A few short days after the United States Grand Prix, teams and drivers reconvene 1200 km to the south for the Mexican Grand Prix in Mexico City, Round 18 of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship.
The standout technical challenge of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez relates not to layout but to geography. At 2,200m above sea—level, the circuit is in a category of its own, nearly three times as high as lnterlagos, next on the list in terms of altitude. While the turbocharged engines do not suffer the power loss that would afflict normally aspirated units, the lower atmospheric pressure — typically around 80 per cent of what would be considered ‘normal’ for an F1 race — reduces drag and downforce.
The conditions make the circuit a tough test for drivers who, despite mid—range aerodynamic configurations, will have to cope with ultra—low levels of downforce, similar to Monza but on a circuit with many more corners. In theory, this should make the the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez a correspondingly tough test for tyres, with the cars moving around a lot in the low—grip conditions — but after last year’s successful one—stop strategies, tyre supplier Pirelli has opted to move down its range and bring its three softest compounds to Mexico.
Mexico is also very severe on brakes. While not featuring the heavy stops of Montreal or Yas Marina, the high speeds, frequency of braking points and reduced amount of available air for cooling all contribute to high brake temperatures.
Mercedes took an unassailable lead in the Constructors’ Championship in the United States, and so attention turns to placings further down the table. Renault moved ahead of Haas into seventh place, and the works team now has both Toro Rosso and Williams in its sights. The battle in the midfield is extremely tight, with a 28-point spread covering fifth to eighth.
In the Drivers’ Championship, Lewis Hamilton has opened up a 66-point lead over sole rival Sebastian Vettel, and looks likely to take the title this weekend.
AUTODROMO HERMANOS RODRIGUEZ
Length of lap: 4.304km
Lap record: 1:20.521 (Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 2015)
Start line/ﬁnish line offset: 0.230km
Total number of race laps: 71
Total race distance: 305.354km
Pitlane speed limits: 80km/h in practice, qualifying, and the race