Sebastian Vettel believes that Ferrari has been on the upward trajectory in recent years in Mexico although Red Bull was the fastest last year and that decreasing gaps between the top three teams will make the race interesting.
The Mexican Grand Prix returned to the calendar in 2015, again at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, although this time the layout had been substantially modified by F1 track architect Hermann Tilke.
The most significant change was the disappearance of the original Peraltada, replaced with a very slow part in the Arena section, which actually runs through a huge grandstand from which the spectators get a great view of the cars at slow speeds.
Sebastian Vettel took pole in 2017, going on to finish fourth behind team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. Last year, the Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow drivers finished second and third in a race won by Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen.
“Obviously racing at altitude has an impact on how the car feels. We are racing with maximum downforce level in terms of car setup, but, since we are racing so high above sea level, the air is very thin and the cars actually produce very little downforce,” said Vettel.
“On the long straight, I think we see the fastest top speeds of the season, which makes it difficult to manage the corners, because we’ve got so little downforce physically on the car. The car is moving around a lot and it’s difficult to get the tyres to work, in fact it’s hard to get the whole car to work and to get the right feel from it. It’s a relatively short lap but not an easy one.
“Over the past couple of years, we have been on an upward trend in Mexico, although Red Bull has been the team to beat. But I think the gaps between us are getting smaller, so let’s see how we get on this year.”
Leclerc ‘enjoys’ being close to the walls
“The circuit in Mexico is an unusual one. We race at such a high altitude and all the teams try to put as much downforce on the car as possible. Despite that, it still feels quite weird and the grip is extremely low,” said Leclerc who lost in qualifying against Ericsson last year on this track.
“I have done one FP1 and one race there, so it’s one of the tracks that is still pretty new to me. I really enjoy driving there, especially because the walls are quite close and this is something I like as a driver.
“The atmosphere is amazing and driving through the stadium part of the track is truly unique, because you can see all the fans in the grandstands.”
Binotto – ‘Ferrari aims for sixth consecutive pole’
“After two races in which we could have done better, we arrive in Mexico determined to win. We will be aiming for our sixth consecutive pole, before looking to convert that into a victory.
“The Mexican track has plenty of elements that can catch you out, some of these linked to the fact we are racing at over 2000 metres above sea level. That makes fine tuning the settings on both the chassis and Power Unit side particularly complex, as the requirements are very specific to this track.
“The circuit features a variety of corner types as well as long straights on which, year after year, the record relating to top speeds has been beaten. The necessary compromise between having good top speed and sufficient downforce in the corners dictates the aero settings with which we will take to the track.”