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F1 at high altitude and Ferrari lesson

The altitude at Mexico’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was the highest of the Formula 1 season, putting a particular strain on the engines, says Renault trackside chief Remi Taffin.

Brazil’s Interlagos previously had the highest altitude of the year at an average of approximately 800m above sea level, but in Mexico that figure is closer to 2,200m.

As the altitude increases, the air becomes thinner and has a lower oxygen content, which means less power due to less oxygen being available to burn with the fuel.

“The issue is going to be cooling for sure because you have the same amount of energy coming out of the engine and much less air to cope with that, so it’s going to be cooling,” said Taffin.

“The other thing is turbo, because to try to maintain the power output you will need to rev the turbo much higher and you will hit limits.”

The former issue did present itself in the form of Nico Rosberg’s burning brakes during practice, although it did not deter the Mercedes driver from winning the first Mexican Grand Prix in 23 years.

In spite of this, it was Ferrari who was in the spotlight.

The Italian squad have kept the new three-piece turning vanes (right arrow) underneath the chassis, as introduced at the last round in Austin.

These are paired with a horizontal splitter – its shape reminiscent of Batman’s famous logo – behind the turning vanes (left arrow), as used since last year by Mercedes.

Together with a new front wing, these elements form Ferrari’s revised aero set-up for the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, where the combination of high speeds and thin air – Mexico City is over 2,200m above sea level – presents the teams with an unusual set-up challenge.

But it all seems futile after the grand prix.

Vettel had started third but collided with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo at the first corner and picked up a puncture.

The four-time champion complained about Ricciardo’s driving on team radio but though the stewards investigated the incident, they deemed no further action was necessary.

Vettel recovered to the pits but he had a messy race, spinning at the esses and then crashing out of the race at the same spot when the rear end of the car got away from him – bringing out the safety car.

There was more drama for Ferrari when Kimi Raikkonen collided with Valtteri Bottas for the second time in three races following their last-lap clash in Sochi.

The duo went side-by-side into Turn 4 with Bottas’ front-left hitting Raikkonen’s right-rear and breaking the Ferrari’s suspension.

Raikkonen retired instantly, signalling Ferrari’s first double retirement since 2006.

Maurizio Arrivabene says Ferrari’s double retirement in the Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix serves as a lesson for next year, when it hopes to run Mercedes closer.

It meant Ferrari, which has been the second quickest team this term, suffered its first double retirement since the 2006 Australian Grand Prix.

“During the course of this season, we touched the sky and on Sunday we touch the bottom,” said Ferrari team boss Arrivabene.

“This is a good lesson for all of us.

“It prepares ourselves and the character of the team for next year.

“I don’t want to blame Kimi one way, I don’t want to blame Seb the other way.

“We don’t have to make excuses and they don’t have to make excuses. We are a team.”

Despite the result, Arrivabene said there were some positives to take out of the weekend.

“I had already seen on Saturday how this team can react to difficulties, having had to replace both engine and gearbox [on Raikkonen’s car] in so little time,” he said.

“On Sunday, the race pace was very, very good. I was watching the timing and the pace was very good.”

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene believes that Ferrari can learn from its failures in the Mexican Grand Prix.

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