Nineteen Mexican Grand Prix facts


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1) With Rosberg’s desire at the maximum, Hamilton with the title already in the bag, this was never really a contest; it was Rosberg all the way. Two tenths faster in qualifying, hard and firm down to turn one, always with the pace to respond to whatever Hamilton threw at him.

2) The only way Hamilton might have taken the race was to have stolen it – which was a possibility when Mercedes took the precaution of making an extra pitstop with both cars. Rosberg, as the leader, was brought in first. Hamilton was supposed to come in next lap. But he ignored the call, his tyres put back in their blankets as he argued over the radio about the necessity to stop. The previous tyres were on the canvas, he was told, referring his first set of options that had stayed on for 28 laps. He was now on the primes, way more durable – and so that wasn’t really an issue. The primes that had just come off Rosberg’s car after 20 laps still had 60 per cent tread. The issue of course was obvious – and went unsaid; the safety stop needed to be applied to both cars in the interests of fairness.

3) If Hamilton’s stance sounded unreasonable, it was. But a reasonable mind is not typically a trait of the very top performers in any sport – and that’s something that has perhaps counted against Rosberg in his on-track dealings with Hamilton. The events of Austin had triggered in Nico an unreasonable state of mind – an anger, as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff put it. There was no way he was coming out of turn one in second place. That was the feeling within the team before the start.

4) When Niki Lauda was asked if he was nervous about what might be about to unfold at the end of that long straight, he was typically forthright: “Yes, I am.” Maybe Hamilton sensed all this, perhaps realised this wasn’t the day to force the issue at the first turn.

5) The only reason Mercedes had the luxury of being able to make precautionary stops was the half-a-minute advantage it had over the third place Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat after 46 laps, an average of 0.7sec per lap. With a stop taking 24 seconds, there was no downside to the precaution – other than the unforeseen hazard of an unreasonable competitive mind.

6) Furthermore, it wanted to make the stop before there was a safety car, because to have pitted then would have involved stacking Hamilton in the pits – and thereby quite possibly losing him positions. In other words, the precaution was partly to protect his position.

7) Vettel had a frustrating day… He’d turned in on Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull at the first corner, giving himself a puncture. He later spun at turn 10, rejoined, then went straight on there into the barriers a few laps later. “No, no problem with the car, just me,” he assessed afterwards. “The car was a bit edgy, but I was the one driving it. I just tried too hard. Sorry,” he reported to his team over the radio. “I’ve done a shit job today.” It’s an extremely rare occurrence.

8) The safety car left Daniil Kvyat vulnerable to a Williams with much greater end-of-straight speed and a better-performing tyre compound, enabling Valtteri Bottas to take an excellent podium spot, this after an earlier collision – again – with Kimi Räikkönen. This time it was the Ferrari that was out on the spot.

9) Overall, the return to Mexico should be counted as a great success. The place was packed with fantastically enthusiastic fans and it’s refreshing when F1 goes to a ‘new’ venue where there’s already a big fan base. A big part of the reason for that, of course, is the presence in F1 of Force India’s Sergio Pérez – and rarely, if ever, has a driver been so cheered for an eighth place finish. But actually, it was an impressive drive.

10) His single-stop strategy – he was one of the few not to stop during the safety car period – appeared to have left him extremely vulnerable on very old tyres, but he’d kept enough life in them to maintain his position to the end. He finished behind team-mate Nico Hülkenberg only because the unexpectedly low tyre degradation actually rewarded those – like Hulk and the Williams drivers – who had been forced to pit early at the first stop.

11) There was not a great deal of overtaking and most of the explanation for that can be put down to a very conservative tyre choice from Pirelli – “If we had a grippier tyre we could follow more closely onto the main straight,” said one driver, “and place ourselves better to pass.” The other contributory factor was that the thin air made the DRS less effective – because there was a lot less drag to dump. “I think with a softer tyre here next year,” said Mercedes’ James Vowles, “this could be a superb track for passing.” One engineer said: “Even if they’d brought soft/super-soft it would still have been too hard.”

12) The 2000m altitude of Mexico City brought out some fascinating challenges for the teams. The low-grip newly laid surface presented the drivers with a similarly difficult task. With air 23 per cent thinner than at sea level, downforce and drag were reduced accordingly. Even with Monaco-level wings, the cars were generating less downforce at full speed than they do at Monza with their skinny wings and the fastest car at the end of the straight (Massa’s Williams) recorded a cool 226.4mph – 16mph up on the speed of Ayrton Senna’s Lotus here in 1987. The whole place had a great party atmosphere, not unlike Interlagos.

13) On the engine side, to get the same power as usual required that the turbo/compressor be run proportionately faster than their usual circa 100,000rpm. The regulation limit (of the MGU-H on the same shaft) is 125,000 but each manufacturer has to declare to the FIA a theoretical burst point for the blades of the turbine. These differ for each of the four engines but the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault are all lower than 125,000rpm.

14) In terms of which engines could compensate through turbo speed the losses incurred by the air mass, it appeared that the Renault lost marginally less than Mercedes, which in turn lost less than the Ferrari.

15) Competitively, the combined effect of all these challenges seemed to reduce Mercedes’ usual advantage – with both Ferrari and Red Bull snapping hard at their heels. But come Q3 and, as usual, Mercedes had extra power available from its most aggressive engine mode – and the pole fight distilled down to Rosberg vs Hamilton.

16) This set an all-time team record for the most front row lock outs in a season (13), surpassing McLaren’s 1988 benchmark.

17) ‘Mansell corner’ is so named in honour of Nigel’s move on Gerhard Berger around the outside of Peraltada in 1990, but that great corner has been lost. Instead, short of what had been the approach to the banked turn, the track goes 90-degrees right (turn 12) into the ‘baseball stadium’, so named because of the epic height of the stands. Incidentally, Nico Rosberg used to be impressed that his dad knew Nigel Mansell. As a kid, he thought that was a real claim to fame, much to Keke’s amusement. At the end of the race he was interviewed by Nigel about winning the Mexican Grand Prix.

18) Alonso came in and retired the McLaren after the first lap. “We knew from yesterday we had a problem with the MGU-H rotation speed that couldn’t be cured. So we did a lap just for the public,” said Fernando.

19) Vettel’s recovery from his earlier spin had come up short when he reached Maldonado.With the Ferrari’s tyres by now very old and the Mercedes-powered Lotus quicker than the Ferrari down the straights, Seb was making no further progress. He pitted on lap 35 for a fresh set of primes and went a lap down. Not long after that he reported debris at turn 10. It’s true there was a piece of something off the racing line there – but it hardly justified the safety car that Vettel was shrewdly trying to invoke, one that would have allowed him to unlap himself and wipe away much of the deficit to the cars in front now he was on his new tyres. The race director seemed wise to his ruse, and a marshal subsequently removed said debris. Vettel was thus foiled, but it was difficult not to admire the man’s tenacity.

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