Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner said that the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez‘s altitude helped level the playing field, removing the reliance on engine power and allowing teams with aerodynamic cars to challenge at the front.
The Mexican track is the highest track on the Formula 1 calendar, sitting over two kilometres above sea level. As the air is thinner at the track, there is less air resistance – meaning those with power deficits are able to find more pace. Whilst some teams, particularly the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, struggled, for Red Bull it was an opportunity.
The team found themselves very much towards the front in qualifying, whilst a mixture of good luck for Max Verstappen and bad luck for title challengers Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel meant the team was able to take their third win of the season – and the second for the young Dutchman.
“I think what happens here is that the engine plays less of a role.” Said Horner. “It is the most competitive we have looked in straight-line speed all season.
“We got pretty close to pole position and then our qualifying [engine] mode is the same as our race modes, so we therefore look very competitive in race trim.
“This altitude, as we have seen in the last couple of seasons, has been a bit of a leveller on that front.”
The team found fortune on the third corner, as both Hamilton and Vettel collided – seeing both drop to the back of the back. This left Verstappen free to set the pace, and ultimately finish the race unimpeded. Whilst it would be easy to dismiss Verstappen’s win as luck, Horner is keen to point out the Red Bull’s pace over both the Mercedes and Scuderia Ferrari cars.
“Bearing in mind we lapped Lewis and were closing in on Sebastian. I think the pace, and the amount of pace we would [get] out of the car, I have no doubt that we were in really good shape.”
It wasn’t a perfect weekend for the team though. Daniel Ricciardo retired for the second race in a row, marking a swing in momentum within the team, who initially saw retirements coming from Verstappen’s side of the garage at the start of the season. Whilst Verstappen may have found reliability and the top step of the podium, Ricciardo’s fifth failure to finish couldn’t have come at a worse time. With Verstappen’s pace at the front, Horner believes Ricciardo could have followed suit – perhaps even taking the second step.
“I think Daniel could have been at least third. He was right behind Kimi [Raikkonen] and looking in great shape, and I think he would actually have given [Valtteri] Bottas a hard time.
“It was a shame that we didn’t have both cars [on the podium]. But Daniel had a run of great fortune earlier in the year and, as I have always said, it unfortunately always tends to balance itself out.”