Strategy guide for the Mexico Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Mexico, Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguezmx

Uncertainty revolves around the possible strategies for today’s Mexico City Grand Prix as there are a number of different options that are available to the teams. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó analyses the possible strategies for today’s 71-lap race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

As was the case last weekend in Austin, Pirelli brought its mid-range compounds to Mexico City: the C2 is the P Zero White hard, C3 is the P Zero Yellow medium, and C4 is the P Zero Red soft.

There are many things that work completely differently in Mexico to the other venues on the F1 calendar. The main reason for the different behaviour of cars is that the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is the highest event on the Formula 1 calendar at more than 2200 metres above sea level.

The thin air affects engines as well as aerodynamics, generating less downforce at lower speeds especially. Moreover, there’s quite a lot of temperature variation during the day in Mexico, even in the space of a few hours, which affects thermal degradation: an important parameter that the teams will need to monitor today.

If the high altitude and special weather conditions were not enough of a challenge, the preparation for the Mexico City Grand Prix has been also compromised this weekend as Pirelli conducted a blind test in Free Practice 2, which meant that the field had to complete the 90-minute session of the 2023-generation tyres.

The only exceptions were the drivers who had missed the first session due to the new sporting rule that requires teams to complete two practice sessions across the season with drivers who has not participated in more than two grands prix in the last two seasons.

The second Pirelli blind test that came just a few days after a similar session at last weekend’s United States Grand Prix meant that drivers were compromised in terms of track time, which in turn meant they were unable to conduct multiple long high-fuel runs.

Although there was high chance for rain in yesterday’s qualifying, it did not materialize. The chance of rain is lower for today but not insignificant, at around 40 per cent according to Meteo France.

Assuming that the rain stays away today, Pirelli expects that both the one- and two-stop strategy are a possibility in Mexico City. The strategy depends on different factors with the actual degradation rates and the traffic representing the most import factors.

Based on the limited longer runs, the two-stopper is fastest on paper: starting on the soft before two stints on the medium. This strategy is only possible for the 10 drivers who have two sets of mediums still available in their allocation. Soft-medium-soft is an alternative two-stopper.

Due to the long rundown to the first corner, drivers might prefer the soft tyres as the starting compound as they try to protect their position or gain places.

However, things could turn out to be more complicated in Mexico with traffic usually playing a big factor in strategy. As a result of it, it is not a rare occurrence that DRS trains form in Mexico. The governing body mandated three DRS zones, but the thin air usually makes the drag reduction system less powerful, meaning that overtaking turns out to be rather complicated.

Considering this issue regarding overtaking, a one-stopper might also be a strategy option to pursue. Pirelli thinks that a medium-hard one-stopper is close to a two-stopper in terms of overall time, although it forces drivers to give up a bit of performance off the line compared to the soft while it also takes a bit longer to get the hards up to temperatures after the pit stop.