F1 2015 Mexican Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton battles for pole position

Three-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton celebrates with the Mercedes team after winning the 2015 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Three-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton celebrates with the Mercedes team after winning the 2015 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]


Three-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton bids for pole position in qualifying for the 2015 Mexican Grand Prix today (Saturday).

Having clinched the world title for a third time at last weekend’s United States GP in Austin, Texas, the 30-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas driver from Hertfordshire bids for the 50th pole position of his F1 career in Mexico.

Round 17 of the 2015 F1 World Championship takes place at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City.

It is F1’s first visit to Mexico since 1992 when Nigel Mansell took the chequered flag having qualified on pole.

“For many of us in the paddock – including the drivers – it’s a new Grand Prix venue, and experiencing a new city and a new track is always exciting,” said Hamilton.

“Formula One has been racing in South America at the Brazilian Grand Prix throughout my career and the atmosphere there is just insane – plus we see thousands of Mexican fans every year in Austin.

“If they’re anything to go by, the crowds will be fantastic, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them all out there making plenty of noise.

“I can attack the final three races now with nothing to prove and nothing to lose, so the aim is absolutely to put my name down as the first Mexican Grand Prix winner of the modern era.

“After the Ushanka style hats we had on the podium in Russia and the Stetsons in America, I’m definitely hoping for a massive sombrero if I make it onto the podium!”

The 4.305km (2.675-mile) Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit in Mexico City has been heavily revised since it last hosted a grand prix, in 1992.

But it remains on its original site in the Magdalena Mixhuca Park and it retains its name, in memory of the Rodríguez brothers.

The layout consists of seven left-handers and 10 right-handers, but the 1.314km (0.816-mile) pit straight has perhaps the biggest influence on car set-up.

To achieve a predicted top speed of 328km/h (204mph), the cars will need to maximise a delicate trade-off between aerodynamic downforce and drag, and complicating matters further is the altitude.

Situated at 2,200 metres (7,218 feet), the Autódromo is considerably higher than any other venue in F1.

There is only 78 per cent of the oxygen available at sea level, which changes the performance characteristics of the car and the power unit.

The turbo has to spin faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen entering the ICE (internal combustion engine) and the thinner air means the car generates less aerodynamic downforce at any given wing level.

Many of the faster sections of track have been altered since the last race in 1992.

The Esses have been modified in the name of safety and the notorious final corner, Peraltada, is no longer included in its entirety.

The banked 180-degree right-hander is now preceded by a stadium section, from which the cars emerge in second gear halfway around Peraltada.

The asphalt is new, giving the surface an oily film which will be slippery to begin with.

At least the teams will be using familiar tyre compounds this weekend because Pirelli is taking the same rubber to Mexico that has been used on seven previous occasions this year.

Did you know?

The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez will have the second fastest average speed of the year, after Monza.

The Soft (Option) and Medium (Prime) compounds will provide traction out of the slow corners, while providing resistance through some of the faster corners.

Of the Mexican track, Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe said: “The circuit layout is an interesting one, with long straights but almost exclusively low-apex-speed corners.

“Top speeds will be amongst the highest of the season – despite more downforce being required than at Monza, for example.

“This is aided by the altitude of Mexico City which, at over 2,000 metres, reduces drag effect.

Mexico facts & stats: The race

* Start time: 1300 (local) / 1900 (GMT)

* Race distance: 71 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75 per cent distance/53 laps)

* 2014 winner: N/A

* 2014 pole position: N/A

* 2014 fastest lap: N/A

* Safety Car likelihood: Unknown because there is no historical data from the re-profiled track. However, there’s plenty of run-off and that usually reduces the chances of a Safety Car

* Don’t put the kettle on: On laps 20 or 46. The asphalt is new, smooth and oily and there are some fears that this combination could result in some tyre blistering. Pirelli expects most cars to complete the race on a two-stop strategy, which would mean stopping on or around these laps

* Weather forecast: Warm. Temperatures in the mid-20s are expected, but the amount of smog covering the city will have an impact on heat and air quality

“The rarefied air density will all make cooling a challenge, and also means the turbocharger compressor must work harder in order to deliver equivalent power output to sea level.

“With a freshly laid track surface also to consider, it will be interesting to see how the cars behave and how the order plays out.”

Lowe added: “We’re all excited to be tackling the circuit and keen to leave our mark on another historic Grand Prix venue.

“I was actually working at the last Mexican Grand Prix in 1992 and one thing that stands out from my memories of previous races there is the enthusiasm of the spectators.

Mexico facts & stats: The car

* Fuel consumption: 1.49kg per lap, which is on the low side

* Full throttle: 43 per cent

* Brake wear: Medium. The biggest braking point is at the end of the pit straight, where the braking forces will exceed 5g

* Gear changes: 44 per lap / 3,124 per race

“This is a country with a great racing heritage, so fingers crossed we can put on another spectacular show.”

Looking back at last weekend’s victory in Texas, Stevenage-born Hamilton said: “Sunday in Austin is all a bit of a blur.

“The race was so, so crazy and it wasn’t until a few moments after I crossed the line that I realised that I’d done it.

“To be honest, it still hasn’t quite settled in. To match Ayrton [Senna] in winning three titles was always a big ambition of mine and it just doesn’t feel real.

Mexico facts & stats: The track

* First race: 1963

* Circuit length: 4.304km / 2.675 miles

* Run to Turn One: 800m / 0.497 miles

* Longest straight: 1.314km / 0.816 miles, on the approach to Turn One

* Top speed: 328km/h / 204mph on the approach to Turn One

* DRS zones: Two – on the approach to Turn One and again on the approach to Turn Four

* Key corner: Turn 17, the newly-named Nigel Mansell Corner. It leads onto the pit straight and will influence overtaking through the DRS zones and tyre wear

* Pitlane length: 650 metres / 0.404 miles

* Major changes for 2015: The track has been re-profiled since the last Mexican GP in 1992

“I can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who made it possible – from my family to the team at the track and everyone back at the factories.

“I couldn’t have done this without each and every one of them.”

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