GP Mexico: How Does the altitude to the Formula 1?


In the 80s, when turbo engines came to the Formula 1 of the hand of Renault, the grill adopted a variety that became particularly interesting in the circuits in which the altitude had the ability to influence the outcome.

In circuits like this weekend visit the Formula 1, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the equipment with engine air considerably reduced the power of the same (about 22%), taking almost impossible to beat those with propellant turbo-charged. At present, the power is not a issue and all teams must contend with the disadvantages alike, but that doesn’t mean that the altitude has ceased to be important.

Lower density and pressure

To the extent that we rise above the level of the sea, the air loses density and pressure. It is as if there is less air in the environment. In the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mercedes calculates the reduction in a 25%, something that affects several things related to the competition.

The first and most obvious is the physical effort of the pilots, because with every breath of air get less oxygen in your lungs and they need to work harder to ensure that your body receives the required amount.

But focusing on the (mechanical, there are several factors. The first of them is the power of the engine. Since the thrusters a turbo, in reality the output power decreases because the turbine is responsible for breathing artificially air at the same but, as in the case of the pilots, should work more to get the same amount of air in your lung particular: the engine. Therefore, the wear is greater and the reliability is seen more committed.

Less downforce and cooling

Greater effort on mechanical means, the higher the temperature and, obviously, the greater the demand for cooling, but that is something that the altitude doesn’t help either. The lower density of air means less cooling capacity in all elements of the car: engine (including the turbo that requires extra effort), gearbox… and brakes.

The brakes need better cooling as a result of the lower density, so it is logical to think that the outlets of the cooling of the same will be greater in this circuit.

in Addition there is another phenomenon and that is the downforce generated at a higher altitude is reduced exponentially as it rises from the level of the sea. Or, what is the same thing. in this circuit, the teams must adopt configurations of high-downforce (similar to that of Monaco, Hungaroring and Singapore) to achieve acceptable levels. That is the reason why you get speed points close to the 370 km/h at this circuit. The air it generates less downforce and, therefore, less drag or resistance to the advance.

Another problem resulting from the lower load and, therefore, less grip, is that the tyres are subjected to greater stress and, of course, overheating. And in days with low temperatures, the graining becomes more charged because the temperature of the asphalt is much less than that of the tire and it is this that just picking up the rubber peeling, which may not adhere to the cold asphalt.

All of them are small details that, while it did not influence so decisively as in the era of naturally aspirated engines lived with the turbo, continues to offer challenges that no one can despise.