Mercedes now “in a better place” to tackle high-altitude tracks – Bottas

2021 Mexico City Grand Prix

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The upcoming two tracks on the F1 calendar, where Red Bull have performed strongly in recent seasons, may be less of a disadvantage for Mercedes this year, Valtteri Bottas believes.

Lewis Hamilton won the last race held in Mexico, scene of this weekend’s race, though he was aided by a messy weekend for pace-setter Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver lost pole position due to a yellow flag violation and collected a puncture early in the race.

Verstappen won the previous two races at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Mercedes have previously identified the unusually high altitude of the Mexican track – which is 2,240 metres above sea level – as part of the reason for its disadvantage. However during the previous round Bottas said he believes Mercedes have improved how their package works in the lower air pressures teams will encounter this weekend.

“For Mexico, we know it’s been usually a bit of a weakness for us,” he admitted. “And it feels like quite a big chunk [of that] has been, in the recent years, from the power unit with high altitude.

“But I think we’ve been able to optimise a lot since, so I would expect us to be in better place than in the recent years.”

The following race in Brazil is held at the second-highest track on the calendar. Despite Mercedes’ gains, Bottas expects both tracks will remain strong venues for their rivals.

“Still, on paper, we think they’re really strong places for Red Bull. We’ve just really tried to [take] all the learnings we’ve done from previous years and prepare the best that way,” he said.

“So they’re not going to be easy weekends, but it’s never easy in this sport.”

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2021 Mexico City Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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10 comments on “Mercedes now “in a better place” to tackle high-altitude tracks – Bottas”

  1. Strange that Bottas comes with that news but i have to see if their aero can compensate their engine.
    What i heard is that Mercedes can’t use their Turbo so much because it already turns near the 125k while the Honda turbo (aircraft division helps the F1 team a lot with this) spind much more (so it turns much lower standard and can push much more air to the engine by turning much faster before hitting the 125k barrier)

  2. Hamilton won in Mexico in 2019 only because the W10 was a car that had the best tyre wear and management in the entire field by a huge margin. This year’s car is also good in keeping the tyres in good condition, but the W10 was just on another level in that area. I still consider that car the best in terms of tyre management among all Mercedes cars. However, start of the race should be absolute fireworks.

    1. @krichelle I agree! And the start of the race will also be fascinating as the fastest car may not win the race. Let’s imagine that Red Bull has a slight edge over Mercedes and they lock out the front row. But with such a slipstream and straight line speed on the long run into turn 1, the Mercedes could come out of lap 1 in a very handy position (e.g Hamilton leading and Bottas up to 3rd). Red Bull would of course try and get back in the lead through strategy, but if Mercedes would manage to cover that off then an on-track pass would be a tall order – given Mercedes’ strong straight line speed. Should be interesting …

  3. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    4th November 2021, 9:15

    Mercedes should hope Bottas is right as it has been more than 3 years since a driver from another team was ahead in WDC, after the 10th round in 2018 Vettel was 12 points ahead of Lewis. Then there were 11 races left and Lewis won WDC with 88 points.

    In the last 7 season, with 5 races left to go, the lead Mercedes driver on average was 87 points ahead of the closest non Mercedes driver. Closest with 59 was Vettel in 2017 and furthest with 126 was Verstappen in 2019, now a none Mercedes driver is ahead by 12 points.

    For the fans I hope Bottas is wrong because if Lewis wins Mexico the driver championship is pretty much over.

    1. Dunno. If Max can win Austin and Lewis can win Mexico I’d say it’s anyone’s guess at every track from now. Most races this season are won or lost by details or accidents it seems. There are just a few races that Lewis or Max have truly domin ated start to finish. Austria, Zandvoort for Max, Barcelona for Lewis and Turkey for Bottas.

  4. Whats with the RedBull strong in Mexico stuff? Wasnt that with a Renault engine?

    1. @Mayrton Yes, both wins came when RBR was Renault-powered, although they could’ve also won the 2019 race if Max kept pole & didn’t get the early puncture.

    2. Renault has also a different kind of Turbo but it’s the downforce packet of Red Bull who generates a lot of drag but in Mexico that drag is reduced with atleast 25% which gives them more speed while keeping their downforce.

  5. RBR should be a favorite, but as this season has shown, past form references have proved effectively irrelevant with Paul Ricard & COTA good examples, so better wait & see how things pan out this time.

  6. I don’t think Red Bull’s general pace dominance at this track is just down to the engine, their car and high rake philosophy seems to suit the layout as well. If you rewatch qualifying from 2018, Red Bull was generally 0.2s slower than Mercedes/Ferrari through the first sector (which is where the straights are), and was consistently 0.2s quicker through each of the following sectors. This is a track that requires a car to have a good front-end and quick changes of direction, and that suits the high-rake concept. Moreover, I think Red Bull might be able to run more effectively when teams have to run a Monaco-esque high-downforce setup. The altitude helped mitigate some of their engine deficit, but the chassis is the reason for their dominance here.

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