Trackside View / Word on the Beat

In the thick of it, with thin air and big commitment: spotlight on the fast ess at the Mexican Grand Prix

Red Bull at the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix

Red Bull's inherent aero advantage made it the car to beat in Mexico Photo: LAT

Trackside view turn 8-9, Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez

The late morning Mexican sun is back-lighting the track and picking out the rubber groove through the fast ess of Turns 8-9.

As you breathe you can feel the thin air with which the car’s engine and downforce are also struggling. Intakes of breath don’t feel like they are properly filling your lungs – and although the engine has the benefit of a turbocharger to compensate for that by way of greater boost, there is a limit to turbo speeds, with the net result being a roughly proportional decrease for everyone. Which means the actual bhp shortfall for Renault is smaller than usual.

The thinner air also means 25 per cent less downforce and Monaco wing levels gives roughly Monza levels of downforce. So with the engine penalty minimised and each scrap of extra downforce like gold dust, the Red Bull is looking great here – particularly so in Max Verstappen’s hands.

The track is dusty and gripless but his car is disguising that better than any other and he’s perfectly mapped in to what is available, spectacular four-wheel drift well before the first apex, throttle application hard and confident, car always smack bang in the middle of that rubber groove.

Neither Williams can stay in it, the front running wide part-way through the corner, Stroll and Sirotkin using as much throttle as they dare, trying to co-ordinate that with not running out of track on the exit.

Sainz’s Renault is hanging it out here, rally-style, but at visibly lower speeds than the more neutral Red Bull.

Sebastian Vettel is attacking the sequence too and the Ferrari is, as ever, pliable, compliant, driveable. But it surrenders earlier than the Red Bull.

 

Word on the beat

Rumour and gossip from the F1 paddock

Gene Haas

Gene Haas

As from next year the FIA will not conduct pre-race scrutineering. The measuring equipment and set-up patch will be available for teams to check dimensions.

Existing supplier PIRELLI has been confirmed as the winner of the tender to supply F1 until 2023. New 18-inch wheels will be introduced from 2021. HANKOOK had also bid for the tender. In the meantime, drivers are once more asking for tyres on which they can push hard for longer. 

In the final round at Abu Dhabi, the HAAS team launched a protest against FORCE INDIA, claiming the new Racing Point Force India (established post-Hungary) was not a constructor on the grounds that it was not using its own car, but that created by a previous team (ie Force India). The FIA heard the protest but threw it out, but agreed that Racing Point Force India was a new team. This has implications upon when it will be eligible for prize money payments. Which was almost certainly the intention of the Haas protest, given that the team owned by Gene Haas has endured the regular stipulation that a new team must score points in two of its first three seasons before being eligible for full payments. The ruling could cost Force India $30 million.

RICH ENERGY was announced at short notice in Mexico to be a HAAS title sponsor for 2019. The company’s chief executive William Storey had been in discussion with Williams about such a role just seven days earlier, in Austin. The WILLIAMS team – which loses title sponsor MARTINI next year – was therefore surprised to discover the Haas tie-up only when it was announced in the media.

F1’s COST CAP has been postponed from the originally-planned 2021 season and is now set for 2023. There is a hope that there can be a team agreement in the interim.

TORO ROSSO and McLAREN have agreed the terms of technical director JAMES KEY’S transfer from the former to the latter. He will begin work at Woking next summer. Design of the new car will be led by Pat Fry and performance director Andrea Stella.

On the day after the F1 season concluded in Abu Dhabi, Toro Rosso confirmed that Anglo-Thai F2 graduate ALEXANDER ALBON would partner returnee Daniil Kyvat in its 2019 line-up.