Mexico GP Preview

3-wide start in 2018
3-wide start in 2018

A fast and slick racetrack in the heart of the most populous city in North America is next up for the FIA Formula One World Championship. The Mexican Grand Prix at Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City is the fourth-to-last race of the season, and its smooth and slippery surface combined with being located 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) above sea level makes the 4.304-kilometer (2.674-mile), 17-turn circuit a vexing challenge for drivers and their teams.

The high altitude means there is less downforce on the cars, making aero grip a precious commodity. To compensate for this, teams run more downforce than they would at similarly fast tracks like Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza and Azerbaijan’s Baku City Circuit.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]But with top speeds in the neighborhood of 350 kph (217 mph), teams have to compromise between straight-line speed and the downforce necessary to push through the track’s corners.

And even though the track’s asphalt surface has weathered since its debut in 2015, it remains astoundingly smooth, which further complicates a driver’s ability to put his car’s power to the pavement.

And if those issues weren’t enough, cooling is another factor teams must deal with in the Mexican Grand Prix. The thinner air means the turbo has to spin at a higher rate to inject more oxygen into the engine, and with the brakes being used for approximately 21 percent of the race’s 71-lap duration, keeping those brakes cool adds yet another degree of difficulty.

The track, of course, was completely revamped for the series’ return in 2015, even as it followed the general outline of the original course that had been used between 1963-1970 and again between 1986-1992. The most notable changes from the old layout to the current version were an added sequence of corners comprising turns one, two and three, along with a revised set of corners through the Foro Sol baseball stadium, which was built inside the famed and feared Peraltada corner, which serves as the track’s final turn.

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez demanded respect in its first iteration, and it continues to demand respect today.

Lucha Libre

Masked Heroes
Masked Heroes

The masked heroes study each other for what appears to be an interminable time. There are tentative approaches, feints, then a hold is established. The move is swift, relentless, spectacular. The opponent, just a matter of seconds ago proudly, defiantly standing ahead of the fighter, now lays defeated. The crowd loves it.

It could be a scene from any lucha libre bout around Mexico – or the description of an overtaking move during the race that will unfold this weekend at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. For many are the parallels between the traditional wrestling style of this country and the pinnacle of motorsport.

Helmets replace masks, but their appeal, their immediate recognizability and aura of mystery remains, no matter how the crowds’ heroes conceal their faces. Formula One, like lucha libre, has its rudos and its tecnicos – the bad guys and the good guys, playing out their battles on track for the benefit of all onlookers. Storylines are written, traditions established, battles, even feuds narrated. The show unfolds in front of adoring fans – some of the best in motorsport. Reputations are built, records set. Then you move on to the next fight

Tires

Mexico is a relatively new circuit that has its roots firmly in the past, and it contains a bit of everything. Tires from right in the middle of Pirelli's range have been chosen for both legs of Formula 1's American double-header, with Mexico going first this year, followed by the United States a week later. So at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez – named after Mexico's two most celebrated racing drivers – we'll see the C2 as the White hard, C3 as the Yellow medium, and C4 as the Red soft. Last year, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won the drivers' title at the Mexican Grand Prix: this year he has another chance to seal the championship once more in Mexico City.

Verstappen leads
Verstappen leads

Mexican Grand Prix: Fact File

  • At 4.304km, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez is the second shortest circuit on the F1 calendar after the Circuit de Monaco.
  • The Mexican Grand Prix is one of three races in the season that has 71 laps, together with Brazil and Austria.
  • The 811-metre run from pole position to the first braking zone is the second longest in F1, only behind Russia. 9.6 seconds of it are completed at full throttle.
  • The Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez has the highest altitude on the calendar, situated 2,285m above sea level. Before Mexico returned to the F1 calendar, the track with the highest altitude was Interlagos in Brazil, 800m above sea level.
  • Despite the high altitude, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is one of the flattest tracks on the calendar, with the third smallest elevation change – 2.8m over the 4.304km lap. Only Melbourne and Sochi, both of which are only slightly above sea level, have less elevation change.
  • The high altitude means that the ambient pressure is the lowest of the season by far, around 780mb. Oxygen levels at this altitude are 78% of what they are at sea level and this reduction in air density has an impact on the Formula One cars.
  • The Power Unit is the most affected by the low atmospheric pressure. A normally-aspirated engine would suffer a significant drop in power (around 20%). A turbocharged engine can make up for this but the turbo has to work much harder than in normal conditions to achieve it, which increases temperatures.
  • The thin air also means that it is less effective to cool the car, so the Power Unit and brakes run hotter. Bodywork with increased cooling is required to address this.
  • The thin air and increased cooling have two consequences on the aerodynamics of the car: less downforce and less drag. We run a rear wing equivalent to Monaco, but despite this, the actual downforce on the car is closer to the levels experienced in Monza.
  • Because of these factors, Mexico sees some of the highest straight-line speeds of the season with cars reaching 370km/h in a tow.
  • Some of the highest track temperatures of the year are experienced in Mexico, with an average temperature of 43.5°C and maximum temperatures of up to 52°C in previous years. This is in part due to the very dark tarmac.
  • There is a third DRS zone for the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix, running between Turn 11 and Turn 12, with a detection point at Turn 10.
  • Despite the long main straight, the track has statistically the third fewest overtakes over the years.

The fastest corner on the circuit is Turn 9, taken at around 250 km/h. Drivers experience 4.1G through this corner, the most of any on the track. The slowest corner is Turn 13, taken at under 70km/h. This is one of the slowest turns of the entire season.

Select Quotes

Will Hamilton clinch the title this weekend?
Will Hamilton clinch the title this weekend?

Toto Wolff
When we embarked on this journey, no one would have dreamed we would ever be able to achieve this. We hoped that we would be able to win races, maybe even a Championship and represent the Mercedes brand well – but to win six consecutive double Championships and beat a record that seemed unbeatable is very satisfying. It's an achievement that is testament to the hard work, great determination and passion of every single member of our team. Everyone in Brixworth and Brackley has done a tremendous job and we all feel very grateful to call ourselves World Champions for a sixth consecutive time.

There is no sense of entitlement in this team for future success, so we were quickly back to our usual race preparation routine after Japan. We know that the four remaining races are not going to be easy and we expect Mexico to be the most difficult one for us. The high altitude of the track brings some fairly unusual challenges as the low air density affects the downforce of the car, the cooling and the engine performance. It's a combination that doesn't particularly suit our car, but we will give it everything to try and limit the damage. We look forward to the fight and to the amazing Mexican crowd that shares our love for racing and turns the weekend into a brilliant celebration of motorsport.

Pierre Gasly (Car #10):
“The whole weekend has an amazing atmosphere. That stadium area is so impressive, with so many people in it and when they all start shouting it gives you goosebumps. The whole circuit has a big crowd and that’s great to see.

“The track is quite slow with plenty of slow corners, but then you have the esses section in the middle of the track, which is what I prefer, because the faster it is the more I like it.

“I’ve never had much luck there, as I had to take engine penalties which dropped me down the grid, although last year I came from the back row to finish tenth and score a point."

Daniil Kvyat (Car #26):
“The thing that impressed me most about the Mexican GP the first year I went there was the circuit and the crowd. When you go through the stadium section on the drivers’ parade and you hear the roar of the crowd, it’s an incredible noise, everyone is cheering.

“As for the actual track, it’s mainly slow corners requiring lots of full lock on the steering wheel. The layout is still quite technical, there are some medium speed chicanes in there and the final part flows a bit more while you hit very high speeds down the very long main straight.

“Overall, it’s an enjoyable weekend, I have some good memories here and had a good result a couple of years back, finishing fourth."

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal Alfa Romeo Racing and CEO Sauber Motorsport AG:
“We approach the final four races of the season with the confidence we can be in the battle for points at each of these events. Everyone in the team is working hard, both at the factory and at the track, to make sure we extract all of our potential. Mexico is a track with unique characteristics – it’s bumpy, the altitude and the thin air have a strong effect on the car and you have very long straights and a slow and twisty middle sector. The practice sessions will be key to set up the car properly for the rest of the weekend, but I think we will be able to show what we can do."

Kimi Raikkonen (car number 7):
“Mexico gives us a chance to get back in the points. It doesn’t really matter what we did in the past few races, our focus is on the next events and we need to make sure we go out and do our job well. If we do that, we will be in the battle for the points, this is what matters. We know the final four races are very important and we will continue to give 100% to finish the season well."

Antonio Giovinazzi (car number 99):
“The next two races will be a crucial moment for us. Back-to-backs are always an opportunity to build momentum so it will be important to do well in Mexico and carry on to Austin. I have never raced in Mexico City but I had two practice sessions there and I quite like the track. The layout, with its long straights, reminds me of Monza, but the conditions will be very different due to the altitude. Hopefully our car will suit the circuit well and we will be in the fight for points."

Lance Stroll
“Mexico is a really fun event. The fans are great and they really help make the race special with the atmosphere they create. Even on the Friday, you see full grandstands and can feel the energy of the crowd.

“Away from the track, the city is awesome too. It’s a busy place, with lots going on, and I definitely enjoy exploring and trying the Mexican food – you can’t beat a good taco! I’ve obviously been to Mexico City a few times now for the race, but I also visited Punta Mita a few years ago for a holiday and played on the golf course. It’s a beautiful place.

“Mexico City is up there as one of my favorite circuits of the year. I enjoy driving the car in high altitude conditions and you can really notice the difference because the car feels more nervous. It just adds another challenge for the drivers.

“It’s quite a simple track – sort of like a go-kart track with some long straights linked by some low-speed corners. It’s quite technical in places and there are overtaking opportunities. I think we have good potential in the car for these final few races and Mexico should suit us quite well."

Local hero Sergio Perez
Local hero Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez:
“The race in Mexico is a hugely important weekend for me. It’s my home race and I always feel very proud to see Formula 1 back in Mexico. We’ve just had the notice that the race contract has been extended for another three years, which is great news for the sport and for Mexico. Everybody tells me how much they love the race – my colleagues, the media and the fans. It’s our chance to show everybody the Mexican way of life and how much we love sports.

“The track is a pretty challenging one – especially when you consider we are driving the cars at a high altitude. It’s tough on the drivers physically and it’s hard work for the power unit as well because the air is so thin.

“I think the final sector is my favorite part of the lap – the fast and flowing section, which can be very tricky, and it’s easy to make a mistake through there. Because of the altitude, you have much less downforce on the car and the car can sometimes get quite loose through those fast corners.

“The final sector also has the stadium section and when it’s full of fans the atmosphere is like nothing else. Each time I drive through there, even during practice, I can hear the fans and feel their support.

“Overtaking is never easy, but I think the best opportunity is into Turn 1 – that’s where we’ve seen most of the moves being made."

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
Typhoon Hagibis altered the Japanese race weekend schedule, where for only the fifth time in Formula One history, qualifying was held on the same day as the race. How did this alter your preparation for the race and what effect did it have on team personnel as they had a jam-packed Sunday readying cars for qualifying and the race?

“I think to do it like this, it made for a very busy Sunday. The day flew past very quickly, you’re all very busy and everything needs to be done a lot quicker. I don’t think it had an effect on team personnel, they just had to adapt, and our guys adapted pretty well. I would just say it was too much for one day – having both qualifying and the race on one day, but in those circumstances, it was the right decision. Everybody coped and I think it was an interesting race."

Talk has intensified about changing up some race weekend schedules in the future. What’s your take on any proposed changes to the existing format and did events in Japan give you additional in-sight to what could be possible?

“Well, there are talks to condense a Friday of a Grand Prix weekend. The talk is to just do running on a Friday afternoon, with all the other PR activities taking place in the morning. I think that would be a good way forward, especially with an extended calendar."

The Mexican Grand Prix has won four-straight ‘Best Promoter’ awards at the end-of-season FIA gala prize giving. What is it about the event there that stands out and how do you think promoters best strike the balance of keeping teams and fans happy?

“I think it’s just the enthusiasm of the people, both of the people running it and the people attending the race. We, as teams, are always made to feel very welcome there, and everything is very well organized. I think everybody’s happy with how everything runs and obviously the fans like it."

Romain Grosjean, Driver No. 8, Haas F1 Team
Typhoon Hagibis altered the Japanese race weekend schedule, where for only the fifth time in Formula One history, qualifying was held on the same day as the race. How did this change your preparation for the race and what effect did it have on team personnel as they had a jam-packed Sunday readying cars for qualifying and the race?

“I actually enjoyed it quite a lot. Having qualifying and the race on the same day – yes it was a busy Sunday, but it was pretty cool. For me, it was quite a good Sunday. I enjoyed the schedule. I thought it was cool. For the crew, though, it was hard work having to jump from qualifying debrief straight into the race."

You achieved a degree of social media notoriety for making a model of the six-wheeled Tyrrell P34 in your hotel room on Saturday in Japan as track activities were canceled due to Typhoon Hagibis. What is the appeal in model cars and that one in particular, and were you surprised at how much attention your build generated? Will you take up Jody Scheckter’s offer to go visit the original?

“Yes, I’ll contact Jody and see if I can visit the original. It’s obviously a very special car with its history, and unique looking with its six wheels – not something you see often in Formula One. I made the model to pass some time on Saturday. We knew it was going to be a long, rainy day. I was a bit surprised as to how many people liked the idea. I’ve been building models for a long time. I’ve built a few Formula One models, some LMP1, Super GT, rally cars. I think it’s a nice way to spend some time and it gets your brain somewhere else. I enjoyed the day building it."

Mexico City’s notoriously high altitude means very low air density, and combined with Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez’s equally notorious slick surface, does the Mexican Grand Prix pose an even greater challenge to Haas F1 Team to get the Pirelli tires into their proper operating window and also keep the tires in that window? If so, what kind of adjustments can you make in your driving style to try and minimize this issue?

“Mexico’s been a tough one for us since our first year back in 2016. We’re just going to keep working on it and keep trying to improve our results there. It’s going to be a challenge. Obviously, the altitude is the same for everyone, but it looks like it’s impacted us quite a fair bit in the past. Maybe this year we’ll have a better understanding and we can get everything to work. Let’s see where we can go. We know it’s going to be a challenge. It’s always been our hardest track, but we’re ready for that challenge. Anything we can learn, we’ll take it."

The Mexican Grand Prix is back-to-back with the following weekend’s United States Grand Prix. What will you do with the time in between the two races? More specifically, are there certain parts of the United States you’re able to explore before arriving in Austin, Texas?

“I’m going to go to Miami. I’ve never been there before. I’m looking to do some kite surfing. It’s no secret that it’s a passion of mine. Hopefully, there’s some wind and, if not, we’ll go surfing instead and enjoy a bit of Miami before heading to Austin."

Kevin Magnussen, Driver No. 20, Haas F1 Team
Typhoon Hagibis altered the Japanese race weekend schedule, where for only the fifth time in Formula One history, qualifying was held on the same day as the race. How did this change your preparation for the race and what effect did it have on team personnel as they had a jam-packed Sunday readying cars for qualifying and the race?

“It was definitely different not doing anything on Saturday. I thought it was pretty cool having all the running on Sunday. I thought it was much better than the usual Sunday but, surely, for the team it was a hectic day. I didn’t make it any better by damaging the car in qualifying."

Mexico City’s notoriously high altitude means very low air density, and combined with Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez’s equally notorious slick surface, does the Mexican Grand Prix pose an even greater challenge to Haas F1 Team to get the Pirelli tires into their proper operating window and also keeping the tires that window? If so, what kind of adjustments can you make in your driving style to try and minimize this issue

“Mexico City has proven in the past to be a pretty challenging circuit for us. The track surface and low downforce means that we struggle more with the tires. I don’t know what we can do in terms of driving style, but we’ve made some good steps in terms of our understanding of the car this year. Hopefully, we’ll be alright."

Haas F1 Team has been challenged in the Mexican Grand Prix before, most notably when you qualified 18th for the 2017 event yet rallied to finish eighth, all while holding off none other than Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps. How did you work your way to the front and what did you have to do to keep Hamilton behind you?

“The 2017 Mexican Grand Prix was pretty good for us, though our qualifying position wasn’t good. We made up some ground on the first laps of the race and enjoyed a good consistency in the car. We were able to take the tires to the end of their lives without dropping off too much. A few things happened at the front, so Lewis had fallen behind. In the closing stages of the race, he didn’t really have the pace to overtake me. I guess the race fell into our hands a little bit, but the car was also better than it had been in other years for some reason. We’ll see if we can try and replicate that this year."

The Mexican Grand Prix will mark your 100th grand prix weekend. While you’re not one to celebrate milestones – preferring to focus on racing – what are your personal highlights from your Formula One career to date, and what piece of advice would you tell the Kevin Magnussen that debuted at Australia in 2014?

“My personal highlight, for sure, is my first race in Australia in 2014. Your first race in Formula One is always very special. It’s all exciting and new, and it’s also when you realize your dream has come true. After that, you get used to it, but that first weekend is really special. What would I tell myself – just to get on with it and enjoy it."

The Mexican Grand Prix is back-to-back with the following weekend’s United States Grand Prix. What will you do with the time in between the two races? More specifically, are there certain parts of the United States you’re able to explore before arriving in Austin, Texas?

“The plan right now is that we’ll go from Mexico City to Houston. We’re going to go see NASA. I’ve never seen that before. I’m looking forward to doing that between the races. We’ll then drive from Houston to Austin and enjoy a bit of a road trip."

Mario Isola – Pirelli
"Mexico has always been a tough and unpredictable race with a fantastic atmosphere: especially in the stadium section, where the drivers say that they can hear the fans cheering. There are some good overtaking opportunities over the course of the lap, and we've also seen a number of different strategic approaches in the past, as well as quite variable weather conditions. The altitude of Mexico City definitely affects the cars and the set-up, and this has a knock-on effect for the tires as well. Even a high-downforce setting can feel like low downforce, so there can be a lot of sliding. Once more, we've brought a harder selection of compounds compared to last year: this should enable drivers to push the tires to the maximum".

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