With three races left in the 2017 season, much attention is already focused on 2018, notwithstanding the relentless quest for points, power and performance for the final countdown as Engine Technical Director Remi Taffin explains.
The Final Push
It's an interesting venue. There are high speeds through the long straights with the thinner air at high altitude giving less resistance. The thinner air means the turbo has to spin at a higher rate to input enough oxygen into the ICE, it actually spins around 8% more in Mexico than in Abu Dhabi. Equally, fuel consumption over one lap is quite low so energy recovery is less critical in Mexico than at other circuits. What can the team do to maximise the points-scoring opportunities for the remainder of the season? The challenge is still the same; you want maximum performance with maximum reliability! This is the age-old goal in motorsport, and something we all expend tremendous energy and resource to achieve. Over the course of the season we have made good strides in performance and seen our Power Units on the podium. However, we have suffered from too many reliability issues and it is an area where our attention is strongly focused as we try to continually increase performance on other parameters too. How much are you looking to 2018? Back at Viry, of course, we are well into our 2018 programme as so much work is done ahead of the Power Unit getting to the track. On track too, we have brought certain elements which are relevant to our 2018 PU as we look to take another step forward. We have a busy four months before we see the 2018 cars unveiled, as we do every year.
What are the challenges of the Circuit Hermanos Rodriguez track?
It's always interesting working with a new technical partner as everyone has potential to bring something different to the table. McLaren, like Red Bull, have a tremendous history in the sport as well as amazing facilities to work with. We will learn how to work with McLaren while we keep optimising our collaboration with Red Bull.
What does it mean working with a new partner team for next season?
A loss of oil pressure forced Nico Hülkenberg to retire in Austin, but he is ready to brush the disappointment aside as he gears up for the heights of Mexico City.
Mexico City is a massive place, maybe one of the biggest I've ever visited. I've been fortunate to fly over it in a helicopter and it's really mind blowing!
What do you like about Mexico City?
The track itself is challenging. We are at high altitude, so we lose a lot of downforce because of the air density. It makes the car light and easy to slide. It has a lot of tricky corner combinations which look simple but are extremely technical. It's certainly not an easy lap. The standout is the final two corners and driving through the stadium. That's really cool, it's always loud and a real goosebumps moment.
How is the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to drive?
It's obviously a hugely disappointing weekend in the end and we were on the back foot from the start with the grid penalty. I actually made a decent start in the race, keeping it clean into turn one and moved up a couple of places. But we lost oil pressure on lap four and that forced us to retire. I will be aiming to turn things around this week in Mexico.
How do you reflect on Austin?
A seventh-place finish in Austin gave Carlos Sainz a dream start to life at Renault. And the flying Spaniard is looking forward to getting back out in the R.S.17 this weekend in Mexico.
On a High
It's one of my favourite race weekends and a lot of us drivers really enjoy it. We really feel the heat of the crowd there; it's very special and feels different to any other race. The track is not easy to drive as the effective downforce is pretty low, which makes the car feel quite light. There are long straights – so high speeds - then twisty corners which are challenging to get right. My qualifying there hasn't been too bad, I made Q3 last season.
How is the circuit to drive?
You get a good feeling for the atmosphere on the track parade, especially when you say hi to more than 200,000 people, which is pretty special. You really see the passion of the fans and their love for Formula 1; it's really cool and a great race on the calendar. As a driver, we love seeing this passion and you know it will be special weekend. The stadium is really cool, but even away from that section the grandstands are always packed!
What do you make of the Mexican atmosphere?
Trying the Mexican cuisine is a must, even though I'm not a fan of spicy food. I usually go for the quesadillas which aren't too spicy and are very tasty. It's strange that my friends nickname me Chilli, even though I don't like spicy food, that doesn't work very well! Mexico City is extremely busy so you need a good chauffer who knows some tricks on how to get to places quickly.
Are you a fan of the Mexican culture?
It felt great, I took it easy at the start to ease in and I was getting more and more confident as the weekend progressed. We really had good fun, especially in the race. I made a cautious start, but we just started to pick up pace and attacked the Force Indias. I was chasing Esteban Ocon which was a good battle whilst it lasted. I enjoyed it a lot and the whole weekend was great. To bring home six points is really good and it was a complete race weekend from first practice until the last lap of the race. The team did a brilliant job of easing me into things – our first weekend was close to perfect and we need to keep going like that.
What are your thoughts on your debut with the team?
Treble podium for Lundgaard, García in the points Renault Sport Academy Driver Christian Lundgaard clinched a fourteenth victory of 2017 in Navarra to remain at the top of the Spanish F4 Championship (14-15 October). The Dane also added a brace of third place finishes in northern Spain to take his tally in the series to 232 points. Christian qualified on pole position for Race One in Navarra and comfortably led from the lights to take his fifth win in the series. A lock-up on the opening lap in Race Two saw Christian slip from second to third. And he had to settle for third in the final race after running wide whilst sitting in second. It was a mixed weekend for Marta who claimed 10 points across the three races. In the opener, from eleventh on the grid, Marta battled to a strong eighth place finish before falling outside of the points in Race Two. The Spanish teen impressed in the final race of the weekend going from seventh to sixth to take a number of points.
9th – 53 points – 14/21 races completed 'It was an up and down weekend in Navarra. It didn't begin too well, in first qualifying the pedal on the throttle broke and I couldn't do too many laps and I ended P11. In the first race, I had the same problem and I managed to get eighth. The second race was difficult, but I ended the weekend quite well going from seventh to sixth. The next race is in Nogaro this weekend and we will push for some positive results.'
Marta García (MP Motorsport, #19)
1st– 232 points – 14/21 races completed 'It was a mixed weekend overall. The goal was within reach, but I made a mistake in Race Three where I had the potential to win. I feel like I've let the team down on this one. Still, it's always nice to be on the podium!'
Christian Lundgaard (MP Motorsport, #5)
Renault Sport Academy Driver Christian Lundgaard clinched the 2017 SMP F4 NEZ title at the penultimate round in Moscow in August. And he officially lifted the crown last weekend in Assen by taking a 10th win of the season in the series in the final race. Born into a Danish racing family, where his father is a former European Rally champion, Christian has set his sights on progressing up the single-seater ranks where his dream is to become Formula 1 world champion.
Academy Focus…Christian Lundgaard
I guess it all started with my dad, Henrik, who was a rally driver. He won the European Championship in 2000. My mum also raced motorcross when she was younger, so I'm from a racing family really. My brother and I both got into karting, I started when I was seven.
How did you get into Motorsport?
We knew we would be up there in the F4 NEZ series and it's great to have won the 2017 title. We had good pace throughout the year, it's a pretty good start to the career to have a championship under the belt. It's not every day you win a title, and it's an FIA recognised championship, it's nice to have it on the CV.
What's it like to have a single-seat championship already in your career?
At the start of the year we were strong. Throughout the season, other people have been catching up and I was aiming to stop that. I need to learn from my mistakes and make sure I do everything right going into the future. I've had lots of podiums, wins and points, we've been very strong all season and it's about building on the experience going into next year.
How would you sum up your season?
When I was young, I didn't really watch F1 or motorsport. It was as I was getting older and beginning to race I started to take more notice. I used to like watching Michael Schumacher: he was out of this world.
Who were your racing heroes when you were growing up?
I would say winning the European Championship title in karting. It was the CIK FIA European Championship KFJ. That was a strong season, we were by no means the fastest, but we had some luck and I delivered when I had to. I started on pole in the pre-final and won the final. It's made me a better driver, that's for sure. It was a big point for me and proved what I could do in motorsport.
What is your career standout moment so far?
I haven't raced on too many, but at the moment, it's probably Sochi.
What's your favourite circuit?
It's to win Formula 1! I would also like to win Le Mans, though, that'd be cool.
What's your dream in motorsport?
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez provides car and driver with a unique test. Situated at over 2200m above sea level, it's the highest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar. Top speed will be high due to the high altitude and thinner air with less resistance on the car. Turns 13-15 features the iconic stadium section of the course as the track pierces through the split grandstand providing spectators with an excellent viewing point. T1: A heavy braking zone after the long straight. Infrequent circuit usage means the surface could be slippery, especially if wet. T3: Exit is important here as it leads to a short straight of over 600m, or 7secs flat out. T4: Another big stop. The turn in speed for this will be around 95kph and rear stability is important. T7: The start of a flowing complex where the driver will be dancing on the throttle as he negotiates a series of Esses similar to Suzuka's famous section. With speed ranging between 240kph and 120kph, the driver will hardly touch the brakes through this section, instead applying more or less pedal travel. T12: The last corner, now known as Mansell after the famous tussle between Gerhard Berger and Nigel Mansell in 1990. The previous incarnation (known as Peraltada) was a banked, oval bend that was taken at close to 300kph, but is now a twisty complex with an average speed of 130kph. T13-15: The stadium section, with the slowest corner of the track at only 65kph and some tricky kerbs. T16 to T1: The long back straight sees the highest speeds of the year owing to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez' high altitude. Located at over 2,200 metres, the air is less dense. This means less downforce, but much higher speeds as the cars carve through the thinner air. Speeds will peak at over 360kph.
•The Circuit Hermanos Rodriguez is a medium to high speed track. The average speed is around 190kph, comparable to the previous event in Austin. •The top speed is very high, increased by the high altitude of Mexico City: at altitude, the air is thinner and there is less resistance to the car. To give grip in the corners, cars will run similar downforce levels to Budapest and Singapore, but the downforce effective level produced will be less than Monza. •At an altitude in excess of 2,200m – or just under half the height of Mont Blanc •The circuit is by far the highest point of the season. By comparison, Sao Paulo is just 800m. In the normally aspirated era this would have meant a power output some 22% less than normal, but a turbocharged engine will produce the same power as a sea-level event such as Abu Dhabi. To do this, the turbo spins at a higher rate to input more oxygen into the ICE. To compare: the turbo will spin some 8% more in Mexico than in Abu Dhabi. •Fuel consumption over one lap is quite low so energy recovery is less critical in Mexico than at other circuits.
Power Unit Notes:
Soft – Añejo – The most vintage of types, a fairly safe choice but reinforces its peppery kick and texture. Supersoft – Joven – Blended with a small amount of older tequilas, this type is rich and sweet. Ultrasoft – Blanco – Bright and full of character. The taste is precise and sharp making it very popular.
14 – Mexico is the 14th largest country in the world. 2 – The Volcano Rabbit is the 2nd smallest Rabbit in the world and lives near Mexican volcanoes. 100,000 – Mexico City has the largest taxi fleet in the world with 100,000 running every day.