After Texas last weekend, the Formula 1 championship is in Mexico this weekend for the 18th round of 2017. The venue is the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a circuit situated on the southwest side of Mexico’s capital city. Although Mexico had its first F1 race in 1963, the country has not been continuously included in the calendar every year due to various reasons, one of which was the track being deemed unsafe because of spectator overcrowding.
Mexico makes the most of hosting the F1 World Championship. After commissioning annual independent studies into the overall economic benefits that hosting the sport brings to the country, the race promoters were revealed that the 2016 event generated an economic impact for Mexico of US$652.2 million, a significant increase on 2015’s figure.
It has the second highest spectator attendance of any of the F1 rounds and gained US$47.7 million worth of prime trackside advertising for the Mexico brand alone.
The main technical challenge of the 4.3-km long circuit is not its layout but the geography of the land. At 2,200 metres above sea level, certain aspects of the cars’ performance are affected. In this era of turbocharged engines, power loss is not a problem compared to naturally-aspirated engines. But the lower atmospheric pressure – typically around 80% of what would be considered ‘normal’ for a F1 race – means that drag and downforce will be less.
This presents a tough challenge for the drivers: despite midrange aerodynamic configurations, they still have to cope with ultra low levels of downforce similar to Monza but on a circuit with many more corners. In theory, this should make the track a correspondingly tough test for tyres as the cars race around 71 times and cover a total distance of 305 kms.
Drawing on last year’s experience in the low-grip conditions, the one-stop strategies proved successful so the tyre supplier has opted to move down its range and bring its three softest compounds for Mexico.
This is also a circuit that is very hard on brakes. While not featuring the heavy stops of Montreal or Yas Marina, the high speeds, frequency of braking points plus reduced amount of air available to cool down the brakes all contribute to higher brake temperatures.
After the round in America last weekend, the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team has moved into an unassailable lead in the Constructors’ Championship and can claim their fourth world title. Ferrari is 147 points behind in second position while Red Bull Racing is 113 points behind the Italians. Renault, having moved ahead of Haas into seventh place, now has both Toro Rosso and Williams in its sights. The battle for midfield is very tight, with a 28-point spread covering fifth to eighth.
In the Drivers’ Championship, Lewis Hamilton (last year’s winner in Mexico) has 331 points after Texas, one more that what he had at this time last year. That gives him a 66-point lead over Sebastian Vettel and he will have to work hard during this race because Vettel has been able to take the crucial pole position for the race. Nevertheless, it’s almost certain that Hamilton will take the title today if he does not fail to finish the race. He only needs to be fifth or better, regardless of whatever position Vettel finishes. If Hamilton clinches the title in Mexico, he will be the third driver in F1 history to do so at this venue (although in the earlier cases, Mexico was the final round).
The race starts at 1 pm on Sunday in Mexico/3 am on Monday in Malaysia