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Mexico GP 2021 - Haas F1 preview

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By Olivier Ferret

2 November 2021 - 07:16
Mexico GP 2021 - Haas F1 preview

Uralkali Haas F1 Team is ready for the latest triple-header with a trip south of the border to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez for the Mexico City Grand Prix, Round 18 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

The Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez, located in the eastern suburbs of Mexico City, has had several spells on the Formula 1 calendar, returning for its most recent stint in 2015, having first debuted in 1963.

The opening phase of the lap is dominated by two lengthy straights, connected by a complex of 90-degree corners, while a slow-speed sequence of turns opens up into a series of high-speed esses. The circuit’s unique centrepiece is the Foro Sol stadium. Since the circuit’s renovation for Formula 1’s return in 2015 a section of track takes drivers through the Foro Sol, beneath thousands of enthusiastic supporters, and where the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, U2 and The Rolling Stones have played to capacity crowds.

Mexico City’s high altitude also poses another challenge for teams and drivers. At over 2,200 metres above sea level it is comfortably the highest circuit visited by Formula 1, meaning the air has less density, almost 25 per cent less so than circuits at sea level. It affects both aerodynamic and power unit prowess, with the reduced downforce affecting cornering speed and braking potential, while the turbo has to work harder, influencing temperatures and cooling.

Even if large rear wings typically utilized in Monaco are run in Mexico City then only downforce levels typically experienced at Monza are achieved. That results in some of the fastest top-end speeds of the season along the circuit’s lengthy main straight, with up to 370km/h possible in a slipstream, and also has an impact on tire wear, particularly through the middle sector of the lap.

For Uralkali Haas F1 Team it marks a return to Mexico City for the first time since 2019 while rookies Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher will sample the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez for the first time.

Günther Steiner

The US Grand Prix was a memorable event for the sport, with a record 400,000 fans attending the race weekend. As America’s Formula 1 team, can you give us your perspective on the event and the spectators who made it an unforgettable affair.

“As far as I know, it was the biggest event ever for Formula 1. I was proud to be a part of it and proud that Haas is a part of it. Uralkali Haas F1 Team, as the only American team, for sure had some influence on attracting this big crowd and making Americans aware of Formula 1. It was unforgettable. I think it will grow even more, especially next year when we have two races in the US – one in Miami and one in Austin.”

Moving from one fan favorite to another – the Mexico City Grand Prix. Neither Nikita nor Mick have experienced the crowd’s roar driving through the bustling Foro Sol grandstand at T13 & T14 yet. As fans return in their droves and the paddock opens up – are these all aspects of a race weekend that rookie drivers need to adjust to when they enter Formula 1?

“Going through that stadium, for a driver, must be a fantastic feeling - it’s like being a football player in a full stadium. It’s nowhere else than in Mexico so I think when they experience it for the first time, they will be saying “wow” and after that, they will never forget about that first time. Opening up everything more, we are getting back to what we are used to, which is fantastic. I hope we can keep it going and that the pandemic will dwindle away at some stage, and we get back to normality which I think is a much better world than the COVID world, so fingers crossed. The drivers are now starting to experience real Formula 1 when everything is open again.”

We’ve seen in recent races that due to the increasing number of drivers being given penalties for taking new parts, both Uralkali Haas F1 drivers are starting higher up on the grid. Have you seen an improvement in their confidence and ability as they get used to the chaos that can come with the first corner and opening lap drama?

“It is a very good thing for our drivers that this is happening at the moment, so they’re not always starting last and second last, or at best, 17th and 18th. It’s a little bit more forward. We’re still hoping that at some stage with everybody having to change their engine, we will end up on pole position but I think we’re running out of time for this year. Starting in these positions trains them more for next year, when we hope to start from these positions by our own means, with a better performing car. It’s a big opportunity for them to learn and take stuff in, as every time they do one of these starts, they learn a lot about how they have to behave and how to get the best out of it.”

Ahead of the third and final triple-header of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, has having three races in as many weeks helped the team and drivers during this season of transition? How do you keep team morale and motivation high as we approach the final five events of the year?

“Three races is very tough on everybody but it’s part of it now. If the demand is there, as we saw in Austin, we need to fulfil this demand and try to provide the show for the fans. If they want it, we need to be there when they want it. It’s tough but it’s also a period of time you get used to in some ways, and I think we’ll go into that at one stage and it will be normal. We will adjust and always do our best for our employees to make it as comfortable as possible. We keep morale up, which I think it is now, as we can all see the end of the season and we’re all looking forward to the 2022 car. That’s the biggest motivator at the moment over the last five events.”

Nikira Mazepin

Round 18 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship brings us to the great heights of the Mexico City Grand Prix. The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is located 2km above sea level, creating new challenges for cars – and teams alike – on track. Are there any special preparations for driving over a prolonged amount of time in such conditions?

“First of all, less oxygen means it’s difficult to drive and perform at a high heart rate for drivers, so physically it’s going to be a challenge but not only that, the air is less thick so there will be less downforce on the car. Unfortunately, we don’t have too much downforce to spare, but we’ll do our best and I’m very curious to race on a new track and see how it feels.”

A side effect of high altitudes can be a lack of downforce. With Sector 1 being a hotbed of action, overtaking opportunities and late braking after long straights, without having raced here before, how long does it take to become comfortable on a new track?

“It’s difficult to say. There are loads of factors that are part of getting comfortable on a new track. Normally, I’m not hating the low downforce tracks such as Monza and Baku, I felt quite comfortable, but there are a lot more challenges in Mexico. As I’ve never been there, I’m looking forward to the challenge and am open-minded to what the weekend might bring.”

Mexican fans are some of the loudest and passionate at a Formula 1 event, and that can be seen best at T12 as cars enter the Foro Sol stadium section. How much can you really hear and know about the race when inside the cockpit, and can that atmosphere really add motivation, or pressure, to a driver’s race?

“As I’m not from there, it doesn’t really bring me pressure but it’s nice to see people enjoy the event that you’re taking part in. It’s awesome that Formula 1 brings smiles to people’s faces and perhaps makes their weekend more interesting, rather than being at home and watching the race on TV. The locals are very welcoming – I was there two weeks ago – so I got to feel a bit of the atmosphere and passion of the people, how much they like Formula 1, so I’m looking forward to getting out there on full speed.”

Mick Schumacher

Round 18 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship brings us to the great heights of the Mexico City Grand Prix. The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is located 2km above sea level, creating new challenges for cars – and teams alike – on track. Are there any special preparations for driving over a prolonged amount of time in such conditions?

“I wouldn’t say there was any specific training or preparation, but there’s definitely the knowledge that the car will feel different, the car will be different on track and that the engine will be performing less. There will be different difficulties and maybe different perspective that we’ll need to consider of how the car will behave here. For me personally, I don’t really notice it.”

A side effect of high altitudes can be a lack of downforce. With Sector 1 being a hotbed of action, overtaking opportunities and late braking after long straights, without having raced here before, how long does it take to become comfortable on a new track?

“Luckily, I’ve had a chance to driver the simulator, so I’ve got a good idea of what’s coming my way. I’m really looking forward to it, it felt really good, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Mexican fans are some of the loudest and passionate at a Formula 1 event, and that can be seen best at T12 as cars enter the Foro Sol stadium section. How much can you really hear and know about the race when inside the cockpit, and can that atmosphere really add motivation, or pressure, to a driver’s race?

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the Mexican fans. I’ve been told it’s very nice and the passion you feel when driving there, especially to drive through the stadium part, so it’s exciting to go there. I think if you have the opportunity to hear during the race, it definitely adds motivation to make you want to do well, so I’m looking forward to hearing the crowd cheer and do my best there.”

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