Mexico returns to the calendar after a 23 year absence, boy has it been long! Mexico has been actively involved in the sport for the last couple of years with Esteban and Sergio, leading a flurry of young drivers following suit; in representing the country at the top of motorsport chain. Carlos Slim, the billionaire business tycoon is a big fan of the sport and has invested majorly as a sponsor for the drivers and the teams they raced for.
Mexicans are known to be passionate and have a really good stomach for a hot spicy stuff, which makes them the ideal candidates for the title of the perfect Formula One fans. Long distance relationships are never fun unless you have a deep history and the patience of a scientist waiting for half of the rhodium to decay.
Mexico first hosted the races on Magdalena Mixhuca which became Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez when it had its layout changed for safety and a shorter track length. The circuit last hosted the race in ’92.
The new layout has been modified from the one used before as increased safety standards had to be fulfilled for the circuit to obtain the required Grade 1 License from the FIA to host Formula One. This meant getting rid of the iconic 180 degree last corner on the circuit, or famously known as the “Peraltada”. While changes to the turn 7 to 13 complex have been made as well, making it much straighter than before.
The video below highlights some of the major changes made to the track compared to the original layout.
However many pundits feel that these changes take away the soul of the circuit, on the other hand it is necessary to ensure a proper safety standard.
To replace Peraltada, there is a brand new “Stadium section” named after Nigel Mansell acknowledging his famous move at the old Peraltada (watch video below) . The section is a blend of slow speed, traction limited bends, making rhythm through the corners more important than ever and with a 1.2km straight just after the section, it’s ever more crucial to nail the exit.
The most exciting thing about this section is actually the closeness of the grandstands to the actual track. This part of the track is used as a baseball stadium; hence the track going in between two grand stands would make for an electric atmosphere at the circuit.
The track is fairly flat with very little elevation changes if any so, if it rains or if the cars are able to run close to each other, you won’t be wrong to expect a lot of side by side wheel to wheel battles.
The track will have two DRS zones, but only one detection point at the end of the stadium section. So it would be really tricky to manage defending the DRS moves as we at ES feel, just the one zone would’ve been fine.
Coming to the car setup for the car, Mexico City is situated 2,200 m above the sea level which makes it the highest altitude Formula One races at.
Higher altitude is a nightmare for the engineers as it means thin and limited air supply to begin with, which makes the engine less efficient and lose about 22% of their power at sea level. But thanks to the super-efficient power units in place since 2014, the power output might be just the same but the turbo chargers would have to produce about 6-8% more work than at sea level.
This means a headache for designers and manufactures with a less than ideal turbo setup, be it turbo speed or just harvesting in general. *Slowly points fingers at Honda*.
So with less engine power, less air to burn the fuel with, the teams also have to deal with less air to cool the engine down as well, which means, be ready to see a lot of teams focus on cooling more than usual with new engine covers or more slits around the bodywork.
A coin always has two sides, while the thinner air hinders the mechanical thermodynamic side of the car; it’s highly beneficial for the aerodynamics of the car. Thin air equals less drag and that means there’s lesser stuff in the atmosphere that is hindering the car on its way forward. But there’s a downside to that as well, less air means less downforce on the cars, as it’s all linearly related to the density and the amount of air flowing over those complex 8-10 element front wings.
Overall, we at ES, expect the teams to run a high downforce configuration at this circuit, similar to Hungary, but expect the top end speeds to be in the ballpark with Monza.
So, traction, downforce, top end speed, the three ingredients to success here.
We feel, Mercedes is a little down on traction as shown at circuits like Singapore, Hungary this season, but they’re so far ahead with the downforce and top end speed, they’ll still be the favourites.
However, Ferrari have been quick at both Hungary and Singapore, in fact, winning both of them, and with the power unit getting better and better by the second, expect them to be right there in the mix for the podium and may even challenge for the win.
Renault powered teams may find this track challenging as would the Honda boys. Let’s just hope Alonso has a few jokes up his sleeve for this race too, might be the only thing we get entertainment out of a McLaren Honda.
All in all, with mixed weather forecasted for the race, we’d say with Mercedes weak on the Inters in Austin, Ferrari might just win another one. However, if the race stays dry and with the tyre choices as prescribed by Pirelli, Ferrari might just struggle to find the top spot, but should comfortably be in the play.
Taking it to be dry, a two stop is likely to prevail with someone trying to push the tyres to a one stop, and a certain Mexican on the track, is famous for that. Maybe Perez can steal a surprise podium at his home, who knows. Anyway, we’ll know more come Friday and Saturday.
But for now looking forward to that long run down to the first corner, going to be a cracking drag race!