At the dizzying altitude of 2,200 metres, the Mexican Grand Prix represents a unique technical challenge for the sport’s engine-builders, as the team’s Power Unit Technical Director Rémi Taffin explains: “At this kind of altitude, the air is a lot less dense which, for a normally-aspirated engine, can translate into a power loss of about 22 percent. That said, with our turbocharged internal combustion engine, all that happens is the turbo has to spin faster. The energy recovery and deployment systems are unaffected.”
Such a high altitude also entails several knock-on effects: “The less dense air is less effective not only for combustion, but also for cooling,” continues Taffin. “To maintain the same level of power, you have to dissipate all the energy. With less efficient air going through the ducts, there was certainly a question mark last year. Thankfully, our predictions were pretty accurate, so there were no major surprises.” In much the same way, the lower density of the air reduces the cars’ aerodynamic drag, resulting in higher speeds. “Along the long main straight, top speeds will exceed 360kph!” the engineer reveals. That’s the fastest the cars will travel all season...
All told, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is no place for the faint-hearted, and the drivers will need to be on top of their game if they are to tame it. Whilst Kevin Magnussen has yet to sample the circuit for the first time, Jolyon Palmer does have some prior experience of it: “I discovered it last year in FP1, and it was very slippery as the surface was new. It’s a cool track with a really nice feel. There’s something particularly special about the stadium section towards the end of the lap, but there are quite a few fast corners, too. Being on the grid in Mexico was one of the most memorable moments of last season. The stadium is truly an incredible place – you really feel the buzz of all the fans cheering, and that spurs you on.”
Following a 23-year absence, the Mexican Grand Prix marked its return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015 with a warm and enthusiastic reception. “The whole team is looking forward to going back,” acknowledges Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul. “In particular, we have lots of off-track activities to fully leverage our presence in the country as Mexico is a strategically important region for Renault. In fact, it’s exactly this kind of programme we had in mind when we re-entered the sport as a team in our own right.”
Make no mistake – siestas and sombreros will be the last things on the agenda for members of the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team this weekend, with the race set to rev into life at 8pm CET on Sunday.