KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Oct. 21, 2019) – A fast and slick racetrack in the heart of the most populous city in North America is next up for the FIA Formula One World Championship. The Mexican Grand Prix at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City is the fourth-to-last race of the season, and its smooth and slippery surface combined with being located 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) above sea level makes the 4.304-kilometer (2.674-mile), 17-turn circuit a vexing challenge for drivers and their teams.
The high altitude means there is less downforce on the cars, making aero grip a precious commodity. To compensate for this, teams run more downforce than they would at similarly fast tracks like Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza and Azerbaijan’s Baku City Circuit. But with top speeds in the neighborhood of 350 kph (217 mph), teams have to compromise between straight-line speed and the downforce necessary to push through the track’s corners. And even though the track’s asphalt surface has weathered since its debut in 2015, it remains astoundingly smooth, which further complicates a driver’s ability to put his car’s power to the pavement. And if those issues weren’t enough, cooling is another factor teams must deal with in the Mexican Grand Prix. The thinner air means the turbo has to spin at a higher rate to inject more oxygen into the engine, and with the brakes being used for approximately 21 percent of the race’s 71-lap duration, keeping those brakes cool adds yet another degree of difficulty.
For Haas F1 Team, it’s just another day at the office. The fourth-year Formula One outfit has been challenged all season long, so a set of circumstances unique to Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is nothing new for this battle-tested team. Haas F1 Team comes into Mexico City ninth in the constructors’ standings, seven points behind eighth-place Alfa Romeo and 27 points ahead of 10th-place Williams. The squad’s last points-paying finish came two races ago in the Russian Grand Prix care of Kevin Magnussen’s ninth-place drive. Magnussen’s most recent points-paying result in the Mexican Grand Prix came in 2017 when he finished eighth after starting 14th. This Mexican Grand Prix will mark Magnussen’s 100th Formula One race weekend and his 99th Formula One start, as he qualified for, but did not start, the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. Magnussen’s teammate, Romain Grosjean, also owns a points-paying performance in Mexico City – 10th in the 2015 edition, which marked Formula One’s return to Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez after a 22-year hiatus.
The track, of course, was completely revamped for the series’ return in 2015, even as it followed the general outline of the original course that had been used between 1963-1970 and again between 1986-1992. The most notable changes from the old layout to the current version were an added sequence of corners comprising turns one, two and three, along with a revised set of corners through the Foro Sol baseball stadium, which was built inside the famed and feared Perlatada corner, which serves as the track’s final turn.
The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez demanded respect in its first iteration, and it continues to demand respect today. With experienced pilots in Grosjean and Magnussen at the helm of its racecars, Haas F1 Team is ready for whatever comes its way.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
Typhoon Hagibis altered the Japanese race weekend schedule, where for only the fifth time in Formula One history, qualifying was held on the same day as the race. How did this alter your preparation for the race and what effect did it have on team personnel as they had a jam-packed Sunday readying cars for qualifying and the race?
“I think to do it like this, it made for a very busy Sunday. The day flew past very quickly, you’re all very busy and everything needs to be done a lot quicker. I don’t think it had an effect on team personnel, they just had to adapt, and our guys adapted pretty well. I would just say it was too much for one day – having both qualifying and the race on one day, but in those circumstances, it was the right decision. Everybody coped and I think it was an interesting race.”
Talk has intensified about changing up some race weekend schedules in the future. What’s your take on any proposed changes to the existing format and did events in Japan give you additional in-sight to what could be possible?
“Well, there are talks to condense a Friday of a Grand Prix weekend. The talk is to just do running on a Friday afternoon, with all the other PR activities taking place in the morning. I think that would be a good way forward, especially with an extended calendar.”
The Mexican Grand Prix has won four-straight ‘Best Promoter’ awards at the end-of-season FIA gala prize giving. What is it about the event there that stands out and how do you think promoters best strike the balance of keeping teams and fans happy?
“I think it’s just the enthusiasm of the people, both of the people running it and the people attending the race. We, as teams, are always made to feel very welcome there, and everything is very well organized. I think everybody’s happy with how everything runs and obviously the fans like it.”
The Mexican Grand Prix has always proved to be a challenging event for Haas F1 Team – the highlight being Kevin Magnussen’s eighth place finish in 2017. What is it about the Mexican Grand Prix that makes this race weekend in particular such a challenge across all three track days?
“We always have cooling challenges. Going up into the altitude there, you always need cooling on the cars. You need a lot more, and that takes downforce away, and you never have enough downforce. It looks like we always suffer more on that one than all the other cars. That is our biggest challenge, to find the balance between cooling and having downforce available.”