Round 19 on the Formula 1 calendar sees the paddock head to Mexico City for the Gran Premio de Mexico with the title still up in the air.
The cars have barely cooled down from the dramatic United States Grand Prix last weekend, but the drivers are already looking ahead to Mexico’s famed Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with so much riding on these remaining races.
The track itself has engendered a stirring sense of history and pride through the story of brothers Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez. It was Ricardo’s efforts aged just 19 driving for Ferrari that led to the decision to build a circuit in the public Magdalena Mixhuca park in the east of Mexico City. A non-championship event took place in 1962 and in qualifying Ricardo tragically died in a crash. His younger brother, Pedro, soon after became a national hero and at the Mexico Grand Prix in 1963 he was in the top 10 until a failed suspension forced his retirement.
The circuit has hosted all of Mexico’s Grand Prix to date albeit with several gaps over the decades. The return of Formula 1 in 2015 brought with it freshly laid asphalt and some new designs – all the while drawing on the inspiration of the past.
Few cannot be moved by the technically demanding and stirring Peraltda curve in the final sector, with drivers racing between the towering grandstands as they power on to the start/finish line.
“I can honestly say that the reception we got from the Mexican crowd last year was a feeling like nothing else I’ve ever experienced,” reflected McLaren’s Jenson Button.
“Every time you drove around the stadium section you could actually feel the roar from the fans from inside the car, it was unbelievable.”
Putting aside the history, passion and raucous crowds, the Mexican circuit is unique for its high altitude. Downforce is needed for the long straights, balance is required around the twisty corners, but it’s the turbocharger that will be all important.
Yusuke Hasegawa from Honda said: “Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is located at the high altitude of 2,200m (7,218ft), which means that the oxygen in the air is very lean, and therefore the turbocharger must work extra hard to force air into the power unit. As a result, the quality and the efficiency of the turbo will be the key factor in the Mexican Grand Prix.”
Pressure on Both Mercedes Drivers
With only three races remaining in the season and just 26 points separating Rosberg from Hamilton, the championship can still fall to either driver.
The equation for Rosberg is simple: finish second to Hamilton in all the remaining races and he will win the title. Even one third place and two seconds would be enough. But failing to finish a race could be disastrous.
Rosberg said: “Of course I’m aware of that. It’s an obvious calculation which everybody is telling me and it’s great.”
“But the approach is keep it simple – just look for the race win.”
All Hamilton can do, after suffering through numerous mechanical failures and poor starts this season, is to win every race and hope that something unfortunate happens to Rosberg.
Head of Mercedes, Toto Wolff, noted that the “pressure is on both in different ways” but fans should again expect a fired-up Hamilton to hit qualifying determined to get pole position.
Ferrari look to 2017
After a disappointing season for Ferrari and a poor showing at the United States Grand Prix last weekend, Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene has hinted that the Prancing Horse are now focused on 2017.
“You have to look at the overall situation: if you want to solve problems this year you are losing time for next year,” Arrivabene commented.
“You take parts that give you data for next year. At this stage of the championship anything else would not make any sense.”
The comments from Arrivabene point to the task ahead for Ferrari with Vettel and Raikkonen facing a challenge to compete for the podium at the Gran Premio de Mexico.
The race will start at 13:00 local time and will run over 71 laps.