Mercedes hopes fade in Mexico

Despite topping the time sheets at the F1 Mexico City GP for each of the Friday and Saturday sessions on track, there was just one that evaded the Mercedes team. – qualifying 3. Verstappen aced his final run to finish 0.3s ahead of George Russell. However, the gap may have been larger other than the fact that the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit is the third shortest on the F1 calendar behind Zandvoort and Monaco. 

George Russel beat his team mate for the first time since the summer break to P2, though Hamilton may think starting P3 he is sitting pretty given the last 2 winners of this event have started from this grid slot.



Hamilton thinks Red Bull turbo is better

Yet going into the weekend Lewis Hamilton revealed to the media that he believed the Red Bull-Honda was way more efficient with its turbo than the other power units “deploying almost 100%” he stated, “while others are like 70-75%”.

That said the run down to turn one is the longest on the current F1 schedule and at 812 metres allows the drivers starting behind the front row pair to benefit from the length of the slip stream more than elsewhere when the lights go out for the start of the race. This is though mitigated by the fact the slip stream effect has been diminished this season because of the new ca designs.

Lewis hopes of maintaining his record with a win in every F1 season he has started rest on him making it to turn one, lap one, before the newly crowned world champion.



F1 Speed gun reveals all

The speed gun was revealing during qualifying. Kevin Magnussen, Alex Albon, Mick Schumacher and Sergio Perez filled the top of the time sheets with Verstappen clocking 350.8kmh.

Lewis Hamilton was 6th but 2.4kph slower than Max. George Russell managed a mere 346.1kph though it appeared his car was set up differently from Hamilton.

The speed trap is just before the braking zone at turn one but another speed measurement is taken at the start finish line. This is positioned close to the final corner around where the DRS zone begins.

The cars are more compressed together here as they build their speed along the 800m long straight, yet Verstappen was quickest of all with a speed of 254.8kph.

George Russell was 7th with 252.8kph and Hamilton just 9th almost 2.7kmh slower than Verstappen.



Red Bull has acceleration advantage

So if Mercedes find themselves behind Verstappen they have an acceleration deficit to make up over the third of the long straight and a top speed gap by the braking for turn one.

Of course if either of the silver arrows are within the DRS distance when it is activated by race control on lap 3, they will gain an acceleration and potentially a top speed advantage over Verstappen were he to be leading the race. The acceleration advantage in the data supports Lewis’ beliefs about the Red Bull power prior to the weekend.

DRS at certain F1 circuits can be worth around 15kph, so on one of the longest on the F1 calendar that would be more than helpful for the Mercedes duo.

Yet one of the reasons Mercedes have performed so well in Mexico is because of the altitude. At over 7,000 feet their air is 22% thinner and the draggy W13 can run its high downforce setup but is penalised far less for the drag.



DRS less effective in Mexico

However, for the same reasons the DRS will be less effective in Mexico. With the new car designs no one has published this information yet, but some basic maths suggests it could be just a third of what it’s worth at sea level.

DRS has been less effective this season everywhere simply because the downforce the cars receive from the rear wing is reduced from previous regulations.

This means Mercedes combined speed disadvantage though both font straight speed guns stands as follows.

Lewis: 2.4kph + 2.7kph = 5.1kph

George: 4.7kph + 2kph = 6.7kph



Lewis favourite to challenge Verstappen

Given the altitude it looks as thought Hamilton has the best opportunity of overcoming Max speed advantage but it would be more difficult if George is running P2 when DRS is activated.

Mercedes hopes fade further from some more of the qualifying data. Despite both drivers claiming to have had difficulties over their quickest laps, Verstappen’s pole lap was not clean either.

The best we can assume is the gaps are the actual gaps. 

Russell has the toughest job because he will not have a slip stream down the long straight at lights out like Hamilton or even Perez will. Yet if we assume Verstappen retains the lead, the sector data will not encourage Mercedes either as we analyse that.



Red Bull genius F1 car setup

Sector three is crucial for the main DRS opportunities and Max Verstappen’s car was set up to be quickest through the stadium section and out onto the long start finish straight.

Through there Verstappen was almost 0.2s quicker than George Russell and 0.3s quicker than Hamilton.

Even when not at altitude a well managed DRS zone delivers 0.2-0.3s here in Mexico its effect it smaller. Even if Russel or Lewis level with Max going into sector three he will almost be the DRS effect in time ahead of them as they cross the start finish line.



Sector 3 at Mexican GP ‘they key’

Add to that his acceleration advantage before DRS is enabled and that gap could grow to 0.5s before his nearest challenger begins to close.

Sector one times between our three guinea pigs were much closer than sector three, but as the two start finish straight speed guns show the Mercedes are gaining only after turn one – without DRS.

Of course everything could be mixed up in turn one and Verstappen be shuffled down the order, but eventually he would have the speed and acceleration where it matters plus the DRS to catch the leaders again and probably overtake.

Yet this is what the data from qualifying reveals.

READ MORE: Ferrari fear for their turbo’s in Mexico


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