South of the border, UP Mexico way

South of the border, UP Mexico way

Postby meteorite » Sat Oct 31, 2015 10:42 pm

Mexico City is different - the largest city in North America, bigger than New York and Los Angeles combined, to pick an obvious difference. But there are more subtle differences that can be important too. It's not such as easy place to breathe, for instance, a consideration when you are going to be muscling a race car around a challenging circuit for a couple of hours. The altitude is around 7700 ft. or 1956 meters (on my calculator) and that air is little over three-fourths as dense as it is at sea level. It doesn't hit engine performance that much, just needs a different size drive wheel on the turbocharger to pack in enough air to get sea level equivalence. But that air also affords that much less aerodynamic drag, neat when you're blasting up to top speed but generating equivalently less downforce in the corners. And it absorbs that much less heat from the air-cooled brake pads, and makes heat transfer from the hot engine that much harder too .

So the teams and the drivers had three practice sessions to figure out how they would have to configure their cars for best results under these strange and challenging conditions, then it all went on the line under the testing of qualifying. Here's how that worked out:


Pos. No. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:20.436 1:20.053 1:19.480 23
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.808 1:19.829 1:19.668 22
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:20.503 1:20.045 1:19.850 18
4 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:20.826 1:20.490 1:20.398 21
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:21.166 1:20.783 1:20.399 23
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:20.817 1:20.458 1:20.448 26
7 19 Felipe Massa Williams 1:21.379 1:20.642 1:20.567 26
8 33 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:20.995 1:20.894 1:20.710 28
9 11 Sergio Perez Force India 1:20.966 1:20.669 1:20.716 21
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:21.315 1:20.935 1:20.788 20
11 55 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:20.960 1:20.942 20
12 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:21.577 1:21.038 18
13 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:21.520 1:21.261 19
14 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:21.299 1:21.544 19
15 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:21.422 1:22.494 13
16 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:21.779 10
17 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:21.788 12
18 53 Alexander Rossi Marussia 1:24.136 10
19 28 Will Stevens Marussia 1:24.386 9

Note - Button did not take part in the session, so races at stewards' discretion. Alonso drops 15 grid places for unscheduled engine and gearbox changes. Raikkonen drops 5 places for unscheduled gearbox change.

So it's Mercedes, one Ferrari, two Red Bulls, two Williams before the team splits start to show, Max Verstappen edging homeboy and local favourite Sergio Perez into the fourth row, leaving him with his teammate to fill out the top ten on the grid. It's notable that some gaps are in the hundredth of a second bracket so some pairs are very closely matched. The crowd, for qualifying, not the race which is tomorrow, was estimated as into six figures, boding well for the financial success, and continuation, of the race.

So everybody take a deep breath, hope the engineers got their heat transfer sums right and that it doesn't rain, and we should see a huge success of a race tomorrow noon. Don't forget the daylight time change!
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Re: South of the border, UP Mexico way

Postby meteorite » Sun Nov 01, 2015 11:25 pm

In the event, things went pretty much in accordance with the anticipated script. Rosberg led from the start and, barring a couple of laps while he was coming back from a pit stop for new tires and with Hamilton being called in to get his, stayed about two seconds in front of Hamilton throughout the race. With two theoretically identical cars this is reasonable. The hottest pursuit was imprudent, as all the teams were telling their drivers constantly about about their engines which were running too hot and their brakes which were threatening to perish from the heat. In fact Felipe Nasr had to retired to the roadside when a brake caught fire and failed.

Add to this the fact that Hamilton has already won the world championship but would be aware Mercedes would like to see Rosberg take second place - he started the race four points behind Vettel - and he would not like to overuse his engine which already his used much of its time. The thin air in Mexico City also reduces the impact of the aerodynamic devices, while discouraging following too closely as the lighter airflow over brakes and engine cooling can rapidly lead into the danger zone.

And soon the lead pair had little pressure from behind. Kimi Raikkonen was getting great pace from his Ferrari but gradually came under pressure from Bottas, whose Mercedes engine and very slippery car design let him set the top numbers through the speed traps. Soon Bottas came down the inside to pass in one of the turns but in a repeat of the Russian scenario Kimi cut over towards the inside. But this time Bottas did not back off but rather left Kimi the track to which he was entitled but no more, whereupon Kimi drove over the left rear wheel of the Williams. This broke the right rear suspension of the Ferrari, putting him out of the race.

This wasn't the day for Ferrari. In the melee of the first corner, Vettel managed to hit Bottas, acquiring a puncture from some part of teh Williams bodywork that forced him to pit. So Vettel had to work his way pack up to the lead group with none of them being very enthusiastic or cooperative about being passed. Vettel persisted and made progress but twice threw it away with lurid off-course excursions and spins and finally a mistake that sent him off course on one side, then the other, of the road before sliding into the barriers with a terminal thump.

All this was all right as the Red Bulls and Toro Rossos were having a fine ding-dong battle among themselves, accented by the Force Indias well into the mix. Since local hero Sergio Perez was in this group his dogged pursuit quite delighted the massive crowd. Even the backmarkers were clearly at least extracting all the performance their cars had to give which was noticed and appreciated.

Though much was going on on the track and in the pits, the reasons were not always immediately evident. Formula One has become so subtle and sophisticated that for the average spectator the fundamental reasons for errors, positional changes, tire and race strategies are not readily apparent; even with expert commentary mysteries remain. In some ways it was like a parade with a drumbeat only the marchers could hear. But for those tuned in, it was an exciting and suspenseful race.

Here is how it final shook out:

Race - Mexico

Pos. Driver Country Team Time Points
1 Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes 1:42:35.038 25
2 Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes +1.954s 18
3 Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams +14.592s 15
4 Daniil Kvyat RUS Red Bull Racing +16.572s 12
5 Daniel Ricciardo AUS Red Bull Racing +19.682s 10
6 Felipe Massa BRA Williams +21.493s 8
7 Nico Hulkenberg GER Force India +25.860s 6
8 Sergio Perez MEX Force India +34.343s 4
9 Max Verstappen NED Toro Rosso +35.229s 2
10 Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus +37.934s 1
11 Pastor Maldonado VEN Lotus +38.538s 0
12 Marcus Ericsson SWE Sauber +40.180s 0
13 Carlos Sainz ESP Toro Rosso +48.772s 0
14 Jenson Button GBR McLaren +49.214s 0
15 Alexander Rossi USA Marussia +2 laps 0
16 Will Stevens GBR Marussia +2 laps 0
NC Felipe Nasr BRA Sauber DNF 0
NC Sebastian Vettel GER Ferrari DNF 0
NC Kimi Räikkönen FIN Ferrari DNF 0
NC Fernando Alonso ESP McLaren DNF 0
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