As the Formula One calendar has expended, the time of year where certain races are held has become critical. This year due to difficulties in the scheduling the Qatar Grand Prix was held when temperatures in the region are predictably on the border of what is acceptable for the drivers.
Logan Sargeant was forced to quit the recent race in the middle east and a number of others including Esteban Ocon admitted being actually sick into their helmets.
Mexican GP scheduled in hurricane season
Yet it seems a number of the drivers were poorly prepared for the heat and didn’t begin their hydration process seven days prior to the Qatar event and were caught out due to poor preparation.
Of course the weather is not always predictable and this year we saw the race in Emilia-Romagne cancelled due to freak storms and excessive flooding in the run up to the scheduled event.
“Hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico is from June 1 to November 30, but tropical cyclone activity sometimes occurs before and after these dates respectively,” according to the National Hurricane Centre and Central Pacific Hurricane Centre.
Though the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is September 10, with most activity occurring between mid-August and mid-October.
“Nightmare scenario” possible
With a potential 24 races a year the F1 calendar is becoming more difficult to plan around the regional climatic problems which are occurring with ever increasing frequency. So the F1 commercial rights holder do take risks in terms of when they schedule certain races despite knowing that even in one in ten years a weather catastrophe is predicted to occur when they fix the date for a race.
Currently F1 officials are monitoring Hurricane Otis ahead of this weekend’s Mexico City Grand Prix. The storm made landfall at Acapulco in southern Mexico on Wednesday knocking out power and communication after being upgraded from tropical storm to Category 5 in the space of just 12 hours, the most severe rating possible for a hurricane.
Otis increased in intensity prior to reaching land prompting the National Hurricane Centre to warn of a “nightmare scenario” with sustained winds of more than 250km/h.
The storm has since made its way inland and is currently around 200km west of Mexico City, home of this weekend’s Grand Prix. Home to 9 million people, Mexico City currently sits just outside the path of the hurricane, though when storms such as this hit land they become unpredictable and Otis could cross the path of the Mexican Grand Prix easily should a minor shift in its current path take place.
1.5m people no electrical power
Earlier this year a storm impacted the region where the Imola circuit is situated and titanic floods saw 14 people lose their lives and thousands of others were forced to leave their homes.
The area received half of its annual expected rainfall in just 36 hours wiping out roads an infrastructure necessary to host even a relatively small sporting or music event.
There are currently no known deaths as a result of Hurricane Otis, though over half a million people have been left without power.
As Formula One ever increases its reach around the globe, compromises must be made as to the scheduling of races held in regions where annual weather disasters may occur.
F1 race planning takes risks
Whilst the probability for Mexico City suffering a catastrophic weather incident is minimal, the timing of the Grand Prix held each year places the event in a higher than average risk zone.
The race in Mexico City last year was the place where the FIA finally declared Red Bull as being in breach of the spending cost cap limit. This of course created drama with Zak Brown having written to the FIA demanding severe penalties and then being forced ton sit alongside the Red Bull boss in the FIA mandatory team principal press conference.
Yet on track there are interesting parallels with this years sequencing of F1 racing. At the 2022 United States Grand Prix, Mercedes appeared to have been offered their best chance for a race win as Max Verstappen was held for a calamitous 15 seconds pit stop.
The world champion did eventually catch and over take Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team were led two rue what might have been.
Mexico GP hopefully better than last year
In different circumstances this year, Verstappen due to track limits penalties started just 6th at the US Grand Prix and despite managing a significant brake issue held of the up beat Mercedes who saw their start driver eventually disqualified from his second place.
Mercedes have taken solace in how close the gap to Verstappen was in Austin, but last year the result next time out put the eight times world champions back in their box. Yet a glimpse at last years Mexican Grand Prix form reveals that this track is a Red Bull favourite and Mercedes in their desperation to win made pointless strategy calls.
Hamilton and George Russell ran longer on their starting medium tyres and it appeared as though a cute Silver Arrows strategy and decent management of the rubber could put the duo in contention for victory more or less on merit.
Yet Hamilton’s attack was subdued when the team decided to put him on the hardest tyres to take Lewis to the chequered flag, but the white-walled rubber immediately dropped him off the pace.
Mercedes another chance at win
Even race engineer Peter Bonnington struggled to justify the call over team radio. No matter, Russell had stayed out longer, was still happy on the mediums, showing consistent pace, and was telling the pitwall to keep him out until it was time for a sprint on soft tyres to the end. Then incredibly he too was stopped for hard tyres. Likewise, his progress was slowed.
That meant Russell had been kept out to no good effect as Mercedes effectively secured its driver of fourth place rather than at least ask questions of their rival outfit by putting late pressure on Verstappen and Sergio Perez – even if it would have required Russell passing both on track. Likewise, Mercedes kept both its drivers on the same strategy rather than switch them around to stand a better chance of causing an upset.
The result was bad news for Mercedes and the viewers given the race fizzled out as Max romped to another easy victory.
Lets hope the storm chaos stays away and we can again evaluate the real impact of the recent Mercedes upgrade.