When Formula 1 goes into its fifth-last race of the season in Mexico at the weekend, Red Bull is the big favorite to win. Max Verstappen won the two races there in 2017 and 2018 and took pole there in 2019. However, after a penalty and contact with both Mercedes drivers, the result was nothing with the third victory in a row.
Nevertheless, Red Bull has always been strong at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in recent years. Because the characteristics of the track always suited the team and made sure that the disadvantage of the drivetrain compared to the competition is eliminated.
Mexico City is 2,285 meters above sea level and therefore has a significantly lower air density than the other routes. At sea level, this is around 1.225 kg / m³, while Mexico City only has around 78 percent of this and has a density value of around 0.96 kg / m³.
This means that the turbocharger in the power unit in particular has to work harder. When the same volume of air flows through the inlet, the turbine has to spin harder to feed the same mass of air into the compressor.
The compressor increases the air density and thus ensures a higher oxygen concentration so that the compressed air can get more power from the combustion engine.
In the past few seasons, Red Bull always had to cope with engines that delivered less performance than the Mercedes. Mexico has always balanced it out in this regard.
Formula 1: Honda with a certain lead
Honda was also able to build on its experience from other industries and thus optimize its turbo. For example, ideas have been drawn from the HondaJet turbine design to improve the rate at which air is forced into the compressor.
This of course gives Honda a head start, as jet engines are designed to operate at high altitudes and the turbine blades can be shaped to displace a larger volume of air.
When, in the late 1980s, both turbo and naturally aspirated engines drove in parallel in Formula 1, the height of Mexico was much more favorable to turbo engines. The naturally aspirated engines, on the other hand, suffered a power loss of around 20 percent.
In 1988, the last year of the old turbo era, Alessandro Nannini was the best driver without a turbo engine in qualifying. He was 3.2 seconds behind pole setter Ayrton Senna.
Red Bull has an advantage thanks to its high angle of attack
The air density also has an influence on the aerodynamics, because it drastically reduces the air resistance of the car. A team can drive with the highest possible downforce without being penalized for it on the straights. On the other hand, the low density also ensures significantly less downforce.
And even if that affects every team equally, Red Bull has an advantage with its high angle of attack. Because normally this causes a little higher air resistance than with Mercedes.
And considering that Red Bull was strong in Mexico even with cars that didn’t fight for the championship, there should be no reason the RB16B won’t be the car to beat.