What we learnt from the Mexican Grand Prix

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Following Kimi Räikkönen’s shocking and hugely popular win in the United States Grand Prix, it was the young Dutchman, Max Verstappen who reigned victorious when the Formula One community descended in Mexico. Now, we look at the numbers behind the 19th Mexican Grand Prix.

Performance and technology under scrutiny

1. Situated almost 2300m above sea level, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez presents a list of unique challenges for drivers, engineers and cars due to its altitude. It was not different in 2018 by any means. Surprisingly, Red Bull showed an unexpected dominance in Mexico right from the moment the cars hit the track in the first free practice session. Searching for explanations for Red Bull’s lift in pace, Sebastian Vettel suggested that Renault’s relatively big turbocharger boosted its relative performance compared to Ferrari’s and Mercedes's level of competitiveness. To minimize the negative effect of the thinner air, the turbocharger must spin faster than usual to create the required pressure.

2. Despite an unusually low-key performance, Valtteri Bottas set the fastest race lap of the race. His lap time of 1:18.741, achieved on lap 65, was a new lap record for the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, breaking Sebastian Vettel’s 2017 previous record of 1:18.785. Bottas’s fastest lap was 0.445 faster than the race winner Max Verstappen’s best time, although the Finn’s time was not the result of quick race pace, but due to a late pit stop to fit Pirelli’s hypersoft tyres.

3. Honda changed three different power unit parts on Pierre Gasly’s car. The Frenchman completed the 19th Mexican Grand Prix with a new internal combustion engine, a new turbocharger and a new MGU-H. That Japanese engine manufacturer communicated that they wanted to get rid of the new-specification PU they introduced in Austin and have access to a fresh, but older specification unit, because they felt they can calibrate the older version better for the demands of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez race track with its altitude of some 2300m.

4. Ferrari’s unique floor has become a big tech talking point in the American Grand Prix. The Italians raised eyebrows when they trialed a new floor with a series of fins fitted on its outer edge. These fins are expected to seal the edge of the floor from the turbulence created by the front tyres. Furthermore, the fins can also divert rubber debris from slots right in front of the rear wheel. This innovative floor has been proved difficult to integrate to the current aerodynamic concept of the SF71H. New trials during the free practice sessions for the Mexican Grand Prix brought answers to some questions according to the Maranello-based outfit, but it still elected against racing it. In a record amount of time, Ferrari’s rival Red Bull brought a few fins from Milton Keynes to Mexico City and glued to the floor of its car to emulate the effect of this unique solution.

5. Five drivers started the Mexican Grand Prix weekend with a new gearbox. Kimi Räikkönen, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz used their previous gearboxes for six consecutive events, enabling them to mount a new unit in to their cars. Because he did not finish the last race in Austin, Fernando Alonso was also free to use a new gearbox. Max Verstappen’s gearbox in the United States Grand Prix was changed for a spare one which also gave Red Bull the opportunity to swap the Dutchman’s old gearbox for a new one.

Sporting matters

6. Lotus, McLaren and Williams are tied as most successful constructor at the Mexican Grand Prix, with three wins each. Ferrari and Mercedes have multiple wins at Mexico, both teams have claimed two victories each. With Red Bull’s win last weekend, the energy drink company-owned team joined Ferrari and Mercedes in this statistics.

7. Until the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix, only three drivers have claimed multiple wins in Mexico. Jim Clark, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost all took victories on two occasions. With his triumph last weekend, Max Verstappen became the fourth multiple winner at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

8. Sadly, home hero Sergio Perez ended his successful run on home soil. The Guadalajara-born driver finished in eighth place in 2015, tenth place in 2016 and seventh place in 2017, but he was forced to retire from Sunday’s race 33 laps from the end as his Racing Point Force India was suffering from a long brake pedal.

9. Stoffel Vandoorne ended a 14-race-long points drought with Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix. The Belgian driver has scored points on four occasions this season. At the very beginning of the year, he collected points with a ninth-place finish in Australia and Azerbaijan and an eighth place in Bahrain, but he was unable to finish inside the top ten since. With his latest points, the Courtrai-born driver now occupies 16th place in the Drivers’ Championship.

10. Mexico City regained its position on the Grand Prix calendar in 2015, starting the third iteration of the venue. The first three years saw different drivers claiming the fastest race lap. Nico Rosberg ran fastest in the 2015 race, Daniel Ricciardo was fastest in 2016 and Vettel set the quickest pace last year. With Valtteri Bottas setting the best race lap on Sunday, the trend remained intact.

11. Up to Sunday’s race, five drivers on the current grid have been classified in the top three in the huge country with a population of over 123 million inhabitants: Hamilton, Ricciardo, Räikkönen, Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas. With his second place, Sebastian Vettel is also among F1’s current drivers who have claimed a podium finish in Mexico. Taking another podium on Sunday, Kimi Räikkönen and Max Verstappen joined Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton in the group of drivers who has multiple podium finishes in Mexico.

12. Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his fifth FIA F1 World Championship title on Sunday which was the fifth time that the F1 crown has been sealed in Mexico City. The Briton also secured his fourth title last year in the Mexican Grand Prix.

13. Pirelli brought the trio of hypersoft, ultrasoft and supersoft tyres to Mexico. The hypersoft has showed a significant jump in grip compared to other compounds so far this season. While the lap time difference between ultrasoft and hypersoft has usually been just over a second on previous occasions, it was only 0.750 seconds between Lewis Hamilton’s Q2 run on ultrasoft and Q3 run on hypersoft. That was because the hypersofts hardly survived one single qualifying lap before losing some of their peak grip for the very last corners of the 4.304km-long circuit.

14. With a time of 21.777 seconds spent in the pit lane during his second visit to the pit, Sebastian Vettel led that statistics from the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix. Interestingly, the second shortest time spent in the pit lane for a pit stop was achieved by Kimi Räikkönen during his sole pit visit over the 71-lap-long race, indicating that Ferrari’s pit crew made the best work on Sunday.

15. Marcus Ericsson’s ninth and Charles Leclerc’s seventh place on Sunday was the second time that the Sauber Alfa Romeo team has achieved a double point-scoring finish this year, the other occasion being the Austrian Grand Prix where Leclerc and Ericsson finished ninth and tenth respectively.

16. The championship title was sealed by Lewis Hamilton last weekend. The Briton has stood on the podium on 15 occasions during the 69th FIA Formula One World Championship so far. Interestingly, second-placed man Sebastian Vettel has finished eleven times on the podium, the same number of top three finishes as his team-mate Kimi Räikkönen, third-placed man in the Drivers’ Standings, has scored so far.

17. Despite scoring two race victories early on in the season, Daniel Ricciardo has an undesirable record to his name. The Perth-born driver has retired from races on eight occasions, two more times than Fernando Alonso who was forced to retire in the Monaco, Canadian, Belgian, Italian, American and Mexican Grand Prix.

Photo: Zsombor Tóth / Qian Jun Motorsport Media