Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019

Mercedes further behind than they expected on bogey track

2019 Mexican Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Whereas once Singapore was the circuit which caught Mercedes out, lately Mexico’s oddball venue has been their undoing.

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has a couple of long straights which might demand Monza-level wings if it wasn’t over two kilometres above sea level. Instead the thin air means the teams have to run their biggest wings just to achieve Monza levels of downforce.

On top of that the track surface is very low in grip, partly due to the dust and debris which inevitably accumulates on a circuit nestled in the centre of a city home to millions. The low air density means less downforce which makes it harder to energise the tyres and to cool the cars.

Mercedes have struggled more at this circuit relative to their rivals than most other venues. They arrived this weekend expecting to trail Ferrari and Red Bull, and after Friday practice Valtteri Bottas admitted their deficit was “bigger than we expected at this point the weekend”.

While all of the teams struggle with tyre graining, Mercedes seem to be particularly afflicted by it. And team principal Toto Wolff expects Ferrari in particular will pull even further ahead of them on Saturday.

“You can see that the Ferrari on the Saturday is almost unbeatable,” he said. “They’re able to up their game from Friday to Saturday. Once all the power kicks in that they have available it’s very difficult to compensate for the loss of straight line [speed].”

He does, however, remain hopeful the picture may be different in the race. “They seem to have the strongest car on Saturday. Then when it comes to racing on Sunday, the Red Bull and the Mercedes are maybe a tiny bit more competitive at some of the races. Not the high speed tracks that we’ve seen, but all the others we seem to be crawling back a little bit.”

On the face of it, qualifying may well produce a two-by-two line-up among the top three teams: Ferrari followed by Red Bull (assuming Alexander Albon bounces back from his second practice crash) and Mercedes. However the relatively short lap time at this track can introduce a little variability. We may also see more of the Q3 tactics which occured at Spa and Monza, as drivers vie for a tow down the huge start/finish straight.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019
Verstappen should keep Ferrari honest in the race
Temperatures are expected to rise over the rest of the weekend which means teams will have to make careful decisions about their cooling packages on Saturday. This too is an area where Mercedes have been weak compared to the competition this year.

The midfield fight was led, surprisingly, by Toro Rosso, who looked in great shape on Friday. McLaren appear quick again, meaning Renault may find it tricky to get into Q3.

Another team which, like Mercedes, can count this venue as a bogey track is Haas. “Last year we came with the fourth of fifth fastest card [and] we were 17th and 18th on the grid,” said Romain Grosjean on Friday. “This year we come with the ninth fastest car – if you make the calculation, we’ll start 26th and 27th or something like that.”

His pessimistic assessment was pretty well borne out on Friday. Haas are indeed the ninth-quickest team, though not too far behind Alfa Romeo, and well ahead of the struggling Williams pair.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

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Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Sebastian VettelFerrari1’18.2181’16.60755
2Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’17.4611’16.72254
3Charles LeclercFerrari1’17.4461’17.07257
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1’18.0051’17.22164
5Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’17.3271’17.57060
6Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Honda1’18.8351’17.74767
7Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’17.9491’21.66526
8Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’18.5931’18.00362
9Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’18.4011’18.07959
10Nico HulkenbergRenault1’19.0111’18.26145
11Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’19.2991’18.34959
12Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’19.6791’18.36259
13Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’19.7171’18.36657
14Daniel RicciardoRenault1’19.4991’18.38057
15Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’19.2051’18.68159
16Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’19.8501’18.76659
17Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’18.9591’18.88968
18Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’19.0131’19.30659
19George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’20.5481’19.96862
20Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes1’20.18037
21Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’21.56630

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2019 Mexican Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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2 comments on “Mercedes further behind than they expected on bogey track”

  1. The car is a bit stiff as ever but it is rather the fact merc has no front end whereas rb has plenty, max can use most kerb on s2 as well and rb seem to do the tyres just fine. Ferrari a bit better this year god front end but lots of movement elsewhere.

  2. Ferrari car has developed (post mid season break) into the best overall car on the grid. Not only they have the most powerful Power unit but their car is working on all kind of tracks and the car doesn’t suffer from cooling issues unlike Mercedes who always seem to struggle on particular tracks and have cooling issues.
    Race pace is the only area to improve for Ferrari next year. Whereas Mercedes and others have yet to find the Ferrari power unit secret.

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