Mexican GP: Practice notes - McLaren


Today was a useful day at an unseasonably cold Autodromo 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: "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: "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, Racing Director: "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, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer: "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."

Check out our Friday gallery from Mexico City, here.

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Published: 29/10/2016
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