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Mexico GP: Preview - Haas

NEWS STORY
21/10/2019

A fast and slick racetrack in the heart of the most populous city in North America is next up for the FIA Formula One World Championship. The Mexican Grand Prix at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City is the fourth-to-last race of the season, and its smooth and slippery surface combined with being located 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) above sea level makes the 4.304-kilometer (2.674-mile), 17-turn circuit a vexing challenge for drivers and their teams.

The high altitude means there is less downforce on the cars, making aero grip a precious commodity. 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 in the neighborhood of 350 kph (217 mph), teams have to compromise between straight-line speed and the downforce necessary to push through the track's corners. And even though the track's asphalt surface has weathered since its debut in 2015, it remains astoundingly smooth, which further complicates a driver's ability to put his car's power to the pavement. And if those issues weren't enough, cooling is another factor teams must deal with 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 21 percent of the race's 71-lap duration, keeping those brakes cool adds yet another degree of difficulty.

For Haas F1 Team, it's just another day at the office. The fourth-year Formula One outfit has been challenged all season long, so a set of circumstances unique to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is nothing new for this battle-tested team. Haas F1 Team comes into Mexico City ninth in the constructors' standings, seven points behind eighth-place Alfa Romeo and 27 points ahead of 10th-place Williams. The squad's last points-paying finish came two races ago in the Russian Grand Prix care of Kevin Magnussen's ninth-place drive. Magnussen's most recent points-paying result in the Mexican Grand Prix came in 2017 when he finished eighth after starting 14th. This Mexican Grand Prix will mark Magnussen's 100th Formula One race weekend and his 99th Formula One start, as he qualified for, but did not start, the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. Magnussen's teammate, Romain Grosjean, also owns a points-paying performance in Mexico City - 10th in the 2015 edition, which marked Formula One's return to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez after a 22-year hiatus.

The track, of course, was completely revamped for the series' return in 2015, even as it followed the general outline of the original course that had been used between 1963-1970 and again between 1986-1992. 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 Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez demanded respect in its first iteration, and it continues to demand respect today. With experienced pilots in Grosjean and Magnussen at the helm of its racecars, Haas F1 Team is ready for whatever comes its way.

Typhoon Hagibis altered the Japanese race weekend schedule, where for only the fifth time in Formula One history, qualifying was held on the same day as the race. How did this alter your preparation for the race and what effect did it have on team personnel as they had a jam-packed Sunday readying cars for qualifying and the race?
Guenther Steiner: "I think to do it like this, it made for a very busy Sunday. The day flew past very quickly, you're all very busy and everything needs to be done a lot quicker. I don't think it had an effect on team personnel, they just had to adapt, and our guys adapted pretty well. I would just say it was too much for one day - having both qualifying and the race on one day, but in those circumstances, it was the right decision. Everybody coped and I think it was an interesting race."

Talk has intensified about changing up some race weekend schedules in the future. What's your take on any proposed changes to the existing format and did events in Japan give you additional in-sight to what could be possible?
GS: "Well, there are talks to condense a Friday of a Grand Prix weekend. The talk is to just do running on a Friday afternoon, with all the other PR activities taking place in the morning. I think that would be a good way forward, especially with an extended calendar."

The Mexican Grand Prix has won four-straight 'Best Promoter' awards at the end-of-season FIA gala prize giving. What is it about the event there that stands out and how do you think promoters best strike the balance of keeping teams and fans happy?
GS: "I think it's just the enthusiasm of the people, both of the people running it and the people attending the race. We, as teams, are always made to feel very welcome there, and everything is very well organized. I think everybody's happy with how everything runs and obviously the fans like it."

The Mexican Grand Prix has always proved to be a challenging event for Haas F1 Team - the highlight being Kevin Magnussen's eighth place finish in 2017. What is it about the Mexican Grand Prix that makes this race weekend in particular such a challenge across all three track days?
GS: "We always have cooling challenges. Going up into the altitude there, you always need cooling on the cars. You need a lot more, and that takes downforce away, and you never have enough downforce. It looks like we always suffer more on that one than all the other cars. That is our biggest challenge, to find the balance between cooling and having downforce available."

Typhoon Hagibis altered the Japanese race weekend schedule, where for only the fifth time in Formula One history, qualifying was held on the same day as the race. How did this change your preparation for the race and what effect did it have on team personnel as they had a jam-packed Sunday readying cars for qualifying and the race?
Romain Grosjean: "I actually enjoyed it quite a lot. Having qualifying and the race on the same day - yes it was a busy Sunday, but it was pretty cool. For me, it was quite a good Sunday. I enjoyed the schedule. I thought it was cool. For the crew, though, it was hard work having to jump from qualifying debrief straight into the race."

You achieved a degree of social media notoriety for making a model of the six-wheeled Tyrrell P34 in your hotel room on Saturday in Japan as track activities were canceled due to Typhoon Hagibis. What is the appeal in model cars and that one in particular, and were you surprised at how much attention your build generated? Will you take up Jody Scheckter's offer to go visit the original?
RG: "Yes, I'll contact Jody and see if I can visit the original. It's obviously a very special car with its history, and unique looking with its six wheels - not something you see often in Formula One. I made the model to pass some time on Saturday. We knew it was going to be a long, rainy day. I was a bit surprised as to how many people liked the idea. I've been building models for a long time. I've built a few Formula One models, some LMP1, Super GT, rally cars. I think it's a nice way to spend some time and it gets your brain somewhere else. I enjoyed the day building it."

Mexico City's notoriously high altitude means very low air density, and combined with Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez's equally notorious slick surface, does the Mexican Grand Prix pose an even greater challenge to Haas F1 Team to get the Pirelli tires into their proper operating window and also keep the tires in that window? If so, what kind of adjustments can you make in your driving style to try and minimize this issue?
RG: "Mexico's been a tough one for us since our first year back in 2016. We're just going to keep working on it and keep trying to improve our results there. It's going to be a challenge. Obviously, the altitude is the same for everyone, but it looks like it's impacted us quite a fair bit in the past. Maybe this year we'll have a better understanding and we can get everything to work. Let's see where we can go. We know it's going to be a challenge. It's always been our hardest track, but we're ready for that challenge. Anything we can learn, we'll take it."

The Mexican Grand Prix is back-to-back with the following weekend's United States Grand Prix. What will you do with the time in between the two races? More specifically, are there certain parts of the United States you're able to explore before arriving in Austin, Texas?
RG: "I'm going to go to Miami. I've never been there before. I'm looking to do some kite surfing. It's no secret that it's a passion of mine. Hopefully, there's some wind and, if not, we'll go surfing instead and enjoy a bit of Miami before heading to Austin."

Typhoon Hagibis altered the Japanese race weekend schedule, where for only the fifth time in Formula One history, qualifying was held on the same day as the race. How did this change your preparation for the race and what effect did it have on team personnel as they had a jam-packed Sunday readying cars for qualifying and the race?
Kevin Magnussen "It was definitely different not doing anything on Saturday. I thought it was pretty cool having all the running on Sunday. I thought it was much better than the usual Sunday but, surely, for the team it was a hectic day. I didn't make it any better by damaging the car in qualifying."

Mexico City's notoriously high altitude means very low air density, and combined with Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez's equally notorious slick surface, does the Mexican Grand Prix pose an even greater challenge to Haas F1 Team to get the Pirelli tires into their proper operating window and also keeping the tires that window? If so, what kind of adjustments can you make in your driving style to try and minimize this issue?
KM: "Mexico City has proven in the past to be a pretty challenging circuit for us. The track surface and low downforce means that we struggle more with the tires. I don't know what we can do in terms of driving style, but we've made some good steps in terms of our understanding of the car this year. Hopefully, we'll be alright."

Haas F1 Team has been challenged in the Mexican Grand Prix before, most notably when you qualified 18th for the 2017 event yet rallied to finish eighth, all while holding off none other than Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps. How did you work your way to the front and what did you have to do to keep Hamilton behind you?
KM: "The 2017 Mexican Grand Prix was pretty good for us, though our qualifying position wasn't good. We made up some ground on the first laps of the race and enjoyed a good consistency in the car. We were able to take the tires to the end of their lives without dropping off too much. A few things happened at the front, so Lewis had fallen behind. In the closing stages of the race, he didn't really have the pace to overtake me. I guess the race fell into our hands a little bit, but the car was also better than it had been in other years for some reason. We'll see if we can try and replicate that this year."

The Mexican Grand Prix will mark your 100th grand prix weekend. While you're not one to celebrate milestones - preferring to focus on racing - what are your personal highlights from your Formula One career to date, and what piece of advice would you tell the Kevin Magnussen that debuted at Australia in 2014?
KM: "My personal highlight, for sure, is my first race in Australia in 2014. Your first race in Formula One is always very special. It's all exciting and new, and it's also when you realize your dream has come true. After that, you get used to it, but that first weekend is really special. What would I tell myself - just to get on with it and enjoy it."

The Mexican Grand Prix is back-to-back with the following weekend's United States Grand Prix. What will you do with the time in between the two races? More specifically, are there certain parts of the United States you're able to explore before arriving in Austin, Texas?
KM: "The plan right now is that we'll go from Mexico City to Houston. We're going to go see NASA. I've never seen that before. I'm looking forward to doing that between the races. We'll then drive from Houston to Austin and enjoy a bit of a road trip."

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