Reports

Mexican F1 Grand Prix

2016 MEXICAN GRAND PRIX – PREVIEW

Circuit stats
2015 winner Nico Rosberg, 71 laps, 1:42:35.038s
2015 pole position Nico Rosberg, 1m19.480s
2015 fastest lap Nico Rosberg, 1m20.521s (lap 67)
Name Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez
First race 1963
Circuit length 4.304km/2.674 miles (2nd shortest of the season)
Distance to Turn One 800m/0.497 miles (longest of the season)
Longest straight 1.314km/0.816 miles, on the approach to the Turn One
Top speed 365km/h/227mph, on the approach to Turn One
Pitlane length 650m/0.404 miles, estimated time loss 25s (longest of the season)
Full throttle 47 per cent
DRS zones Two, on the approach to Turns One and Four
Key corner Turn Three. It’s the final right-hander in an ‘S’ bend, so the car is heavily loaded. It’s crucial to get the power down efficiently because the second DRS zone is located on the following straight
Fastest corner 260km/h (162mph), Turn 17
Slowest corner 72km/h (45mph), Turn 13
Major changes for 2016 None, except for maintenance work on kerbs and Astroturf
Fuel consumption 1.49kg per lap, which is low
ERS demands High. The long straights use the ERS heavily, so the more efficient systems are rewarded
Brake wear Medium. There are 12 braking zones, three of them heavy, and 27 per cent of the lap is spent braking
Gear changes 44 per lap/3,124 per race
Circuit facts
History lesson A racetrack was first built at the Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City in 1962. It hosted its first F1 race the following year, but lost the grand prix after the 1970 event, when fans broke ranks and sat on the edge of the track. The race returned from 1986 to ’92, on the renamed Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, before making another return in 2015.
What makes it unique The altitude. Situated at 2,200m (7,218ft), the circuit is the highest on the F1 calendar and that has implications on car performance. There is only 78 per cent of the oxygen available at sea level, which means the internal combustion element of the power unit produces less power and the brakes are harder to cool in the thin air.
Grip levels Low. The asphalt was new prior to last year’s race, which meant it was oily and very slippery. Twelve months on, the tar will have cured and grip levels will improve as a result.
Run-off Good. Designer Hermann Tilke has included ample run-off on the re-profiled track. Where the barriers couldn’t be pushed back due to the topography of the surrounding area, at the Esses, for example, the corners have been tightened.
Watch out for The end-of-straight speeds. The 1.2km (0.746-mile) pit straight is the longest in F1 and last year’s top speed of 366km/h (227mph), set by Sebastian Vettel, exceeded expectations. Given the amount of progress made with the power units in the last 12 months, could we see the fastest straight-line speeds in F1 history?

THE DRIVERS ON: THE CIRCUIT

#14 Fernando Alonso

“Last year we went to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez with a lot of unknowns and relatively little information about how the cars would perform on the reconfigured circuit. It poses a very different set of challenges to many other circuits because of the compromise you need between good downforce on the fast straights and also strong balance in the twisty stadium section – and then there’s the altitude, which affects performance in itself. It will be difficult to bring all of the elements together to get the best out of a lap, but I’m looking forward to seeing where our package compares to last year.”

#22 Jenson Button

“I really enjoyed driving on this circuit last year. It wasn’t an easy track for us, but it’s a really rewarding layout for a driver. Although the famous banked Peraltada wasn’t included in the re-profiled design, the mixture of the very high-speed straights and the infield section at the end of the lap does give you a bit of everything and it really puts a smile on your face. We were definitely strongest in the final sector around the stadium so we’ll need to put those strengths to good use if we’re to give ourselves a fighting chance next weekend.”

Event facts
First Mexican Grand Prix 1963
Official slogan The race has no official slogan, but the government is quick to promote Mexico’s national values of liberty, work and culture.
Mexico's F1 heritage The Rodríguez brothers, after whom the track is named, were the godfathers of F1 in Mexico. Both of them raced in F1, Pedro winning a couple of races, and both of them perished in racing cars. In total there have been six Mexican drivers, two of which – Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez – are on the current grid.
Smallest winning margin 1.366s, in 1991. This was the race weekend in which Ayrton Senna flipped his McLaren-Honda during practice at the fearsome Peraltada corner. However, the race was an all-Williams affair, with Riccardo Patrese and Nigel Mansell locking out the front row of the grid. Mansell led the early laps, until cooling issues forced him to slow and that allowed Patrese to take a narrow victory, ahead of Ayrton in third place.
Sporting legacy The buzz surrounding last year’s grand prix proved the unflinching popularity of F1 in Mexico. But the country has played host to many big sporting occasions over the years: the 1968 Olympic Games were staged in Mexico City, as were the World Cups of 1970 and ’86.
Did you know? Honda scored its first F1 victory at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix.
Don't forget McLaren has taken three victories at the Mexican Grand Prix, in 1969, ’88 and ’89.
Fan zone Valeria, aged 17, from Mexico City, asks: “Does the altitude force you to do anything different with car set-up? McLaren’s answer: “The engineers aren’t forced to do anything different, but they need to be mindful of several factors at 2,200m (7,218ft). First, the internal combustion engine produces less power and the turbo spins faster to compensate. Second, the brakes are harder to cool and the size of the brake ducts needs to be carefully analysed. Third, the thinner air generates less aerodynamic drag, which has an impact on the amount of wing the cars can run”.

The drivers on: the event

#14 Fernando Alonso

“Last year we went to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez with a lot of unknowns and relatively little information about how the cars would perform on the reconfigured circuit. It poses a very different set of challenges to many other circuits because of the compromise you need between good downforce on the fast straights and also strong balance in the twisty stadium section – and then there’s the altitude, which affects performance in itself. It will be difficult to bring all of the elements together to get the best out of a lap, but I’m looking forward to seeing where our package compares to last year.”

#22 Jenson Button

“I really enjoyed driving on this circuit last year. It wasn’t an easy track for us, but it’s a really rewarding layout for a driver. Although the famous banked Peraltada wasn’t included in the re-profiled design, the mixture of the very high-speed straights and the infield section at the end of the lap does give you a bit of everything and it really puts a smile on your face. We were definitely strongest in the final sector around the stadium so we’ll need to put those strengths to good use if we’re to give ourselves a fighting chance next weekend.”

Hear from the management

Eric Boullier

“We head to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez buoyed by a positive result at the Circuit of The Americas. Like in Texas, we’re looking forward to the incredibly warm welcome from the fans, who rocked the stadium section and downtown Mexico City over what was a very memorable weekend for fans, teams and drivers alike last year.

“Achieving a similar result to Austin at this circuit will be no mean feat. It’s a tough track for the chassis due to the high average speeds and big braking zones, and it makes the power unit – particularly the turbocharger – work harder than normal because of the high altitude.

“It will be interesting to see how our improving package fares on this challenging configuration, and I hope we can bring all of the elements together to see a more promising performance there than we managed last year. Saturday will be the most crucial day for us, as we need to give ourselves the biggest chance in the race, and we can only do that by maximising everything in qualifying. With the incredible support from the fans, we’ll work hard to give them a great weekend of racing.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

“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.

“At the same time, this track has a very long straight, so we need to consider the power effect while matching the power unit to the chassis. We had a very difficult race here last year, but we would like to maintain the good momentum gained in Austin, and also show our technological progress throughout this season. We are hopeful that we can once again target points in the race.”

2016 MEXICAN GRAND PRIX – PRACTICE

“The fans are fantastic here and there’s a lot of support for Formula 1”

Today was a useful day at an unseasonably cold Autόdromo Hermanos Rodríguez. With overall grip so low on a track surface that started this morning at just 14 degrees Celsius, the team spent much of the first session evaluating various aero components and working on power unit configuration. The morning was a productive one, and, despite a brief hiatus for a red flag, a full programme was completed before the end of the session.

The afternoon session was far more conducive to working on balance and set-up for the weekend ahead, once the track temperatures had increased and grip had consequently improved. Both drivers reported that they were happier with the car’s progression and were able to complete their scheduled run programmes successfully.

Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04
FP1 1m23.089s (+2.175s) 25 laps 16th
FP2 1m21.003s (+1.213s) 25 laps 10th
Tomorrow we’ll be working more on finding performance

"It has been a demanding day for everyone, with a very dirty and slippery track, like last year. 

In the first session, we tried a few things on the car, then in the second session we tested different tyre compounds, but the degradation was quite significant. The situation will surely improve tomorrow and on Sunday, when the track will clean up and we will have much more grip. 

At the end of the second session we saw an anomaly in the braking system so we stopped, as a precaution, to do some checks. 

Tomorrow we’ll be working more on finding performance, but, even so, making it into Q3 may not be easy."

Jenson Button, MP4-31-03
FP1 1m23.342s (+2.428s) 24 laps 18th
FP2 1m21.198s (+1.408s) 39 laps 12th
Race strategy is more important than the kudos of Q3, and the goal is to score points

"We started off this morning doing quite a lot of general testing work, so FP1 wasn’t so useful for this weekend. 

In FP2 we could do a lot more Mexico-specific testing – we worked a lot on the balance – and we finally found something that’s a bit more interesting. I don’t think it’s ever going to feel good here, with such low grip because of the thin air, but hopefully we’ve found something we can work with tomorrow. 

There’s quite a bit of graining on the Supersoft tyre, but the degradation got better throughout the session. The long runs were tricky though, and I think everyone found that on the Supersoft, but we’ve just got to try to make the best of what we have. 

At the start of the race I think a lot of cars on the Supersoft will be pitting four or five laps in, but that’ll mix it up and I think it’ll add a bit of excitement. The Medium tyre is working better than the other two: it lasts the longest and we haven’t seen any graining on it so far, but there’s correspondingly less grip on it. 

I think we’re on the edge of the top 10. It might be a little bit more difficult than at the last race, but it’s not such a bad thing to be just outside the top 10 because that way you get a choice on tyre strategy. Obviously we’ll try our best to get into Q3, even so, but the race strategy is more important than the kudos of Q3, and the goal is to score points. 

Finally, it’s really nice to see so many people here already on a Friday. The fans are fantastic here and there’s a lot of support for Formula 1. There’s a great atmosphere – I’m looking forward to the weekend."

ERIC BOULLIER
We managed to complete all our planned programmes for both cars

"This morning we were perhaps a little surprised by the very cold weather, which chilled the track surface considerably, but both our drivers nonetheless coped well with the consequent lower-than-expected tyre temperatures, the result being an incident-free FP1 session for us. 

However, this afternoon, as the air temperatures increased, taking the chill off the asphalt, both Fernando and Jenson reported better, more balanced and more driveable handling characteristics. Owing to the high altitude, the thin air makes things tricky aerodynamically though.

We managed to complete all our planned programmes for both cars, across both sessions, and ended up a creditable if unspectacular 10th- and 12th-fastest at the end of FP2. 

We have a lot of number-crunching to do this evening, but we have reason to hope for a reasonable qualifying performance tomorrow afternoon, when the air temperature is forecast to pass 20 degrees Celsius for the first time since we’ve been here."

Yusuke Hasegawa
We still have a lot more engine mapping and deployment data to look at and tweak to make it better for tomorrow

"The first two free practices of the Mexican Grand Prix have been very busy. 

Owing to the very cold and dusty track conditions of this morning, we struggled with grip, making balance confirmation very difficult. Despite these conditions, FP1 was a very full session, confirming power unit performance balance in the high altitude environment, as well as general aero testing and chassis balance. 

During the lunch break the sun did help to warm up the track for FP2, whereby we performed our usual set-up changes and long runs to help us refine our package for tomorrow’s running. 

With the improvement on our turbo, we can say that the overall altitude effect is much less than last year, but we still have a lot more engine mapping and deployment data to look at and tweak to make it better for tomorrow.”

2016 MEXICAN GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

"The freedom to choose the start tyres for tomorrow's race should work to our advantage"

Today was a drama-free day at the Autόdromo Hermanos Rodríguez, with both drivers managing clean laps and the team executing a perfect run plan.

The final practice session was dedicated to both high- and low-fuel running in preparation for qualifying and the race, as the team were able to evaluate better the different tyre compounds on a much warmer track than yesterday.

In qualifying, both drivers put in solid laps in clear air and were able to progress beyond Q1 without any issues. The top 10 was not quite within reach and both drivers reported that grip was at a premium on the slippery asphalt. Fernando will consequently start tomorrow’s race in 11th place and Jenson in 13th. 

FERNANDO ALONSO, MP4-31-04
FP3 13th 1m20.600s (+1.463s) 18 laps
Q1 11th 1m20.552s On Options
Q2 11th overall 1m20.282s On Options
You could say that many things went our way today

“I think 11th place was probably the best possible position we could dream of today in terms of race strategy, as we’ll have free choice of tyres tomorrow for the race start and we’ll be on the clean side of the track. So you could say that many things went our way today. 

“Unfortunately, however, we aren’t quick enough here. A few races ago we were routinely making it into Q3 and then fighting for seventh or eighth position, which is good, but here we’re fighting for ninth or 10th position – so, that being the case, we’d rather be in 11th position. But, that’s a side-issue really: more important is that we need to understand why we’re slightly struggling for pace here.

“Tyre degradation, which will be the key factor tomorrow, has been different from team to team, from set to set and also from day to day, so I think tomorrow we’ll all be going into a slightly unknown situation. So we’ll need to be very flexible and open to strategies, and then we’ll see what we can do. 

“Finally, avoiding traffic will be one of tomorrow’s priorities, since we’ll have a free tyre choice.”

JENSON BUTTON, MP4-31-03
FP3 15th 1m21.152s (+2.015s) 19 laps
Q1 15th 1m21.333s On Options
Q2 13th overall 1m20.673s On Options
We’re not in bad shape and I’m looking forward to the race

 
“My run on the old tyres in Q2 was actually my best lap – I just couldn’t get the new tyres working in Sector One on my final run so I lost three-tenths there. Sectors Two and Three were good, but I couldn’t get the balance right in Sector One. 

“Realistically, 11th and 12th would probably have been the best possible scenario for us, as it would have been perfect for the race. But 11th and 13th isn’t so bad either, especially as I’ll start from the clean side of the track and we get to do our own tyre strategy, which is exactly what you want for a race like this. When you’re in the top 10, ninth or 10th is not a good thing because you’re stuck if you’ve run the Supersoft in Q2. It’s a tough tyre to manage and I think tomorrow we may have a better strategy. 

“Hopefully our race pace will be better tomorrow than our quali pace was today – we’re not in bad shape and I’m looking forward to the race.”

ERIC BOULLIER
We have reason to hope for points

“There have been only 16 Mexican Grands Prix in the history of Formula 1 – excluding the 1962 non-championship race – and McLaren has won three of them, which total has been matched only by Lotus and Williams and exceeds the achievements of any other team.

“That being the case, obviously we aren’t satisfied with 11th and 13th – it isn’t the kind of qualifying performance on which our team’s great heritage and reputation were built – but, having said that, it’s just about the best possible result you can get if you don’t manage to progress through to Q3.

“Fernando, in P11, will be able to select his own tyre strategy for the race – which none of the 10 drivers ahead of him will be able to do – and he’ll start from the clean side of the grid too, which may well be a significant advantage on such dusty asphalt. Jenson will be similarly advantaged, lining up for the start in Fernando’s wheel-tracks in P13.

“So, bearing all that in mind, we have reason to hope for points from both of them. It won’t be easy – it never is – but they’re two of the hardest battlers in the field and they’ll both drive their hearts out in an effort to record top-10 finishes.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA
The freedom to choose the start tyres for tomorrow’s race should work to our advantage

"Significantly, based on yesterday’s and today’s running, we’re now confident that our power unit’s altitude issues from last year have all been rectified and improved for this year, and we’re now able to run with the same performance here as at any other circuit. Of course, our position is still relative to the rest of the field, but it’s a good step forward for us and another target reached. 

"We know the tyres take a long time to warm up on this track, so the team and drivers did a brilliant job to navigate both traffic and tyres to get a clean lap. 

"It’s a slight disappointment that we missed out on Q3, but we know that the asphalt is tough on tyres here, so our current positions and the freedom to choose the start tyres for tomorrow’s race should work to our advantage."

2016 MEXICAN GRAND PRIX – RACE

“A tough day for us”

Today was a frustrating day for the McLaren-Honda team. Both drivers ran clean races and pushed hard, and were two of the very small number of drivers able to pass their nearest rivals on track.

The team split the strategies, Jenson pitting once and Fernando twice, in an effort to get the best out of the tyres on the slippery track and make progress through the traffic. On a circuit at which it is notoriously difficult to overtake, and despite their best efforts and some hard battles on track, neither driver was able fully to capitalise on their pace and duly finished in 12th and 13th positions.

JENSON BUTTON, MP4-31-03
Started 13th
Finished 12th
Fastest lap 1m23.777s on lap 70 (+2.643s, 17th)
Pit-stops One: laps 17 (2.45s) [Prime/Back-Up]
I had some fun out there overtaking, and enjoyed some good fights

“We did a one-stop strategy, but the problem for us – for everyone, I think – was that you just couldn’t overtake. We lost so much time in the first 30 laps of the stint on the Back-Up [tyres] in traffic behind other cars. I was stuck behind Kevin [Magnussen], then Fernando, then Carlos, and then [Jolyon] Palmer. It was really difficult to overtake but I eventually got past them all – our pace was really good then – and we did as well as we could have done. Even if we’d had clear air ahead of us I still don’t think we could have finished 10th though.

“The actual pace was good during the race, as I say, and I had some fun out there overtaking, and enjoyed some good fights, but it’s just so difficult to pass here. You wouldn’t think so with such a long straight, but out of the last corner you just can’t stay close. When you do get past, you suddenly find the time, but in the process you’ve lost so much compared with the people who stopped on lap one.

“We could have stopped on lap one ourselves, but, when you’re in 12th or 13th place, it’s not a great position, but it’s also not a bad enough position to say ‘let’s take a gamble’ when you’re potentially on the edge of the points.

“All in all, it was a really unusual race, and it’s a pity because we could have finished a lot higher up had we gambled, but you don’t know that in advance. It was still a fun race for me and I definitely got the best out of the car today – and that’s all you can hope for.”

FERNANDO ALONSO, MP4-31-04
Started 11th
Finished 13th
Fastest lap 1m23.668s on lap 69 (+2.534s, 16th)
Pit-stops Two: laps 16 (2.71s), 45 (5.44s) [Prime/Back-Up/Prime]
Jenson and I went for different strategies

“I guess we could have done a little bit better today, but unfortunately on the first lap we seemed always to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We also had a small incident, which put us in a difficult position as we were in traffic for the remainder of the race, as we sat behind Carlos [Sainz] for 40 laps or so.

“We also had a small problem in our second pit-stop, which didn’t help.

“We had one tyre that lasted a long, long tme and another that lasted much less long, so Jenson and I went for different strategies, but, even so, neither of us finished in the points.

“At the end of the day, when you have the pace everything is easier, so that’s what we need to focus on.”

ERIC BOULLIER
This afternoon’s race was a tough one for us

“Clearly, when you qualify 11th and 13th, as we did yesterday, there isn’t much to shout about when you manage to convert those starting positions to only 12th and 13th, as we did today.

“But this afternoon’s race was a tough one for us, for many reasons. First, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is a decidedly difficult circuit on which to overtake, as a result of which our drivers were held up behind Carlos’s Toro Rosso for many laps; second, we were forced to down-tune Fernando’s power unit during the race, which obviously handicapped him to some extent; and, third, there was a delay during Fernando’s second pit-stop, which lost him a further two or three seconds.

“These things happen – that’s racing – but it’s always frustrating for driver and team alike when they do.

“Anyway, from here we move on to São Paulo, Brazil, whose famously undulating Interlagos circuit will present a very different set of challenges. Having won the Brazilian Grand Prix no fewer than 12 times in our history, which is more than any other team, we hope to fare better there than we did here, although a 13th Brazilian Grand Prix victory will of course be out of our reach. But we hope points will be possible.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA
Today’s Mexican Grand Prix was very harsh on our team

"Today’s Mexican Grand Prix was very harsh on our team. Fernando had a hairy start, being pushed out in the grass, and as a result backed up Jenson who was directly behind him. Neither car was able to gain positions as they often do at the start, therefore. Furthermore, after the first pit-stops, we were constantly stuck in traffic, whereby we weren’t able to push into the points-scoring positions. I don’t think we were able to show any of the team’s strengths in the 71 laps today.

“We also had some issues with our power units, Fernando suffering from an anomaly in the ICE whereby we were forced to detune the output, and Jenson showed a temperature rise in the ERS whereby he wasn’t able to use the maximum performance mode at the end of the race. I am mostly disappointed as it feels like we have unfinished business and couldn't challenge enough on the track.

“Now that the two long Americas back-to-back races are over, we’ll go to our respective factories and gather data to analyse, and look to pull the team together and forward for the upcoming Brazilian race."