Formula 1 heads south from the Circuit of the Americas to Mexico City for this weekend’s Formula 1 Gran Premio De Mexico 2018. It’s a race in one of the world’s highest cities, one that is at an altitude higher than Australia’s highest mountain. The altitude is something the engine management technicians will need to be factoring into their equations. The oxygen contents is 78% of that at see level, and then there is the effect on braking to consider as well.
It’s a weekend that two men in particular are wishing would be over and done with. Mercedes-Benz driver Lewis Hamilton extended his lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by just three points at the Austin F1 GP. Mathematically it’s still possible for the German to out the Briton, however the likelihood of that are as remote as ice cream staying frozen in the middle of the Australian Outback.
Australia also features with Daniel Ricciardo counting the hours until the season is over. Further disappointment for the Perth born talent came with Red Bull confirming that he would not be able to participate in post season tire testing due to the structure of his contract with the team.
This weekend sees Kimi Raikkonen fresh from his first win in half a decade. The 30 year old Finnish driver is taciturn at best, positively stone like at worst, however hos body language shouted sheer exuberance at race end last Sunday. Can he repeat this is any form? We’ll find out on Sunday.
Max Verstappen showcased his extraordinary driving talent as well at Austin. Like his team mate has been so often this year, Verstappen was relegated to rear of grid for the United States GP and somehow managed to drive his way into second. It was an example of the maturity Red Bull has asked of him which sometimes, perhaps too often when needed, he’s failed to deliver. But knowing that he will be the number one driver for the team in 2019 perhaps has eased a form of pressure off the young Dutchman.
The height of the circuit and the effect it will have on the turbocharged cars is perhaps described best by Williams driver, Russian born Sergey Sirotkin. “Mexico is a track which reminds me of Sochi. Due to the high location up in the mountains, the track produces a lot less drag and downforce, which causes the cars to behave quite differently. There is a big effect on the tires, due to the long straight with low drag and one of the highest stopping speeds of the season. It is a challenging track for both the drivers and for the teams.”
But there is more to this weekend than the race for the crown. The venue itself. Veteran Fernando Alonso observes: “I’m looking forward to being in Mexico in a few days. Fans always welcome us in such a warm and enthusiastic way, and once again we’ll be visiting around the ‘day of the dead’ time, when the whole city seems to be celebrating. The atmosphere at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is also unique, especially in the Stadium section, where the view is overwhelming and you get so close to the fans that you can even hear them roaring when you drive through.“
Tire choice from Pirelli for this weekend will be the hypersoft, ultrasoft and supersoft compounds for the event. This does bring a sense of equality to the race, with title opponents Hamilton and Vettel will each have eight sets of hypersofts, three ultrasofts and two supersofts. These should prove to be crucial for tyre and team management as they deal with the 4.3km long circuit. Stops? A one stop strategy is the one being bandied about in the paddock.
Practice commences at 10:00AM local time on Friday October 26, with the qualifying sessions getting underway on Saturday at 13:00 local. Race start is scheduled for 13:10 on Sunday.