F1 - Mexico 2018 - GP Preview - Renault F1
We enter the Mexican Grand Prix on the back of a strong result in Austin with both cars not only well inside the top ten, but placing 1-2 behind the leading teams, a result already obtained in Montréal earlier this season. After an admittedly tough few races, this result arrived at an important moment in our season, not only for the 14-point gain on our closest rivals, but also for the demonstration of the genuine potential of our "race team-car-drivers" combination.
That said, there’s little time to become too fixated on this result in Austin, as we immediately head to Mexico City for the next race. We will be working towards our usual performance expectations of a solid qualifying to put us in a strong position to achieve a good race.
There’s yet a long way to go until reaching the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi and a lot of work to do. We are well aware our rivals will be giving it everything, and as our factories are fully turned towards 2019, our race team and our drivers will be doing just the same to ensure we’re in the best possible position for Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi to defend our position in the Constructors’ Championship.
After a strong showing in Austin, Renault Sport Formula One Team next heads to the highest circuit on the calendar in Mexico City. Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester outlines the Formula 1 considerations of getting high.
What impact is there from running the car at such a high altitude?
The high altitude affects many aspects of the car. The air is less dense, so that means there’s less downforce and drag for a given wing setting, the air is less effective at cooling the brakes and engine and there’s less oxygen going into the engine. The effect of the altitude on the engine is mitigated by the forced induction from the turbo, but the turbo has to spin faster to generate pressure. The effect of the air density on downforce is particularly notable as we run a Monaco level of wing in Mexico, but this only equates to an effective Monza level of downforce on the car.
What is notable about the layout of the circuit?
There are a number of low speed corners, especially through the dramatic stadium section, and these types of corners tend to suit our car. It is a place where generating grip and tyre temperature is a challenge, because of the lack of effective downforce so this means a lot of work for drivers and engineers alike.
It’s a relatively recent circuit so are we still learning about the track?
We’ve learnt a lot already and there were some interesting lessons, particularly in terms of cooling from the first years and we know a lot more on this and set-up than when we first arrived. Simulations are very important, but there’s nothing like getting out on track to learn all the nuances.
How did everything come together so well in Austin?
It’s been so close in the midfield – especially in qualifying – that a few small changes after scrutinising the data has made a significant difference. We had a good balance with the car from the off and that helped with the limited track time we had. The circuit configuration suited us better than Suzuka or Sochi and both Carlos and Nico delivered exceptionally well. Our race pace was very pleasing at Austin as we were able to manage fuel and tyres so that we had the additional pace when required to have pretty comfortable races for both drivers. Of course, we need to close the gap to the cars ahead of us – and that’s what next year’s car is about - but Austin was a good illustration of what is possible in 2018 and what we’re aiming to achieve in the last three races.
Nico Hülkenberg enjoyed a superb sixth place in Austin, but there’s no time to dwell on that result as Mexico City is the next mission for the German with further points the sole objective on his hit list.
What makes Mexico City an enjoyable place to visit?
Mexico is one of these places which has a special atmosphere. The circuit is quite old and carries a lot of history. When you visit the track, you feel that connection to racing, similar to places like Interlagos or Silverstone, and that’s something I like a lot. Mexico City is a huge place. It might even be one of the biggest places I’ve ever visited. In the past, I’ve flown over the city in a helicopter and it’s so big, it’s mind blowing. Traffic is obviously a bit of an issue here, but that’s how it is sometimes. The weather is usually great, the fans are so welcoming and passionate and that makes it a fun race weekend.
Where do the main challenges lie at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez?
The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is a challenging circuit to negotiate. It’s located at high altitude – just over 2000m – meaning we lose downforce because of the low air density. It makes the car feel a little light and floaty, but we hit the maximum speed of the whole season on the main straight at 340km/h. The circuit has a lot of tricky corner combinations. On paper they look quite simple, but they are far from easy. It’s a very technical circuit and not an easy lap by any means. The standout is the final two corners and piercing through the stadium sector. That’s a cool experience, especially when it’s packed out and you can hear the noise!
How do you reflect on a brilliant sixth place in Austin?
I’m very happy with the result in Austin. Not only from a personal point of view, but from an overall team perspective where we enjoyed strong points from both myself and Carlos. It’s the best team result I’ve been involved in since joining Renault, so that’s very satisfying and the whole team did an outstanding job. A strong qualifying was decisive and our race pace was, once again, competitive. Everything is still possible for us; three races remain and we have to back this result up in Mexico. We know it won’t be easy, but the result in Austin will give everyone at Enstone and Viry a boost. We’ll take these next three races a step at a time and aim for double points at each weekend.
It was a brilliant Sunday for Carlos Sainz in Austin to extend his immaculate US Grand Prix points-scoring record. Now the Spaniard has set his immediate focus on Mexico City and aims to put on a show in front of a passionate crowd.
What’s there to say about the Mexican Grand Prix?
The Mexican Grand Prix is a popular one amongst the drivers and it’s certainly a weekend I enjoy a lot. It’s a special atmosphere and we feel the passion and energy of the fans there. In terms of the circuit, it’s a tricky one because the effective downforce is low, which makes the car feel lighter than usual. There are a blend of long straights, some fast sweeping corners and also a couple of twisty turns to get right, especially in the final section in the stadium complex where there’s no room for error in front of a big crowd who are observing from all angles!
What do you like about the Mexican atmosphere?
Mexicans are clearly very passionate for Formula 1. You get a real sense of that through the weekend. They only have Checo to root for and as they are Spanish speaking, you could say Fernando and I are also quite well supported there, at least that’s how I feel. In terms of culture, I quite like the Day of the Dead theme as well and the locals go all out for that. It’s great to see the fans on the drivers’ parade and it’s a nice feeling saying ‘hola’ to over 200,000 people.
Are you a fan of Mexican food?
I like Mexican food, as long as it isn’t too spicy. It’s a bit ironic that my nickname is Chilli and I don’t even like spicy food! My go to meal in Mexico is quesadillas, quick and easy and not too hot. Anything’s better than the burger Nico made for me last week!
How pleasing was the weekend in Austin?
It’s a massive result for the team. We pushed very hard all weekend to score this result and the work has paid off. We definitely had better pace in Austin and hopefully we can carry this on through Mexico and the remaining races. We need to keep scoring points. We can’t stay comfortable as we know anything can happen between now and the end of the season, but this result definitely gives us a boost and we have to relish this and repeat the form in Mexico.
24 October 2018 - 10h01, by Olivier Ferret
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