Mexico City, October 30, 2015 – A new track always creates unique challenges, with fresh asphalt frequently offering little grip due to oil in the tarmac rising to the surface, and no rubber previously laid down to enhance adhesion.
These factors meant that it was difficult for the drivers to find grip today: a situation that was complicated by the variable track and air temperatures, which culminated in light rain during FP2. Over the course of the afternoon session, the track temperature dropped by eight degrees, making it very hard for the teams to get an accurate read on tyre behaviour.
The weather in Mexico seems to be equally uncertain for the rest of the weekend, with a possibility of rain for qualifying and the race. All four compounds were run today, although only Williams driver Valtteri Bottas used the Cinturato Blue full wet for an installation lap in FP1. The intermediate, medium and soft tyres were used extensively, with the soft tyre proving to be more than two seconds per lap faster than the medium. This was due to the high degree of track evolution seen today, combined with the effect of rain in the FP2 session. The asphalt in Mexico has a very closed surface, limiting the permeability of the surface.
As usual, the drivers completed longer runs during FP2 on both slick tyre compounds: although it remains to be seen how useful this information will turn out to be. Establishing tyre temperature was one of the biggest challenges, but as the circuit rubbers in and evolves, this will become easier. Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen was fastest in FP1 on the medium tyre: with nearly seven seconds separating the fastest from the slowest car. In FP2, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was quickest on the soft tyre: more than four seconds faster than Verstappen in the morning.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director: “Today was all about grip and track evolution. As usual on a new surface, there’s a very shiny new top layer of oil and grease that makes it very hard to find traction. As time goes on, the top of the surface eventually gets grated away and more rubber is laid down: but this doesn’t happen instantly. The weather today didn’t help either with very variable temperatures and then rain at the end of FP2. So this has made what’s already a very hard job for the teams in preparing for a new track even more difficult, because there isn’t enough consistent information to get an accurate picture of what conditions will be like for the rest of the weekend. However, these challenging circumstances bring out the best in Formula One, with the teams having to make the most of limited information to extract the best possible performance. Even though today was just free practice, the atmosphere was absolutely incredible: the stadium section in particular is set to be a highlight of the lap on race day.”
Fact of the day:
Lewis Hamilton registered a speed of 362.3kph on the speed trap in FP1. This is fractionally faster than Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo managed at Monza last year, when he set a benchmark of 362.1kph. Even though the cars run high wing angles in Mexico, the reduced air density at 2200 metres above sea level means that drag is minimised – enabling record top speeds.
Tyre statistics of the day:
|kms driven *||1342||2727||558||4|
|sets used overall **||19||55||22||1|
|highest number of laps **||30||27||11||1|
* The above number gives the total amount of kilometres driven in FP1 and FP2 today, all drivers combined.
** Per compound, all drivers combined.
The 2015 Formula One World Championship season continues with Round Seventeen, the Mexican Grand Prix, from Mexico City
Sunday in Austin is all a bit of a blur. The race was so, so crazy and it wasn’t until a few moments after I crossed the line that I realised that I’d done it! To be honest, it still hasn’t quite settled in. To match Ayrton in winning three titles was always a big ambition of mine and it just doesn’t feel real. I can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who made it possible – from my family to the team at the track and everyone back at the factories. I couldn’t have done this without each and every one of them. Now, I’m even more pumped to get to Mexico. For many of us in the paddock – including the drivers – it’s a new Grand Prix venue, and experiencing a new city and a new track is always exciting. Formula One has been racing in South America at the Brazilian Grand Prix throughout my career and the atmosphere there is just insane – plus we see thousands of Mexican fans every year in Austin. If they’re anything to go by the crowds will be fantastic, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them all out there making plenty of noise. I can attack the final three races now with nothing to prove and nothing to lose, so the aim is absolutely to put my name down as the first Mexican Grand Prix winner of the modern era. After the Ushanka style hats we had on the podium in Russia and the Stetsons in America, I’m definitely hoping for a massive sombrero if I make it onto the podium!
The Championship fight is over for me this year but I have three races left to make a big push, end this tough season on a high and make up for the disappointment of the past few races. My first chance is in Mexico and I’m sure everyone is really looking forward to the weekend. I love discovering new places and this one will definitely be a really interesting venue. If the Mexican fans we see in Austin are anything to go by, the atmosphere will be incredible! My father raced there once back in the 80’s so maybe he can give me a few tips… although the circuit is very different now and so are the cars, so maybe that’s not the best reference point! Data will be very important in Mexico, of course, as it’s a track none of the current grid have driven before. Some of the more experienced engineers might know it – but the circuit and the cars will have changed so much since the sport last went there that it’s basically like starting from zero. That’s a big challenge and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve driven the circuit in the simulator to be as prepared as I can be, so let’s see what we can do.
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
The weekend in Austin was a very positive one for Formula One. On Saturday, we saw the paddock unite to put on a show for those fantastic fans who braved the weather to the very end. Sunday then produced arguably one of the most spectacular races of the modern era – not the easiest to manage on the pit wall, but incredible to watch as a spectator. A lot was said after the race about the relationship between our drivers and most of it was hot air. One of our boys won a world title on Sunday, and one lost it. If a few emotions boil over in that scenario, it’s completely understandable and human. Like always, we will do the analysis of what happened on track as a team – but we will do it behind closed doors. We now head into the remaining three rounds with an interesting dynamic in prospect. We have a newly crowned three-time World Champion in Lewis, who fully deserved to retain his title this year and will want to cap off an impressive season in style. At the same time, Nico is embroiled in a close battle for the runner-up spot and will be determined to prove his mettle in the final few races before knuckling down for a fresh title challenge in 2016. As a racing fan, like we all are at heart, I am excited to see what the final phase of the season has to offer and hoping for an entertaining battle. We start with Mexico, which is a new venue to most of us and an important market for Mercedes-Benz. It’s an exciting part of the world and we are all looking forward to our first taste of the country.
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
Austin was a somewhat unorthodox but ultimately spectacular weekend. Now, the next race sees a famous venue returning to the calendar after a long absence. Mexico is sure to provide a great challenge as none of the drivers – and I imagine not too many team members in the paddock – will have prior experience there. The circuit layout is an interesting one, with long straights but almost exclusively low-apex-speed corners. Top speeds will be amongst the highest of the season – despite more downforce being required than at Monza, for example. This is aided by the altitude of Mexico City which, at over 2,000 metres, reduces drag effect. The rarefied air density will all make cooling a challenge, and also means the turbocharger compressor must work harder in order to deliver equivalent power output to sea level. With a freshly laid track surface also to consider, it will be interesting to see how the cars behave and how the order plays out. We’re all excited to be tackling the circuit and keen to leave our mark on another historic Grand Prix venue. I was actually working at the last Mexican Grand Prix in 1992 and one thing that stands out from my memories of previous races there is the enthusiasm of the spectators. This is a country with a great racing heritage, so fingers crossed we can put on another spectacular show!