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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Tech verdict: How teams cruised through Mexico City’s altitude

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Tech verdict: How teams cruised through Mexico City’s altitude
By:
Co-author: Matthew Somerfield
Oct 28, 2019, 7:34 PM

The Mexican Grand Prix provided a significant challenge to drivers and teams alike, as the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez sits 2250m above sea level. This makes it an outlier on the Formula 1 calendar in terms of altitude, meaning teams had to focus their efforts differently in order to get close to their usual levels of performance.

The rarefied air at this altitude is extremely punishing and would result in the drivers melting their power units if they chose to run cooling solutions ordinarily earmarked for track characteristics closer to sea level. Fortunately, the altitude also lessens the effect this has on the drag component that’s ordinarily encountered too, as can be seen by how teams wield high downforce wings at a circuit that at lower altitude would see teams reaching for skinnier alternatives.

Click on the arrows to scroll through the images below…

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Red Bull Racing RB15, cooling

Red Bull Racing RB15, cooling
1/17

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull took a slightly different approach to this than most, as rather than just use a huge rearward cooling outlet, it looked to reduce internal heat soak and keep the Honda power unit in a stable operating window without damaging the aerodynamic output too much. Keeping the large central outlet at a minimum, and opening up the bodywork around the rear leg of their upper wishbone, it reduced the impact of heat dissipation on the surrounding aerodynamic surfaces. It’s a decision it took being mindful of how they’d be affected in traffic too, as it fully expected to keep Ferrari and Mercedes in close company throughout the race.

Mercedes AMG W10, rear cooling detail

Mercedes AMG W10, rear cooling detail
2/17

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Like Red Bull’s solution, Mercedes had a similar approach to heat rejection needs, albeit sporting a slightly larger outlet around the front wishbone leg, not the rear. This slightly different approach allowed it to have additional bodywork in the gap between the wishbone that guides airflow more effectively.

Mercedes F1 AMG W10, rear detail

Mercedes F1 AMG W10, rear detail
3/17

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The height of the forward outlets can be seen here in this rear-ward view, as can the lower T-Wing that the team uses in behind the outlet and suspension to help improve rear downforce

Ferrari SF90

Ferrari SF90
4/17

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Ferrari’s solution was relatively tame compared with those in the midfield, indicating how efficient the SF90’s cooling already is.

Toro Rosso STR14

Toro Rosso STR14
5/17

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Unlike its sister team, Toro Rosso did not focus its resources on a specific solution for Mexico, instead opting for a more simplistic rear cooling outlet.

Williams Racing FW42

Williams Racing FW42
6/17

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Williams went for a fairly conventional large outlet at the rear of its car in comparison.

Haas F1 Team VF-19

Haas F1 Team VF-19
7/17

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

As did Haas – its engine cover outlet tailored for the larger, single-outlet wastegate pipework that sits astride the main exhaust.

McLaren MCL34

McLaren MCL34
8/17

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

McLaren opted for a slightly smaller, but longer outlet than some of its counterparts, perhaps indicating how the Renault power unit is able to run a little differently at altitude.

Alfa Romeo Racing C38

Alfa Romeo Racing C38
9/17

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Like Haas, Alfa Romeo had a single wastegate outlet that must be accommodated by the cooling outlet design, but it too opted for a larger solution to keep things cool under the hood.

Racing Point RP19

Racing Point RP19
10/17

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Racing Point ran perhaps one of the smallest rear-end cooling solutions in the midfield pack, albeit with plenty of space left around the upper hood section that encapsulates the exhaust.

Racing Point RP19

Racing Point RP19
11/17

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Racing Point did open up more cooling around the cockpit to reduce heat soak though, with an outlet formed by the transition of the halo into the rearward bodywork.

Renault F1 Team R.S.19, rear

Renault F1 Team R.S.19, rear
12/17

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Renault had perhaps one of the largest rear cooling outlets.

Mercedes F1 AMG W10, brake detail

Mercedes F1 AMG W10, brake detail
13/17

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In Mexico, a new brake drum was installed by Mercedes. It features what’s known as a crossover pipe at the front of the assembly, which essentially takes some of the air captured by the main inlet and forces it out through the wheel rim. It’s a solution that makes you question what constitutes a brake cooling method, as its cooling effect is secondary to the aerodynamic benefit it brings. The new solution features two components, a lower opening which draws airflow from elsewhere within the assembly and a row of four turbulators, which look to speed up the flow of air at that point across the face of the pipe.

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, brake

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, brake
14/17

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Here’s a picture of its design prior to the update, which as you can see is devoid of the lower outlet and the turbulators.

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, brake detail

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, brake detail
15/17

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The two preceding images are not what the complete assembly looks like though, as another panel is inserted when the car is out on track, completing the crossover pipe in order that the flow from inlet to outlet is not overtly disturbed by the rotating wheelrim.

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, steering wheel Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, steering wheel Lewis Hamilton
16/17

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Lewis Hamilton has made some changes to the steering wheel of his Mercedes W10 in order to help him get off the line better at the start of races. The Brit now has more of wishbone-style clutch paddle on the right-hand side of his steering wheel, similar to the one we’ve seen Ferrari use for a number of years now, whilst on the left-hand side he has a much shorter socket in which to place his fingers. Since the change, he’s taken to using a different approach on race starts though, as can be seen from onboard footage. Rather than using the left socket, he grasps the upper corner of the steering wheel, perhaps to get the kind of leverage and feel he desires when operating the right-hand clutch paddle.

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, steering wheel Valtteri Bottas

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, steering wheel Valtteri Bottas
17/17

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Valtteri Bottas has retained the original steering wheel design that both he and Lewis started the season with, enabling him to use either the left or right clutch paddle at the race start to launch the car.

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About this article

Series Formula 1
Event Mexican GP
Author Giorgio Piola