Formula 1

PREVIEW: 2019 Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix – Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez

6 Mins read
Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The eighteenth race of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will take place at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit in Mexico City this weekend. The Mexican Grand Prix returned to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015.

We now have the three races held in close proximity in Mexico, the USA, and Brazil as Formula 1 swings through the Americas, before culminating in the final race in Abu Dhabi.

This is the twentieth running of the Mexican Grand Prix at the track originally built around the Magdalena Mixiuhca public park. The track was later named after the famous Mexican racing drivers and brothers – Ricardo and Pedro Rodríguez.

The first Mexican Grand Prix was held in 1963 and was won by the great Jim Clark for Lotus. After eight races, the Grand Prix had a long hiatus before returning to the calendar in 1986. Crowd control problems led to the race being taken off the calendar in 1971.

After a further seven races from 1986, the race was not held for another twenty-two years. Nico Rosberg won the race for Mercedes on its return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015.

The track used currently was re-designed by Herman Tilke and includes the spectacular Foro Sol baseball stadium section that bisects the famous Peraltada corner.

The race has a colourful Mexican Fiesta atmosphere with the spectators packing the stands. The podium ceremony has a spectacular setting as it is held in the stadium section. Lewis Hamilton has won his last two world championships at the Mexican Grand Prix.

What happened at the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix?

Valtteri Bottas clinched a comfortable win at the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix after a blazing start that saw him take the race lead from third position on the starting grid. Ferrari seemed to again lose the advantage on race day after a dominant Saturday.

Ferrari had a front row lockout with Sebastian Vettel on pole. Charles Leclerc joined the German on the front row. Bottas and Hamilton started on the second row. Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon were on the third row.

Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean started at the front of the grid. All the drivers in the top 10 positions started on the red-striped soft compound tyres.

Vettel threw the advantage away at the start as he started and stopped to avoid a false start and the delayed launch allowed Bottas to lead the pack into Turn 1.

Leclerc and Verstappen jostled behind them and came together at Turn 2 that sent the Dutchman off the track and he rejoined at the back of the field. Leclerc himself suffered front-wing damage but kept going for two more laps even as he spewed debris on the track and on the chasing Hamilton.

The post-race investigation of the Leclerc and Verstappen incident on lap 1 resulted in a 5-second time penalty for Leclerc and a further 10-second time penalty for continuing to drive the car in an ‘unsafe condition’ after the lap 1 incident.

The double-penalty from the stewards after the race relegated Leclerc from sixth position to seventh position in the race classification. Daniel Ricciardo was promoted to sixth position then.

After the race, the Racing Point F1 team lodged a protest against the Renault F1 team for an alleged breach of the Sporting and Technical Regulations and the FIA International Sporting Code related to a ‘pre-set, automated brake bias system’.

This protest was upheld by the FIA on the eve of the Mexican Grand Prix and the Renault F1 team has been disqualified and the two drivers stripped of the nine points they scored at the Japanese Grand Prix. The French team can appeal the disqualification.

Ricciardo ironically loses sixth position and Leclerc has been promoted back to sixth position. Nico Hulkenberg has been disqualified from tenth position as the French team has been stripped of nine points now.

Bottas won his first race since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in April and the third win of the 2019 season. Vettel and Hamilton completed the podium places.

Albon finished in fourth position for the best finish of his Formula 1 career. Sainz with a fine drive clinched fifth position. Leclerc has now been promoted to sixth position after Ricciardo’s disqualification.

Gasly has now been promoted to seventh position and Perez is now classified in eighth position. Gasly and Perez tangled on the final lap which led to Perez crashing out. A faulty system led to the race ending one lap earlier than the full 53 laps.

Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat have now been promoted to ninth and tenth positions after the disqualification of the two Renault drivers.

What happened at the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix?

Verstappen secured his second straight win win at the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix and the fifth win of his career. A late retirement by Ricciardo on lap 62 helped Vettel clinch second position. Kimi Räikkönen completed the podium places.

Hamilton finished in fourth position and won his fifth drivers’ world championship to join the great Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as the only Formula 1 drivers to win five or more drivers’ titles.

Bottas finished in fifth position even as Hulkenberg was “best of the rest” in sixth position. Leclerc, Stoffel Vandoorne, Marcus Ericsson, and Gasly rounded off the top 10 positions

The Circuit

The 4.304 km Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit with 17 corners (seven left-hand corners and ten right-hand corners) is 2250 meters above sea level which makes it the highest track on the Formula 1 calendar.

The lower air pressure that prevails at this altitude decreases the downforce of the cars significantly. So the Monaco-level downforce setups of the car at this altitude deliver only Monza-level downforce on the track.

The lower drag leads to speeds of nearly 370 km/h on the straights and the heavy braking leads to major challenges for cooling the brakes and leads to special solutions.

The high altitude also puts excessive pressure on the turbo element of the power unit as the turbine spin speed is higher with the lower air pressures.

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones

Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 3) starts with one of the longest runs to Turn 1(970 m) and then the drivers brake hard to hit the apex and it is one of the rare overtaking spots on the track. After the left-right hander combination of Turns 2 and 3 the sector ends with another straight.

Sector 2 (Turn 4 to Turn 11) starts with the left-right chicane that leads to the right hairpin at Turn 6. This corner leads into the “Esses” similar to the Suzuka circuit that ends in a short straight.

Sector 3 (Turn 12 to Turn 17) starts with the stadium section where the drivers negotiate Turns 13 to 15 before emerging from under the grandstands into Turn 16 and the final right-hander at Turn 17 which leads to the start-finish straight.

The two original DRS zones had one common detection point after Turn 14 with the first DRS-zone is between Turns 3 and 4  and the second DRS-zone is on the start-finish straight.

An additional third DRS-zone has been added to enhance the overtaking opportunities on this track. The new DRS-zone has its detection point after Turn 9 with the DRS-zone between Turns 11 and 12 which is the left-hand kink between Sectors 2 and 3.

Tyre Strategy

The white-striped hard tyres (C2), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C3) and the red-striped soft tyres (C4) nominated for this race is from the middle range of compounds of the Pirelli tyres.

The drivers have chosen seven or more sets of the soft compound tyres (C4) in the thirteen sets allocated to them.  The Ferrari and Mercedes drivers have chosen seven sets of the soft compound tyres. The Red Bull Racing drivers have chosen nine sets of the soft compound tyres.

In 2018, a wide range of strategies were seen from a one pit stop strategy to a three pit stop strategy. The winner Verstappen had a two-stop strategy. The tyres experience a lot of graining at this high altitude.

What should we look out for this year?

Ferrari has been the in-form team with five straight pole positions in a row and three wins after the summer break. The Ferrari SF90 will again excel at this circuit in terms of one lap pace.

Red Bull Racing with its high downforce car has been the form team at the Mexican Grand Prix with Verstappen winning the last two races here. The team will be the favourite again here with Ferrari as its main rival.

Mercedes has been on the backfoot at this track with the track characteristics not suiting their car. The team expects its difficulties to continue again this year.

The Silver Arrows clinched their sixth consecutive constructors’ championship at the Japanese Grand Prix. Hamilton leads his team-mate Bottas by sixty-four points. The Briton needs to outscore Bottas by fourteen or more points to clinch his sixth drivers’ championship in Mexico.

The Renault F1 team has lost significant ground to McLaren in the midfield battle for fourth-place after the team was disqualified and stripped of the points scored in Japan.

Hamilton (338 points) is now leading team-mate Bottas (274 pts) by sixty-four points in the drivers’ championship. Leclerc (223 points) is in third position with a eleven-point lead over Verstappen (212 points) in fourth position. Vettel (212 points) rounds off the top 5 positions in the drivers’ championship.

Mercedes (612 points) has won the constructors’ championship. Ferrari (435 points) is in a comfortable second position. Red Bull Racing (323 points) retains third position. McLaren (111 points) has consolidated its fourth position. Renault (68 points) is in fifth position in the constructors’ championship.

With three races to go after this race, all interest will center on when Hamilton will clinch his sixth drivers’ championship.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 25 October

15:00 GMT / 10:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
19:00 GMT / 14:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 26 October

15:00 GMT / 10:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
18:00 GMT / 13:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 27 October

18:10 GMT / 13:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the Mexican Grand Prix.

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