constructors’ championship.
“In this situation, we don’t have all the keys, but the market is very open next year,” he said. “We are lucky to get Carlos, because we wanted him, but we don’t have him for the long term so we have to be careful. We are in a building period now.”
The six points scored by Sainz in Austin enabled Renault to move within five of sixth-placed Toro Rosso.
“It was close to a perfect weekend for me,” said Sainz. “A great weekend – thanks to the whole team for making me feel so much at home from the start.”