The Mexican Grand Prix is known for bringing Formula 1 a unique challenge of racing at high altitude. Engine Technical Director Remi Taffin discusses the considerations for this as well as his satisfaction at the team's current power unit performance.
What are the main challenges of racing a Formula 1 car at high altitude?
Remi Taffin: Mexico is a unique challenge for the season. At 2,000m, the air is much less dense than what we see throughout the year. Air is used to create downforce and cool the car, which we know is much lower than usual in Mexico. We run a Monaco-level aero package even if it still doesn't create that much drag and produces our high maximum speed. Mexico is like a performance damage limitation event; we don't primarily design the car to be Mexico specific, we only ensure we minimise the effects of the altitude. During the last few years, we've been relatively competitive there. In terms of the power unit, we know the engine can't run at its maximum and the turbo is not capable of compensating for the less dense air. We can pre-empt what to expect in Mexico on the dynos in Viry and we've been racing there for a few years now and know what to expect from our package. We will then find out where others are.
What is the engine strategy for the next two rounds?
RT: Both drivers have all their engines in the pool since Monza. We have to use what we have for the remaining races. We have older spec engines for Friday and then the latest specs for Saturday and Sunday.
Are there difficulties around back-to-back races?
RT: When we go to Austin it will be back to normal as Mexico, you could say, is just an exception. You do the Mexico race and then everything normal resumes. It's not too much of a deal for this particular back-to-back race. It's more of a challenge for the team servicing the parts and all the logistics. It impacts the work behind the scenes rather than performance over the weekend.
What are your thoughts on the power unit performance for the second-half of the season?
RT: We're pleased with the level of performance we have, but we're not stopping there. We have to work for next year and the year after. We're happy to get this level of performance in our car and also in the way we are cleaning up our reliability after a poor start of the season in that respect. There's room to improve and we'll be aiming to do that. We introduced our last engines in Spa and Monza and we're focused on delivering for 2020 and 2021 and reaching high level performance and reliability.
Nico Hulkenberg heads to Mexico after scoring points in a 'hot and tasty' Japanese Grand Prix. He wants to add more to his season tally at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
What do you like about the Mexican Grand Prix?
Nico Hulkneberg Mexico has a really cool atmosphere. The circuit is quite old with a lot of history and you really feel that vibe when you're there. I like places where you feel a racing connection like Interlagos and Silverstone; Mexico is similar to that. In terms of the location, Mexico City is crazy and such a huge place. Hopefully the weather will be more straightforward than Japan, it's usually quite hot there.
What are the main challenges of a lap?
NH: It's a tricky little circuit. It's high altitude and that changes the racing dynamic quite a bit. The car has less downforce, a lot less drag, so we're fast down the straights and then under braking the car feels like it has a lot less grip. It's quite a unique feeling and one you have to get used to. It's a technical circuit and not an easy lap. The stadium is a cool experience, not many circuits have something like that. You can hear and feel the noise. The fans support everyone there, it's really great to see.
What are your thoughts heading into this race?
NH: We left Japan feeling pretty content. Sunday was a bit up and down with a qualifying, which was frustrating followed by a pretty enjoyable race where we really made some gains and came away with points in the bag. It's important we score well again in Mexico. We're approaching the business end of the season and everything has to count.
Daniel Ricciardo rocketed his way from sixteenth to sixth in Japan with an overtaking-dominated display. The Australian heads to Mexico, the scene of his scintillating pole position in 2018, with confidence and targets more points.
How enjoyable is the Mexican Grand Prix?
Daniel Ricciardo: Mexico is an awesome place and I really enjoy going there. The atmosphere in the paddock is full of life and quite vibrant. Everyone seems like they are having a good time, it's all in good spirit and there's always plenty going on. It's nice to have Mexico and Austin as a back to back because they are both hospitable and you won't go bored there. Viva Mexico!
Do you like the circuit?
DR: It's a decent circuit with overtaking opportunities; the long straight into Turn 1 and again at Turn 4, for example. I love the stadium section. It's slow-speed but it's really unique with the crowd surrounding you in front and at the sides. It's an insane experience driving through there.
What can you remember about last year's pole position?
DR: The pole position last year was pretty memorable. It was an exciting lap, putting it all together at the end; it was special. If we can get into Q3 and be first of the midfield this weekend then that will be pretty good too.
How happy were you to score in Japan?
DR: Japan was quite a crazy weekend, so to round it off with sixth place from sixteenth on the grid was awesome. We've been on a disappointing run recently so we deserved the result in Japan. We're aiming to carry some momentum now in Mexico. The target is to better the McLarens and outscore them to keep the pressure on. Let's go Mexico!