Ferrari believes high altitude in Mexico will affect​ performance of the car

by Ed Spencer

Scuderia Ferrari believes that the high altitude of Mexico City will change the performance of their car.

Ferrari comes into Mexico on a run of five consecutive pole positions and with both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel out of contention for the driver’s championship along with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.

Vettel’s has had bad luck at Mexico City with a crash in 2015, an arguement with the late Charlie Whiting in 2016 and back to back championship challenges coming to an end in both 2017 and 2018.

The German believes that Ferrari has eroded the advantage Red Bull once had on the straights of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

“Over the past couple of years, we have been on an upward trend in Mexico, although Red Bull has been the team to beat. But I think the gaps between us are getting smaller, so let’s see how we get on this year,” said Vettel.

Vettel thinks that Mexico will see this season’s fastest top speeds down the main straight which coupled with the high altitude will affect the car’s performance.

“Obviously racing at altitude has an impact on how the car feels. We are racing with maximum downforce level in terms of car setup, but, since we are racing so high above sea level, the air is very thin and the cars actually produce very little downforce.”

“On the long straight, I think we see the fastest top speeds of the season, which makes it difficult to manage the corners, because we’ve got so little downforce physically on the car. The car is moving around a lot and it’s difficult to get the tyres to work, in fact it’s hard to get the whole car to work and to get the right feel from it. It’s a relatively short lap but not an easy one.”

Leclerc goes into Mexico under fire after his first lap collision with Verstappen which saw him receive a five-second penalty for causing a collision and then a ten-second penalty for driving in an unsafe condition as the Monegasque drove the opening laps with a wrecked front wing that was disintegrating.

The Monegasque finds the Mexican circuit unusual due to the lack of on track grip.

“The circuit in Mexico is an unusual one,” said Leclerc. “We race at such a high altitude and all the teams try to put as much downforce on the car as possible. Despite that, it still feels quite weird and the grip is extremely low.”

Mexico also was the site of Leclerc’s Formula 1 debut in free practice one with Sauber in 2017 and despite finishing seventh in 2018, Leclerc still feels untested around this track.

“I have done one Free Practice 1 and one race there, so it’s one of the tracks that is still pretty new to me. I really enjoy driving there, especially because the walls are quite close and this is something I like as a driver.”

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