The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez – venue of the Mexican Grand Prix, Round 18 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship – is one of the most unique challenges on the calendar.
At first glance, the track appears fairly simple, with multiple straights and slow speed corners making up the majority of the track. However, this provides a false reading on the weekend – the major factor is the altitude of the circuit which, being 2250 metres, results in an approximate reduction in air density of 20%.
Downforce vs Drag
As a result of the thinner air, downforce and drag are reduced by the same percentage, as are their respective coefficients.
Teams have an Aerodynamic efficiency parameter, lift over drag, which is dependent on the circuit layout.
In order to attempt to obtain this with the thinner air, maximum downforce is run – even with this, the optimum value for Aero efficiency is not achieved.
Car Strengths Needed
A chassis with a high level of maximum downforce should perform well.
Good change of direction is required, both in the first three corners, as well as through the S-section in the middle sector.
A reliable turbo is needed – it spins 8% faster than at other races, in order to compress the thinner air more than normal, to produce the same engine power.
Finally, an efficient cooling package will necessitate a smaller bodywork compromise in order to deal with the less dense air.
Turns 4/5 – the entry requires heavy braking, before drivers judge how much to compromise Turn 4 mid-corner speed for the benefit of Turn 5, and consequently, the exit from this chicane.
Turn 7 – this bend starts the S-section and must be taken with care; a poor line through here ruins the following sequence of corners.
Turn 12 – cars brake from eight gear down to fourth here, carrying in as much speed as possible, but there is a high exit curb plus a wall awaiting those who are too aggressive.
Pirelli will continue its trend of brining softer tyre compounds compared to last year, meaning the three quickest tyres have been selected for Mexico.
A one-stop should be the favoured strategy (US-SS), but the track surface is still relatively new, having been laid down for 2015, so there is the risk of increased abrasiveness.
Renault and Toro Rosso have only taken the one mandatory set of Soft tyres to Mexico, and will not run them except for installation laps, so if the race does turn into one of higher degradation, the opportunity to continue on a one-stop, but using the Soft, would be lost.
Mexico is an average track for overtaking – on the plus side, the slow final sector precedes a long straight with DRS assistance, followed by a slow speed chicane, before another DRS-assisted full throttle zone.
However, with the thinner air, the slipstream effect is reduced, negating the positive track layout.
Dry, mild conditions are expected on all three days, which should provide teams with consistent tyre data ahead of qualifying and the race.
One of the problems in Mexico is switching the tyres on for a qualifying lap, with a short track and a slow speed final sector, something which the temperature will not help significantly.
There is no particular favourite given the uniqueness of the track – the high downforce levels should swing the pendulum into the favour of Ferrari and Red Bull, but at the same time, there is a very long main straight which suits Mercedes’ power and energy deployment.
The balance between these two facets of the race will similarly influence the midfield battle – Force India, Williams, Renault, and McLaren should be fighting for best of the rest behind the top three teams. The former will be bolstered by another chassis update package.