It’s unlikely the Mexico City Grand Prix is what Steve Winwood had in mind when penning 1986 pop hit ‘Higher Love’ but, sitting more than 2,000 metres above sea level, the vast and vibrant Mexico City is home to the highest stop on the Formula 1 calendar and one of the sport’s best-loved circuits: the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
To find out exactly what’s in store this weekend, keep scrolling for the thoughts of McLaren F1 drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, and Team Principal Andreas Seidl. We’ll also bring you up to speed on why this popular circuit provides such a unique challenge and give you the details on our latest competition.
How to follow
|Where||Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez|
|When||5 - 7 November|
|Start time||14:00 local, 19:00 GMT, 15:00 EDT|
|Follow||TEAMStream and the McLaren App for exclusive commentary and insight|
What they say
“After nearly two years away from Mexico City, it’s really great to be heading back. It’s an awesome city with a cool circuit right in the middle of it, which always makes for a great atmosphere. It’s quite a unique track, but one I enjoyed driving in 2019, so I was disappointed when we didn’t race there last year. Mexico marks the start of a long triple-header, with an intense run of races over the next three weeks. Despite that I've been working hard on my preparations in the sim, making use of the time since Austin to prepare for all three tracks. I’m feeling ready to get back to it, and I can’t wait to get on track again.”
“I’m looking forward to heading back to Mexico, it’s been too long. The atmosphere is always incredible and that stadium section is an awesome part of the circuit, the fans are also some of the most passionate in the world. We’re really lucky to be racing there and in Brazil back-to-back because the excitement around the races is unreal. I’m expecting a similar battle to the one we had in Austin, although having not raced there last year, it's hard to say where we’ll truly be in terms of performance. We’ll just keep focusing on what we can do as a team, try and score the most points as possible and see how the field shakes out. Viva Mexico!”
“After an incredible atmosphere last time out in Austin, we head to Mexico anticipating much of the same. The Mexico City Grand Prix kicks off an intense period of racing for the team, with three back-to-back races and plenty of long flights. This scenario brings plenty of challenges, but also plenty of opportunities, and we’ll be working hard to extract maximum performance at each race. Mexico offers a unique challenge in terms of set-up that can often shake-up the competitive order. The high altitude and thinner air mean we run higher levels of downforce than we usually might on a circuit like Mexico, and that can be tricky to get right. We’ve been working in the simulator to ensure we have as much data as possible heading into the weekend.
“With only five races left of the season, we know that every race counts and that there’s no time to let down our guard. We know it will be a challenge to retain our position in the Constructors’ Championship, but it’s a challenge we’re ready for. We’ll maintain our focus on the variables we can impact and keep up the pressure on those around us.”
What the stats say
We’ve won the Mexico City Grand Prix three times, in 1969, ’88 and ’89 with Denny Hulme, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, respectively. Fast forward to today and our current driver pairing have both shown plenty of speed in Mexico. Lando looked likely to bring home a sizeable haul of points in 2019 after qualifying P8 and gaining positions at the start, only for a cross-threaded wheel nut to undo his and the team’s hard work. With the covid-19 pandemic putting the kibosh on last year’s race, the 2021 edition of the Mexico City Grand Prix will only be the second F1 race in Mexico that Lando has competed in.
Daniel, meanwhile, has contested every edition of the race since it returned to the calendar in 2015 after a 23-year absence. His best result in Mexico to date is third, although it was perhaps the most bizarre podium of his career. In fact, he never actually made it to the podium. Max Verstappen crossed the line in third place, but he was docked five seconds for cutting a corner. Sebastian Vettel was promoted to third and he attended the podium ceremony, but he was later docked 10 seconds for dangerous driving and that handed Daniel third even though he crossed the finish line fifth.
What to watch out for
We’re, quite literally, going to reach new heights this weekend. Sitting 2,285 metres above sea level, the air will be approximately 25% less dense at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez than in Monza or Sakhir. This translates into a downforce level about 10% lower than what teams run at Monza and a car that’s skittish to drive, despite the fact that teams will be running maximum downforce.
The challenges don’t stop there: as we draw closer to the end of another season, power units with potentially quite a few miles on the clock are going to be pushed to the limit this weekend – and possibly beyond it. Turbochargers are forced to work even harder at this kind of altitude to ensure the pressure of the air fed into the engine is high enough to prevent a reduction in power. That’s not all, with less air, cooling becomes a problem for everything from the power unit to brakes and even the tyres. It’s notoriously difficult to simulate cooling, so expect to see teams opening up the bodywork of cars, running bigger brake ducts, and electing to run behind another car for part of a long run during practice to try to get an understanding of the kind of temperatures they might see in the race.
It’s not just the cars that will feel it this weekend, the drivers will too. With Less oxygen in the air, and with just two weeks between the United States and Mexican Grands Prix leaving no time for proper altitude acclimatisation, drivers are going to have to put more effort in for the same output and that’s going to make driving even more exhausting.
The 40,000-seat stadium section at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is a sight to behold when packed with fans and doubles up as the location of the race’s spectacular podium ceremony. There’s a lot of lap time to be won and lost through the stadium section. It’s very slow and the kerbs are high, so it’s easy to get thrown off-line. It’s important to get a clean exit out of Turn 16 because it leads onto a 1.314-km start-finish straight that provides plenty of opportunities for overtaking into Turn One, where braking is tricky due to the lack of downforce.
What to wear
You can still catch the second half of ‘cap week’ on the McLaren Store. With the help of our official headwear partner New Era, we’ve restocked old favourites and added some new designs so there are plenty of alternatives to choose from. There’s even a Cap Carrier to keep your collection in pristine condition.
Fancy jumping on a video call with Daniel? Of course you do! We’re hosting a Webex Fan Call to give you the chance to catch up with everybody’s favourite Aussie racing driver – sorry, Mark Webber et al. All you have to do to be in with a shot of speaking to Daniel is make sure you’re signed up to McLaren Plus using the form below and then you need to… oh, wait, that’s it. That’s all you need to do. That was easy!
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