FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE MEXICO PREVIEW

 

Foreword

 

Austin was a fantastic event: well organized, great attendance and very passionate fans. Based on last year, Mexico should be a continuation of this and all the team are looking forward to going back. In particular we have lots of off-track activities to fully leverage our presence in the country as Mexico is a strategically important region for Renault. In fact, it’s exactly this kind of programme we had in mind when we re-entered the sport as a team owner.

Naturally it would be good to go to Mexico off the back of a more positive race in the States, but we had a relatively muted one. Qualifying was OK, with one car in Q2, but we were lucky with other retirements to finish just outside the top ten. I would have liked to see the drivers fighting with other teams, like we did during our stint in Asia, rather than racing each other for most of the race, but that’s how it panned out. We will move on and get the best result possible on the day next time out.

 

Cyril Abiteboul, managing director

 

 


 

Marching Orders

 

Team Principal Fred Vasseur looks to Mexico, reflects on Austin and talks pit stops and potential.

 

What are the targets for Mexico?

For all of us, points are the target, as ever. For our engineers and drivers, maximising the use of the tyres and making the most of our potential are the particular goals. For our drivers, it’s having fast and consistent performances in qualifying and the race.  The Mexican Grand Prix is an impressive event so we want to see impressive performances from everyone involved.   

 

What was your take on the team’s performance in the United States Grand Prix?

We showed a decent performance but my expectations are high and I know better was possible. There were areas where we had issues and neither driver drove a perfect race. I really want to see us collectively maximising every opportunity in every regard for the next three races. Next year we clearly should have a more competitive car; this year is about getting to a place where we are confident to maximise our full potential.

 

The team has made strong progress in operations, particularly in pit stops. Was this one of the goals of the year?

At the start of the season we realised that our on track performance would be limited by the development we could realistically put on the R.S.16. The basis of the package had not moved forward significantly from 2015 so we would always be fighting the tide. However we did think we could make big gains by optimising operations. We have improved in all areas: tyre management, race operations, strategy and also in pit stops. Our mechanics have worked very hard in tough conditions and have had the energy to solidly improve. You can see it in the results and it will continue to pay off next year.

 

Are the 2017 plans on target?

We are on target with timing. The power unit is already on the test bed and aero is underway. Of course we don’t know what the other teams are doing, but we are relatively okay in our own programme. Things are progressing as expected. We will naturally have a rush in the next three months to push to be ready to go testing, but everyone is motivated to get every last tenth they can.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Into the Unknown

 

Kevin Magnussen heads to Mexico and the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez not knowing exactly what to expect, but fully expecting a strong show in the 19th Grand Prix of the season.

 

What are your hopes and expectations for Mexico?

Just the usual: I want to get the most out of the car and achieve the best result possible. We know the level of our car’s performance so we want to get the most out of it at every opportunity.

 

What do you think of the circuit layout of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez?

I’ve never driven it but I have studied the layout and watched some on-board laps so I’ve got a good taste for it. It looks good, but you never get a real feel for it until you get out there in the car. I know that the engineers say it was pretty slippery last year, especially early in the weekend which is what you’d expect for a new facility. It’s going to be interesting to see how much it’s improved over the past year.

 

What are your post-race thoughts on the United States Grand Prix?

Firstly, the five second penalty I got at the end of the race was frustrating as I was just reacting to Kvyat’s pretty aggressive defending even though he was on quite shot tyres, but it’s just one of those things in motorsport and you get on with it. Otherwise, it was a pretty interesting race. We started planning for a one-stop then adapted to a two-stop, then finally to a three-stop. It’s not often that you change that much over the course of a race, but we could see the tyres weren’t lasting as long as anyone had predicted so we went with it. I relied on the pit wall to advise me of the best approach and we did make a pretty good call with the final stop. Obviously, we wanted to finish in the points and, although we didn’t, we were close.

 

You seemed to enjoy your final stint?

It was great to be racing with fresh tyres at the end when so many other cars were running out of their tyre performance. In racing you always want to overtake any car ahead so I enjoyed that final stint the most of any of my racing this season.

 

Will Mexico be more of a challenge as it’s a new track to you?

It will be interesting learning the track for the first few laps in FP1 but after that you just get on with the programme.

 

What are you looking forward to in Mexico away from the track?

I’ve never been to Mexico before so it’s going to be a completely new experience away from the track too. I’ve heard a lot about Mexico City from everyone that visited last year, especially that the fans are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. I love Mexican food, especially if it’s hot and spicy.

 

 


 

A Bit of Verbal

 

Jolyon Palmer wants to do his talking on track but nevertheless we’ve got him to tell us a bit about his thoughts on Mexico, where he drove last year in FP1.

 

What do you think to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez?

I drove it in FP1 last year and it was very slippery as the surface was new and it’s a cool track with a really nice feel to it. It’s always fun to go to a new circuit, which was the case last year. It’s got a particularly distinct character with the stadium section near the end of the lap, there’s quite a few fast corners; it’s a good layout.

 

Tell is about the stadium section…

There’s something really special and you feel the atmosphere. It’s a very slow section, and to be honest it’s not fantastic in pure driving terms as the corners are some of the slowest on the calendar, but you really feel the buzz of the fans all cheering and that really pushes you along! You go so slowly through there that you can properly appreciate and feel the enthusiasm.

 

How do you reflect on your United States Grand Prix?

I’m quite happy on one hand as the pace was decent. Thirteenth was a reasonable result in the race, but probably I should have finished P11 or fighting for tenth but my start and first few laps weren’t great as I was struggling for grip, then I was stuck behind Kevin for much of the race, which was a bit frustrating. But overall, I think I had a good qualifying session and showed good race pace.

 

Austin was a new track to you whereas you’ve driven Mexico before – does this make much difference to your race weekend?

Honestly, it doesn’t make the greatest amount of difference. Suzuka and Austin were both tracks I didn’t know yet I was able to have good weekends. Certainly, the approach to FP1 is different depending on if I’ve driven a track before or not.

 

Does the high altitude of Mexico City have any impact on your approach or preparations?

We were aware of this before we went there last year, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. I headed there on Monday after Austin so there’ll be plenty of time to get used to it! I’m being kept busy in the build-up to the race as we have a lot of interest and some Mexican partners to it’s certainly not a quiet week.

 

What do you like about Mexico?

I love the food, culture and people.  Last year the event was all about the crowd; there were so many people and they were so enthusiastic. On the grid in Mexico was one of the most memorable moments of last season; that and driving through the stadium section – even in FP1.

 

What’s your outlook for the final races of the season?

Just get my talking done on track. I feel I’m getting better all the time and I’ll be pushing hard at every turn. I’m happy with the car and the team and I feel in a good place so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t put in strong performances over the next races. My focus is certainly on the races. I want to do a mega race in Mexico and get the appreciation and everything else which goes with that.

 


 

Getting High

 

At over 2,200 metres above sea level the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez presents some unique challenges for car and engine alike as Power Unit Technical Director Remi Taffin explains.

 

What was the approach to Mexico for the first visit last year and what’s changed in light of what was learned?

When we went there last year we knew that there wouldn’t be a big difference in terms or power unit power which would certainly not have been the case if we were using a normally-aspirated engine. The air is a lot less dense, which for a normally-aspirated engine can mean a loss in power of about 22%. With the turbo ICE we have, all that happens is the turbo has to spin faster. The energy recovery and deployment systems are unaffected too.

 

Aside from power production does the high altitude present problems?

One area you have to pay particular attention to on the power unit side is the cooling as the less dense air is not only less effective for combustion, it’s also not as strong on the cooling side too. You maintain the same level of power, so you have to dissipate all the energy. With less effective air going through the ducts there was certainly a question mark last year. Thankfully, our predictions were pretty accurate, so there were no surprises last year, and we’re not expecting any this time either. That said, if it’s a particularly high ambient temperature we will need to monitor the situation closely as we’ll likely be at a very high operating temperature.

 

What improvements have been wrought since the first visit to Mexico?

For this year we’ve refined the data to optimise our cooling and turbo use. We have to run the turbo at a much higher speed than anywhere else to make the boost as effective. One thing is for sure, the turbo units used in Mexico will be put on the shelf and not used afterwards as they will get a pretty harsh workout!

 

Where is the team in terms of power unit usage heading to the final few Grands Prix?

We’re not in a bad shape this year in terms of engines as we’re on to our fifth now which means we have four which can be used. We’ll use the most recently introduced engine which has to do this and the next two races so we’re on course not to take any penalties. The ICE does work hard and with the long straight and the less dense and therefore less draggy air the maximum speeds of the cars are in excess of 360kph which is quite something!

 

Is there anything to fear in terms of performance potential at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez?

There is no reason why we should not see the same sort of performance as seen in the last four or five races. We want both cars in Q2 and we really would like to have another go at getting into Q3 before the season is out.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Circuit notes

 

T1 : A heavy braking zone after the long straight. Infrequent circuit usage means the surface could be slippery, especially if wet.

 

T3: Exit is important here as it leads to a short straight of over 600m, or 7secs flat out.

 

T4 : Another big stop. The turn in speed for this will be around 95kph and rear stability is important.

 

T7: The start of a flowing complex where the driver will be dancing on the throttle as he negotiates a series of esses similar to Suzuka’s famous section. With a speed ranging between 240kph and 120kph, the driver will not touch the brakes through this section, instead applying more or less pedal travel.

 

T12: The last corner, now known as Mansell after the famous tussle between Gerhard Berger and Nigel Mansell in 1990. The previous incarnation (known as Peraltada) was a banked, oval bend that was taken at close to 300kph, but is now a twisty complex with an average of 130kph.

 

T16 to T1 : The long back straight sees the highest speeds of the year owing to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez’ high altitude. Located at over 2,200 metres, the air is less dense. This means less downforce, but much higher speeds as the cars carve through the thinner air. Speeds will peak at over 360kph.

 

Power Unit notes

  • The Circuit Hermanos Rodriguez is a medium to high speed track. The average speed is around 190kph, comparable to the previous event in Austin.
  • The top speed is very high, increased by the high altitude of Mexico City: at altitude the air is thinner and there is less resistance to the car. To give grip in the corners, cars will run similar downforce levels to Budapest and Singapore, but the downforce level produced will be less than Monza.
  • At an altitude in excess of 2,200m – or just under half the height of Mont Blanc – the circuit is by far the highest point of the season. By comparison, Sao Paulo is just 800m. In the normally aspirated era this would have meant a power output some 22% less than normal, but a turbocharged engine will produce the same power as a sea-level event such as Abu Dhabi. To do this, the turbo spins at a higher rate to input more oxygen into the ICE. To compare: the turbo will spin some 8% more in Mexico than in Abu Dhabi.
  • Fuel consumption over one lap is quite low so energy recovery is less critical in Mexico than at other circuits.

 

Tyre choice

 

Medium: Fajitas. Good all-rounders that can be as spicy or as mild as you want. Always satisfying.

 

Soft: Enchiladas – gooey in the middle with a semi-hard surface.

 

Supersoft: Like the ever-popular nachos, they give a good hit of flavour but don’t last long when presented.

 

Memory Lane

In the past, drivers had a love-hate relationship with the Mexican Grand Prix. The track was bumpy and high-altitude, but its fearsome corners and high-speed sections made it a real challenge. Nigel Mansell however made it look easy when he took a dominant victory for Williams-Renault in 1992. The Brit had won the first race of the season in South Africa by a 24 second margin and went to Mexico as the favourite. He again scored pole position and raced away to win over team-mate Riccardo Patrese. It wasn’t a classic race but it was indicative of the absolute domination of Williams-Renault that year: Mansell went on to win nine races and wrap up the title by August.

 

Quirky facts

 

The chihuahua is the world’s smallest dog and is named for a Mexican state. Relative to their bodies, chihuahuas have the largest brain in the dog world.

 

Mexico City is built over the ruins of a great Aztec city, Tenochtitlán. Because it is built on a lake, Mexico is sinking at a rate of 6 to 8 inches a year as pumps draw water out for the city’s growing population

 

Chocolate was discovered in Mexico and was made by the Meso-American people into a sweet beverage using natural sweeteners. The word ‘chocolate’ derives from the language of the Aztecs, Náhuatl (xocolatl : xoco, bitter + atl, water. Christopher Columbus encountered the cacao bean on his fourth mission to the Americas in 1502.

The Habanero Chilli Pepper is one of the hottest in the world. It’s grown in the Yucatán Peninsula, and can pack a punch of 350,000 scovilles. In contrast, a pimento delivers a puny 350 scovilles.

Mexican wrestling is called Lucha Libre, or free fighting. It is similar in many ways to the form of wrestling that inspired it — American professional wrestling. Both forms are full of colourful characters and outlandish story lines, and the rules in both types are very flexible and loosely enforced. It is a dishonour to derobe the wrestler and see his face.

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