Technical update from the Mexican GP

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Mexico, Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguezmx

Teams are still working hard on their 2016 machineries to capitalize on the last on-track moments of this year. The long break which starts after the season finale in Abu-Dhabi will last until the winter tests which are scheduled right before the 2017 season kicks off.

Development for the Mexican GP concentrated on various areas. Some of the technical upgrades were track-specific parts while others were aimed to give feedback to next year’s aerodynamic development routes. Some of the work was carried out for pure experiment purposes and were never expected to be introduced in the qualifying session or the race.

In Mexico, some teams trialled the head protection system ‘halo’ which the FIA intended to introduce as soon as in 2017. However, many expressed concerns about the late decision and the possible negative effect of the system on drivers’ visibility and on the way drivers could be rescued in case of accidents. Renault’s Kevin Magnussen and Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein were among the experimenting drivers. Both complained about the restricted visibility. The Dane claimed it limits the drivers’ view in a dangerous way. His German rival Wehrlein agreed with his opinion although the former DTM champion said drivers will get used to it if the head protection system will be proven to improve safety.

Ferrari continued its development work in Mexico which it started in Malaysia a couple of weeks ago. The Italian team has been working on the aerodynamic features of the front of the car. The latest development was a “bat”-style splitter which the Maranello-based squad tried out in Austin a week ago for the first time. However, the splitter came loose and Ferrari abandoned its usage. Ferrari modified it for Mexico and gave another run to the wing which is housed underneath the nose. It was then used in the qualifying and the race as it proved to be reliable and sufficient.

The wing has to improve the front stability by generating downforce. This type of splitter which was pioneered by Red Bull builds on flexibility. As air speed increases with the car’s speed rising, the splitter can be used, set up in a tricky way. It can be adjusted steeper to enhance downforce in lower speed as it gets flatter with the increase of air speed. However, team’s are restricted in their pursue of flexibility following F1’s clampdown on it.

Williams modified its brake ducts for the Mexican GP. It was a step back in terms of aerodynamic efficiency, but it was necessary due to the different air density. As Mexico sits around 2200m above the sea level, air density is lower. It means a smaller amount of oxygen in the same volume of air. That has a negative effect on brake cooling as they are cooled by air. To feed enough air to the brakes, some teams including Williams had to give up some of aerodynamic performance to secure sufficient cooling. Toro Rosso also had to follow Williams in terms of the track-specific brake duct change.

McLaren continued its ceaseless work on 2017 aerodynamic directions. The team used an extensive amount of flow-viz paint on Friday to gather data about the front end of the car to bolster its development for next year’s technical changes which will include significant modifications to the front end of the car. McLaren also used special cameras which it also used in Austin. However, cameras were mounted to the front of the car instead to the back. These special, very bright cameras record the motion of tyres which will be 25 per cent wider next year. It means teams have to design the front wings, especially its endplates in a way that they divert air around the very wide front tyres in the best way to decrease drag.

Haas announced in Mexico it will make safety changes in Brazil. The American Team endured various brake issues over the last weekends and it felt changes are urgent. Haas will now swap its former supplier Brembo to Carbone Industrie.