Altitude Is Everything In Mexican Grand Prix
After racing on home soil last weekend in the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, Haas F1 Team heads south of the border for the Mexican Grand Prix Sunday at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City.
The 4.304-kilometer (2.674-mile), 17-turn circuit has hosted Formula One since 1963, but in preparation for Formula One’s return in 2015 after a 22-year hiatus, it was completely revamped. Noted track designer Hermann Tilke penned the new layout, which followed the general outline of the original course. The entire track was resurfaced, with new pit, paddock and spectator stands constructed. 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 Perlatada corner, which serves as the track’s final turn.
The new asphalt made for a slippery surface in 2015 and despite a year of weathering, it remained slick in 2016. Even as the refurbished track readies for its third year of Formula One action, drivers and teams alike expect grip to be elusive.
The smooth pavement is one factor, but Mexico City’s notoriously thin air is another significant contributor.
Sitting 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) above sea level, Mexico City’s high altitude means there is less downforce on the cars. 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. But with top speeds expected to surpass the high mark of 372 kph (231 mph) earned last year, teams have to compromise between straight-line speed and the downforce necessary to push through the track’s corners.
Cooling is another issue facing teams 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 25 percent of the race’s 71-lap duration, keeping those brakes cool adds another degree of difficulty.
Haas F1 Team is up for the challenge, with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen eager to get back on track and vie for points in the hyper-competitive midfield. The American squad is eighth in the constructors standings with 43 points, five points behind seventh-place Renault and 10 points behind sixth-place Toro Rosso with a 20-point cushion over ninth-place McLaren.
With only three races remaining in the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship, the midfield battle is as tight as it’s been all season. Points are highly coveted by all, but with the super teams of Mercedes, Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull typically consuming six of the top-10 point-paying positions, the seven other teams on the grid scrape and claw for the remaining four spots and the valuable points that come with them.
Shut out of the points at COTA after scoring a double-points finish in the preceding Japanese Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team seeks an elevated position in the constructors standings with a high-end performance in the elevation of Mexico City.