Scope for more strategy gambles as F1 moves to popular Mexican GP
Insight
Mexico GP 2015
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Oct 2016   |  12:59 pm GMT  |  41 comments

The last few races have seen some fascinating strategy gambles from Red Bull and others, so will we see more of the same this weekend, as the F1 teams race for the second time on the revamped Hermanos Rodgrizuez circuit in Mexico City?

Over 350,000 people are expected to attend across the three days, with organisers installing new grandstands, such is the demand for F1 tickets in Mexico.

The track was brand new last year, so the surface has had a year to shed the oils that are always present in new tarmac and in addition there has been quite a bit of racing activity, so there should be significantly more grip from rubber on the surface.

Mexico GP 2015

It is forecast to be hot and dry; Mexico is entering its dry season, which means a very low risk of rain for the weekend.

Last year Mercedes had a huge pace advantage over the rest of the field, so it will be intersting to see where they are relative to Red Bull and Ferrari this time. It is likely that they will still have a good edge, so the intensity of the drivers’ championship battle will continue.

There was a Safety Car at a key moment in last year’s race, which had a big effect on the race and a bold strategy gamble from Williams on Valtteri Bottas’ car paid off to give them a podium finish. How Williams would like to repeat that this season!

Mexico GP 2015 Valtteri Bottas

They are in a tight fight with Force India over fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship, with several million dollars in prize money, not to mention pride; Williams were third in 2014, so it would be a bad collapse to fifth two years later with a Mercedes engined car.

Last year the new track surface appeared from practice running to give low tyre degradation, but in fact it was quite significant as the race went on. Although tyre graining was an issue for many until enough rubber had gone down in the race, the higher temperatures in fact reduced the effect of graining. Meanwhile another challenge the teams will be aware of from last year is the fact that the low air density at altitude means that the cars travel at speeds of over 360km/h and as a consequence brake cooling is critical for many cars.

Last year Pirelli brought the soft and medium tyres and it was essentially a one stop race. The medium works better in cooler conditions, as we saw on Sunday in Austin when the cloud cover came over during the race and many teams went to that tyre.

Mexico GP 2015 Nico Rosberg Lewis Hamilton

For Mexico few medium tyres have been picked in the allocations so it looks like qualifying on supersoft and then leaning more on the soft for the race, with the likelihood of two stops for most. The soft lasted around 25 laps last year, the medium significantly more. The drive through time in the pits is 16 seconds, plus the time for a stop so the total time needed for a stop is quite short relatively speaking and this encourages more stops.

The track showed huge improvement in lap time as the rubber went down last year; at one point Lewis Hamilton did a faster lap on the medium tyres than he had done in the first part of qualifying, which is highly unusual and shows how fast the pace was in the race as the track improved.

Last year the race was held on the first week of November and the track temperature on race day hit 56 degrees. The medium tyres were good for around 40 laps last year and its interesting to note was that Hamilton was harder on his tyres in this race than Nico Rosberg, who went on to win.

Mexico GP 2015 Nico Rosberg Lewis Hamilton

There were only 21 overtakes in the race last year, of which 12 were DRS assisted, so it’s not a high overtaking track.

Mexican Grand Prix in numbers

The 2016 Mexican Grand Prix will be the 17th world championship F1 race hosted at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. The track is named after Mexican F1 racers Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez, and the former held the record for being the youngest front row starter by qualifying second at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix aged 19 until Max Verstappen qualified second at Spa earlier this year aged 18.

Heading into this weekend’s race, Mercedes has now won 16 races in each of the last three F1 seasons and can now set a new all-time record for victories in a single season if it wins any one of the final three events. The 2016 season is the longest in the history of F1 but if one of the Silver Arrows wins in Mexico, the team will break its own record in the same number of races (19) as were held in 2014 and 2015.

Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg goes to Mexico with the first ‘match point’ in the drivers’ championship as he can clinch the title if he wins and Lewis Hamilton finishes tenth or lower. If he does win the title this year, Rosberg will become the third German F1 world champion after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.

For the first time in F1 history, two drivers from the same team are now guaranteed to finish in the first two positions in the drivers’ championship for a third successive year. Behind Rosberg and Hamilton, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo can wrap up third place in the 2016 standings if he finishes in the top ten in Mexico.

Hamilton can score a victory at a 23rd different F1 circuit if he wins this weekend, which would tie Schumacher’s current all-time record. The world champion can also reach that target if he wins at the next race in Brazil, or take the record for himself if he wins both events.

Lewis Hamilton

The British driver’s pole at the US Grand Prix last weekend means he has now taken the top spot in qualifying at 23 different venues, which broke Alain Prost’s record of 22 that had stood since 1993.

Felipe Massa will make his 250th F1 race weekend appearance in Mexico, but he won’t get to 250 Grand Prix starts until the season finale in Abu Dhabi, which will be the last race of his 14-year career in the sport. This is because the Brazilian driver didn’t start the 2005 US Grand Prix due to the Michelin tyre saga at Indianapolis, and the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix after his accident in qualifying.

Felipe Massa US GP 2005

Massa secured his 150th F1 points finish last time out in Austin, but his controversial collision with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso meant he has slipped down behind the Spaniard to 11th place in the drivers’ championship. The 35-year-old, who announced his retirement at the Italian Grand Prix last month, has not finished outside the top ten in the standings of a full F1 season that he has completed since 2005 when he race for Sauber.

What are you expecting from the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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41 comments

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1

wow, 350,000! That's a huge number of tickets sold, great to see a new event achieving such success, especially as Mexico is back to back with Austin, which also achieved a record crowd this year. Now imagine if the powers that be hadn't been stupid enough to let Alex Rossi vanish into the poorly attended Indycar series,....

2

...poorly attended Indycar series,....

Just want to point out to you that while 350,000 tickets were sold for the 3 days total counting one body thrice, or maybe more with Thursday pit tickets counted, 350,000 fans attended the IndyCar series Indy500 on race day this year. That's 3 times any best Sunday F1 crowd. Show me a crown F1 event that draws that or anything close to it on race day beside F1 at Indianapolis that was axed?
There are indeed IndyCar events at see a 40,000 crowd on Sunday, and comparing to 350,000 at Indy, that's poor attendance. How many F1 events are there that draw that or less? China? Malaysia? Baku? Bahrain? Even Germany probably. How many will be at Abu Dhabi finale?

3

Well, the thing is, the Indy 500 is IndyCar's crown jewel. The Mexican Grand Prix is not the F1 equivalent. You'd have to compare it to something like Monaco, maybe Monza or Silverstone. But, those tracks also don't have the gigantic seating quantity that the Indy 500 does. Hard to really compare, because we don't know if the seats would fill up, if for instance, Monaco could seat 400000.

4

I don't think Monaco sells out. There are always tickets available. Not ideal choice K, but available.

5

What's the total take at the gate for each? F1 will be quite a bit higher.

All motorsport is suffering a decline. It isn't specific to F1.

6

I think you'll find that to get this volume, tickets are about on par with other series. Price is a barier, we know this. Indy was pulling volume because of affordability of grandstands. COTA was doing Groupons! Yeah, Groupons. Discounts. Insurance for weather. This all costs KRB, and erodes margin on tickets. Silverstone also was attracting fans with discounts or value. Era of Hamilton is helping. When I was there during Schumi era, there were plenty of empty seats.

7

Dude, you're always negative...

8

Dude, if we had V10s, you wouldn't be able to hear my positivity!

10

Heres another interesting couple of articles about Nascar's attendance crisis, apparently the Daytona 500 was down to just over 100,000 this year...http://uk.businessinsider.com/nascar-brickyard-400-attendance-2016-7http://www.indystar.com/story/sports/columnists/gregg-doyel/2016/07/24/doyel-2016-brickyard-400-race-no-one-saw/87507680/

11

The biggest F1 race day crowd I have heard this season was 140,000 at Silverstone, so while the Indy500 figure is impressive, it isn't triple. The fact is F1 has just sold out two North American races in as many weeks, Indy sold out this year, but it is the only event on their calendar not to have suffered big drops in attendance, same story with Nascar and the Daytona 500. However you try and wriggle out of it Sebee, these two series are going through an attendance crisis, and their two biggest events doing well does not change that.

12

Where do you get your weather reports from? F1 website preview suggests 50% chance of rain at 1pm on raceday - very conflicting - Surely Bernie hasn't got his content team to "jazz up" interest this way as well..

I know weather is unpredictable but the prospect of rain always ups the anticipation

13

someone say Jazz??
well, why not. This is the land of the legendary Mr Trini Lopez who sang "If I had a Hammer" some 50 years before Hamilton was born......

14

Mexico City has roughly a rainy season (june to october) caused by wet tropical storms and a dry season (december to april) caused by dry north fronts (may and november are transition periods)
That is why Mexican GP has usually been held towards October/November

While rain is expected during the weekend because of a late tropical storm on the Pacific (we had a very light drizzle last night and is quite cloudy today), it might be a light, short duration rain. No tropical downpour as we have in July-August.

My very boring guess is no significant rain and a MB runaway (it is a power dependent track, thin air affects RBRs aero advantage and Ferrari will probably just mess up again), but as you say, we can hope rain can still prove me wrong and give us an exciting race

15

To be totally honest i simply don't know what to expect other than a mercedes will win but who will the driver be? Hopefully ferrari will be in the game as well as red bull as nothing would suit me more that to see those two teams pull of a switcheroo...for a change. Since day 1 has there really been any contenders other than mercedes? This is the third year if total domination and it has robbed us of any joy in seeing a hard fought championship amongst the top three teams. There was a time when i would be extremely exited about a pending race but today....not so. Yes i will always watch but my 'enjoyOmeter' is running dead slow ATM. If only......

16

You have an enjoy-Ometer Kenneth?
Don't brag or everyone will want one 🎯 Then it'll probably be banned by the FIA.

17

@ Big Vern......With the races happening in places that mean i have to surface at around 4.00am to watch, then the 'EOM' is already at a low level. Then to sit and watch a boring mercedes 1/2 just adds to the low levels already registered. maybe we need a 'worm' like we have in televised debates to register fan levels of enthusiasm. Now that would be interesting but as you say...likely to get banned!

18

Glad to read that the expected crowd seem so huge. I guess Bernie still knows a thing or two about the sport. Well done.
While i hope it will change next year, all considered this 2 horses race for the title is exciting to me. I hope that the champion won't be decided this Sunday even if l favor Rosberg. Would love to see Abu be the decider. As Kenneth mentionned, i am all for anyone but the Mercedes drivers taking the win this Sunday. While not very likely, it wouls be great. The win statistics put forward in the article are actually quite depressing. Lets hope that next year will show a real reset in the interteam competition level. As much l love f1, a fourth year of the same would surely put a damper in my enthousiasm for the sport. Looking forward to a thrilling finish to this season just the same. Marc

19

We need someone to take Rosberg out (Vettel?) at this race or the next to keep things interesting.

20

When you say "keep things interesting", you're inferring there is already a level of "interest".
If no-one gets taken out, the better driver will have won.

21

MM: Vettel may well favour allowing Nico to win the WDC, and thus continue to keep Hamilton of of the four-time-champ elite.

22

AcuWeather.com list 70dg and 40% thunder storms over Mexico City. Google Weather list 90% rain. Looks good for at least some moisture Sunday.

23

Red Bull: best managed team; they are probing the behaviours of Mercedes, and looking for weaknesses to use next year when they will likely be very competitive.
Harmanos Rodrigues, Mexico, rapidly becoming the most strongly supported venue on the planet.
Mexico is wild! Mexicans are wild.
Track surface and tires: a year old with lots of events means the track will be different and thus is currently a broad variable; dry and warm to hot suggests the soft, but we won't know until a couple practice sessions are down, then I expect it will change less from FP2 to the race than last year.
Williams v Force I is the only decent competition left in the season! Bottas success last year v Checo and the home town wild, and The Hulk relaxing into his most confident racing, possibly of his career. I'm a big fan of Frank, but my mind sees more favorable trends at Force I, who should be able to double score this weekend.
As for that soap opera, the MMC (Mercedes Managed Championship), competing rival boyband leads will go at it again to determine which one gets the Christmas Barbie doll made in their image.
Rosberg would be a fool NOT to play it safe, especially given his relative driving skill to Hamilton. He is well aware that he has to do everything to maximize his chances, and playing it safe, driving for second, if you will, is his championship probabilty maximizing strategy.
Of course he would never say that in the media!
But he'll play it in the field.
At a superficial level, it could seem like RB's confirmed arrival at the Merc doorsteps favours Hamilton, by enabling more points between him and his championship-leading rival, but RB are challenging right at the front, which will require Hamilton, who effective must win, to stress his engine more than he would have to, just facing the playing-it-safe Rosberg.
Hamilton effectively must win, but one must never forget, to win, one must finish the race, and not take on ANY damage, at least for the first half of the race.
But he's a phenomenal driver, and he can qualify first, and he could qualify behind first and pass up the field, even in at Hermanos Rodriguez.
Nonetheless, the stress in most definitetly on.
If he does pull it off this year, then he really is deserving to enter that elite corps., with Prost and Vettel, of four time champ.
Further down the field....
You never mention that it was Kimi's 250th Grand Prix start! What's up with that?

Anyhow, and here's something that I don;t understand, and thus would love to get feedback on (from the usual suspects, you know who you are):
If you are Ferrari, and, let's face it, not likely, (under the way you've been doing it so far this year) to win this year.
That is miserable, to the extreme, at the Red Team!
Why wouldn;t you over stress the engine, to the max, knowing that it would be no good after the race, and even might blow in the race, to try to get just a bit more of an edge to go for a single win, then take the engine penalty later?

Because no one will ever remember the next race, starting 25th (or whatever) on the grid, but a lot of people will remember Ferrari NOT getting a win this season.

So I throw it open to you, James, and the gang (which I will henceforth refer to as, "the gang"):
Why wouldn't they go for it like that, dial up their engine, understanding the potential for a blow, trying to secure a win, at the expense of penalties in the remaining races?

post scriptum: I would, if it were an option.
Go Kimi!

24

deancassidy, you assume Ferrari aren't running at the maximum already?

25

Fuel flow rate limiter inhibits that strategy.

26

Gary: fuel flow rate does constrain any methods of 'turning up the engine' but I feel quite confident that there must be other options. For example, Mercedes is not bound by fuel flow rate (assuming) when they 'turn up' their engine. There must be other parameter changes that deliver more power, while sacrificing reliability.
The original question can be boiled down to, changing the equation of reliability for slightly more performance at the cost of reliability.

27

Dean
Even the Turbo effects are minimal in the high altitude in Mexico. The engine is so efficient that the horse power impact is minimal as is fuel flow. It will be track temp that will effect overall strategy. It maybe warmer with a 30 % risk of rain.
So all the Friday and Saturday practice may have no effect on what the tyre strategy will be on Sunday. As the tyre composition will react to circuit temp in a different way.

28

The key strategies have to be those of Hamilton and Rosberg. Hamilton needs to go for wins in the last three races and even if he gets all three and Rosberg follows him home in second place Rosberg will still be champion. There is even a mathematical possibility of the championship being decided this weekend if Rosberg wins and Hamilton doesn't score.

29

If I'm Nico, I'm going for the win in Mexico. The best thing he can do for his championship hopes is land another blow on his rival. From a competition POV, you don't want your competition to feel like they have nothing to lose with the underdog status, while you are in protection mode. It's a sure way to choke!
I liken it to a game of cricket where the first batting team only registers a low score, and then comes out attacking in the field. Fear of failure takes over for the the chasing team and they almost always feel the pressure of such a low target- taking them away from their natural game...the best thing they can do, is just go for it!!

30

The medium tyres were good for around 40 laps last year and its interesting to note was that Hamilton was harder on his tyres in this race than Nico Rosberg, who went on to win.

Is this interesting/surprising given that Hamilton was in the dirty air of Rosberg for almost all of the race?

31

Quite a logistic challenge for the Mexican organisation. Respect!

32

While the atmosphere of the stadium section is amazing, I don't like the track layout through there one bit. Would be awesome if they could revive the Peraltada.

33

Not a fan of the circuit either mainly due to the fact drivers aren't punished at all by exceeding track limits.
I struggle to think of one corner that can't be bailed out upon without any serious ramifications.
I wonder who the Chief Steward is and how they intend on applying penalties for exceeding them?
This could well be a major talking point come Sunday night/ Monday morning.

34

It's a processional track Sarsippious and I agree track limits are
encroached without much Steward input or penalties.
It's not exactly a great short track. Youll get a clump of cars stuck behindone another on different strategies coming in for early pitstops to get away from high traffic pinch points and up in a new traffic jam on tissue short track.
The only thing is that the crowds are huge. Otherwise it's a follow the leader track. Expect Gutuirez to ignore the blue flag constantly in Mexico and get away with it.

35

Some Mexico stats

Begun racing in 1963 however, the modern circuit opened in 1986

Clark + Prost + Mansell = 2 wins

Lotus + Mclaren + Williams = 3 wins, Ferrari 2 wins

Since 1986, 5 out of 8 have won from pole

No driver has won it back to back whereat Williams is the only team to have won back to back

36

James,

Out of topic.

I heard that you voted Lewis Hamilton as the best driver on the current grid, while the rest of the journalists voted for Fernando Alonso!

May I know why?

Link: http://en.f1i.com/news/77605-f1-media-sees-alonso-best-driver-current-grid.html

37

"For the first time in F1 history, two drivers from the same team are now guaranteed to finish in the first two positions in the drivers’ championship for a third successive year."

Quite depressing what a sad state of affairs. Hopefully 2017 will be better.

38

I would consider myself fairly tolerant of the English language....
But whenever I see the word "revamped"...it just make my blood boil!
It makes me think..."we made it better by adding new teeth".
Surely theres a better word?

39

The Turbos will work alot harder at altitude - Im hoping Red bull push Mercedes to the limit and with any luck we'l see Nicos turbo go pop - just so the championship battle can be back on again.
The layout of this circuit is very average - 2 long straights with some wiggly bits in between-nothing to write home to mum about - other some Mexicans on some jumping beans!. . Dont think I'l get up to watch this - just snap shots later like I did with Austin. I bet Ferrari will blow something again- prob Kimis engine - hes on his 5th element and he has no new ones in the bank..

Im not actually bored by Mercedes winning its the fact they keep winning the same way -!a good start & race over, lead driver turns setting down to acceptable level and wins by the requisite handful of seconds.. I just wish we'd see both Mercs going flat out and lapping everyone up to 5th place- because truth be told thats the potential in the car & none of us are seeing the real level of performance that car has. Despite the obvious decimation of the field.
"Its not if you win /lose, its how you play the game".

40

@Kenneth - Of course I'd like to see someone else win for a change but for me the type of racing needs to change. I totally understand the teams for"winning by the smallest margin possible" under the current regs -reliability requirements, but honstly when you think about it before Mercedes it was Red Bull doing the same thing (not quite as dominant) - so effectively we've had 7 years of a guy jumping ahead then just cruising (effectively).

I'm hoping 2017 cars will maybe change it up a little - but the real question will be the tyres - will someone be able to push hard for a whole 20-30 laps?.. I actually think it would be terrific if the FIA awarded points for both team/ driver for achieving a stint with most laps nearest their quali laps . how many times have we seen Lewis or Seb say-- after I got a good start margin then we just "managed it"-- thats the killer right there- if you had a guy pushing the limits to get some extra reward- perhaps then we'd see failures & therefore someone else winning or even a wow if he tore up the field. Perhaps a team like Sauber throwing everything to the wind to get that elusive 1 pt and that $10m- makes alot of sense anyway you look at it.

Of course the better way would be levelling up the playing field/prizemoney etc. Which must be the new owners long term goal.

41

@ elie...you surprise me with your comments. For 3 years, yes, 36months we have been subjected to this once great spectacle being dominated by two cars from the same manufacturer! And you say that this doesn't bore you? where has your sense of excitement gone ? On the few occasion we have seen someone else get a front row start my level of anticipation rises dramatically. monaco was the prime example.... I am just so sick of this, that for the first time ever i am losing more than i gain from F1. If 2017 is simply a repeat then i will be seriously evaluating my investment in F1, both from a personal point and my costly subscriptions to satellite. I never thought that it would come to that.

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