Mexico City hosts the fifth round of the 2015-16 FIA Formula E Championship this Saturday, the first of two new cities (and three new venues) to be visited during the season.
|2015-16 FIA Formula E Championship – Mexico City ePrix|
|Date||12 March 2016||Lap Length||2.092km|
|Free Practice Session 1||Sat 08:15-09:00||Free Practice Session 2||Sat 10:30-11:00|
|Qualifying Group 1||Sat 12:00-12:06||Qualifying Group 2||Sat 12:10-12:16|
|Qualifying Group 3||Sat 12:20-12:26||Qualifying Group 4||Sat 12:30-12:36|
|Super Pole||Sat 12:45-13:00||Race (43 laps)||Sat 16:00-16:50|
Session times quoted in Central Standard Time (GMT -06:00)
The Mexico City ePrix replaces Miami on this season’s calendar, and like the following event at Long Beach, Formula E will use a modified version of a circuit with a rich international motorsport history – in this case the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. Unlike the street circuits of Long Beach and Monaco in season one, however, the Mexico City event will be run on a modified permanent circuit – in fact it is the first championship race in Formula E history to not be held on a temporary course.
The 2.092-kilometre circuit is based around the circuit’s oval course (as used by the NASCAR Mexico Series), and also utilises a modified version of the stadium section as seen during last year’s Mexican Formula 1 Grand Prix. Running clockwise, Turns 1 and 2 are a left/right chicane leading into Turn 3, the sweeping first turn of the oval. Turns 4, 5 and 6 is a right/left/right chicane at the exit of the sweeper and is likely to form a key passing location for drivers who have made a good exit from the first chicane. The course continues along the back straight of the oval, before turning, as per the Grand Prix circuit, into the stadium section. Turns 8-12 form the technical stadium section of the circuit before the cars exist through the same gap in the grandstands as they entered and the 90⁰ Turn 13 leads into the first half of the famed Peraltada sweeper, Turn 14. A tight right/left/right chicane forms Turns 15-17 and splits the Peraltada in half, before the remainder of the sweeper leads back on to the front straight. The pit lane entry for Formula E is the same as used for the Formula 1 race.
Being a permanent facility, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez will provide different challenges for the Formula E field. By Formula 1 standards the circuit is considered quite bumpy, but compared to the street circuits Formula E generally encounters it is actually quite a smooth surface, and in turn this will dictate the suspension set up – being able to run a lower ride height can improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the car, and increase the downforce produced. Additionally, the elevation of Mexico City – some 2,200 metres above sea-level – and the thin air that comes with it will play a part. Unlike their combustion-engined counterparts, the altitude will have no effect on the Formula E powertrain performance, but the aerodynamic considerations that come with racing in thin air remain: teams will need to decide between running an increased wing angle to get more downforce without sacrificing the normal straight line speed of a Formula E car, or leave the wing angle unchanged and sacrifice the downforce gain for an increase in peak speed.
Tyre wear is another unknown element heading in to the event. The track surface of a permanent circuit invariably has more grip than a street circuit, and with that comes increased tyre degradation. Management of the Michelin all-weather control tyre will be critical to achieving a result. The series’ test days at Donington Park will have provided the teams with some information the tyre’s performance on a permanent circuit, but until the cars are on track in Mexico the exact performance won’t be known. Friday’s 30 minute shakedown session will be important for all teams ahead of the event.
The Form Guide
There are no changes in any of the driver line-ups ahead of the Mexican event, however some of the most iconic colours in motorsport history will make their first appearance in Formula E as Gulf Oil joins as the title sponsor of Team Aguri. In Mexico the famous blue and orange will adorn the cars of António Félix da Costa and local hero Salvador Durán, in a partnership Team Aguri owner Marc Faggionato is very excited about.
“To work with a global brand such as Gulf is a real coup for the team, and reinforces our commitment to driving the development of the future automotive technologies that will become commonplace in the road cars of tomorrow. We are excited about our partnership and look forward to forging a strong and lasting relationship,” he said.
Speaking ahead of his home ePrix, Durán feels the arrival of Formula E in Mexico City has the potential to have far-reaching benefits for both the city and country.
“I think Mexico City is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Formula E shows that we can have great sporting events without contaminating the city and I think that this is something that will change this city. We are making history and that is what this series is about,” the local driver said.
With no major changes since the lase event in Buenos Aires, expect the pecking order to remain similar to what has been seen so far this season. Championship leader Sébastien Buemi’s charge from the back of the grid to second in Argentina shows the Renault e.Dams driver is still on a hot streak of form, and highly likely to be at the front again in Mexico.
The two other winners this season – Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport’s Lucas di Grassi and DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird – will also be challenging for their second wins. Having scored their first pole position and fastest lap in the past two events, the Dragon Racing pair of Loïc Duval and Jérôme d’Ambrosio will also be towards the front of the field.
Conversely, reigning series champion Nelson Piquet Jr is having a horror championship defense as his NEXTEV TCR team struggle with their new powertrain. The Brazilian currently sits fifteenth in the standings with just four points, three positions and six points behind his team mate Oliver Turvey.
Official Practice for the Mexico City ePrix is scheduled to begin at 08:15am local time (UTC-06:00), with the second session on track at 10:30am. The four qualifying groups begin at 12:00pm, ahead of Super Pole at 12:45pm and the 43 lap Mexico City ePrix race from 16:00pm.
Image via FIA Formula E Championship