Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, home of the Formula One Mexican Grand PrixEnlarge Photo
The 2016 Formula One World Championship is coming to a close—there are now just three races left on the calendar—but the title fight is still very much alive, albeit between the two Mercedes AMG drivers only.
The first of the final three races is on this weekend in Mexico, only the second time in recent history that the country is hosting the Mexican Grand Prix. This means the track, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City, is still very much unfamiliar to most drivers and teams.
In addition to its history, what makes the Mexican race unique is that it is run at an altitude of 7,218 feet, making it the highest race on the calendar. The thinner atmosphere—there’s just 78 percent of the oxygen found at sea level—has implications on car performance, namely less power and less cooling ability.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen & Daniel Ricciardo celebrate Día de Muertos at 2016 Mexican GPEnlarge Photo
The layout of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is an interesting one, with long straights but almost exclusively low-apex-speed corners. Top speeds are amongst the highest of the season, with the cars reaching almost 230 mph on the approach to Turn 1. This is aided by the altitude of the track, which reduces drag effect.
Grip levels are low, as the surface was new only one year ago. The weather can also be problematic, with both warm conditions and heavy rain possible. The current forecast for Sunday’s race is scattered showers and a peak temperate of 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Pirelli has nominated its medium, soft and supersoft tires for the race.
Going into Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg leads the 2016 Drivers’ Championship with 331 points. His teammate Lewis Hamilton is second with 305 points and Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo is third with 227 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, the 2016 champion Mercedes has 636 points versus the 400 of Red Bull and 347 of Ferrari [NYSE:RACE]. Last year’s winner in Mexico was Rosberg.