Russell Expecting Another Challenging Weekend for Williams in Mexico City

by Paul Hensby

Neither Williams Racing driver has previously lapped the current configuration of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, but both George Russell and Robert Kubica are looking forward to their maiden Mexican Grand Prix weekend’s.

2019 has been a season full of challenges for Williams, with Kubica scoring the team’s only top ten finish in the wet-dry German Grand Prix, and this was only because the two Alfa Romeo Racing drivers, Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, were handed post-race time penalties.  The team are firmly rooted to the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship, while Russell is the only driver not to have scored points this season.

Russell is expecting Mexico to be another challenging weekend, not only due to the shortfalls of the FW42 but also due to the altitude of the track – the circuit is more than two kilometres above sea level, making for a unique experience.

“I think Mexico will be a challenging weekend for everybody due to the altitude of the circuit, but also the heat,” said Russell.  “It will be an interesting weekend for myself; it’s a track that I have never driven, and I always love driving new circuits.

“I am looking forward to the challenge and excited to go racing again.”

Team-mate Kubica, who only has four races of his Williams career remaining before he leaves the Grove-based outfit at the end of the season, had a demonstration run at the track in its previous configuration more than a decade ago, and he knows he will need to learn the new layout quickly, particularly as he will hand his car over to test driver Nicholas Latifi for the first practice session.

“I am looking forward to going to Mexico City,” said Kubica.  “I only had the chance to drive the circuit in its previous layout for a demo run over 10 years ago, so it will be a new experience for me.

“It is a unique place because we run at very high altitude, so the downforce level is much lower due to the air density. I will be handing my car to Nicholas for FP1, so I will have to learn the track quickly in FP2.”

Robert Kubica will sit out first practice as Nicholas Latifi gets another run – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Latifi will run in the opening session of the next three race weekends, but this weekend marks his first practice run since the Belgian Grand Prix.  Unlike the main drivers, the Canadian has previously run around the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez having run first practice in 2018 with the Racing Point F1 Team, and he is aiming for a productive session before handing the car back to Kubica for the rest of the weekend.

“I’m really excited to get back in the car in Mexico as it feels like a long time since my previous outing at Spa,” said Latifi.  “I got the chance to drive in Mexico last year in FP1, so I am familiar with what to expect.

“It’s quite a unique track because of the elevation, so you have a lack of grip, which makes it challenging. As always, my goal remains the same for FP1, to have a clean session and help guide the team going into FP2.”

Dave Robson, the Senior Race Engineer at Williams, says setting up the car for the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is tricky, particularly with the drag levels being significantly lower thanks to the thinness of the air.  He says the team will need to look into the best ways of cooling both the power unit and the braking system, while tyre warm-up could also prove to be difficult in the conditions.

“At more than 2km above sea level, Mexico City is a tricky circuit,” said Robson.  “The aerodynamics of the car become less effective and despite the long straights, the drag sensitivity is only moderate. Cooling of the power unit and the brakes can be very difficult, and most teams will spend time evaluating options during FP1.

“Pirelli have provided their middle compounds for this event, a combination that we saw recently in Russia. Warm-up could be difficult, especially in the early sessions but this should get easier as the weekend progresses.”

Robson also says the team will continue to test out the new front wing concept they first ran during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix last time out.  He also is happy to see Latifi get another outing as he has shown good maturity in all of his previous runs with the team.

“Having brought a new front wing concept to Suzuka, we will spend time on Friday completing further testing and data gathering,” reveals Robson.  “Nicholas Latifi joins us this weekend for the first of three consecutive FP1 sessions.

“This weekend he will drive Robert’s car, before taking over George’s car in Austin. Nicholas has done an extremely good job each time he has driven the car this season and we look forward to welcoming him back and getting his impression of the latest upgrades.”

Nicholas Latifi will run in first practice, his first outing since the Belgian Grand Prix weekend – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

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