D he is the attraction of a new racetrack. There is no data or past experience. The teams have to gain experience on site. But that was a game of patience at the GP Mexico. Because the racetrack has changed with every lap. Because the two types of tires gave no clear indications as to how they will behave in the race. And because the height of 2,250 meters is a factor that still holds many question marks.
Three factors will decide the GP Mexico. First the weather. The chance that it will rain during the race is greater than on Saturday. When the road surface is wet, the already slippery asphalt becomes an ice rink. Second, reliability. The engine temperatures and the brakes are at their limit in the thin air. The engineers predict many failures.
No forecast about the number of stops
But the biggest uncertainty factor is the tires. The soft one is faster, but it starts to grain after 5 to 6 laps on the rear axle. That was the status from Friday. With more rubber on the road, the effect could be lessened.
If it rains again before the race, the situation on Friday will repeat itself. We will not see a completely green route. 'That would take really heavy rain,' says James Vowles, head of strategy at Mercedes.
It is also unknown how long the hard tire will last. The long runs on Friday were too short to make a statement. In addition, the endurance runs were constantly disrupted by slips and short showers. Sebastian Vettel, like many others, is committed: 'The hard compound is the better racing tire.' So are we experiencing a soft-medium-medium tire sequence?
One-stop or two-stop strategy in Mexico?
The strategists do not dare to make a forecast about the number of stops. 'It all depends on how long you drive with the soft tires at the start of the race,' says Williams chief technology officer Pat Symonds. More precisely: When does the grain get so bad that you can risk switching to the hard tires without losing your position on the track? 'Depending on the car, it takes one to two laps before the hard tire is in its temperature window,' explains Vowles.
If the first stop takes place before lap 12, it will probably be a two-stop race. Hardly anyone can imagine that a set of tires can last 59 laps. Who made it to the 20th roundmanages, will probably risk it with a stop. But Force India chief engineer Tom McCoullough warns: 'The likelihood of a safety car is high. And that can overturn all strategic plans.'