The first new venue that the FIA Formula E Championship visits in season two is unique among the tracks used by the all-electric racing series.
While Long Beach and Monaco have rich racing histories, these are still temporary street circuits. In contrast, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is a permanent racing facility, although the layout that is being used for the Mexico City ePrix differs hugely from anything ever held at the circuit before. This raises a few key talking points:
1. More abrasive track surface
Racing tracks by their very nature are built to be raced on, so the track surface is designed for that purpose only. Public roads have a very different every day purpose and as a result the asphalt is far less abrasive than the surfacing found on a race track. So far the Michelin all-weather tyres have stood up very well to the challenges thrown at them by Formula E. The only time that wear has been an issue was at the Berlin ePrix, which was held at Tempelhof Airport, where the surface was very different to the street tracks used elsewhere.
In Berlin, we had the unusual sight of Jarno Trulli qualifying on pole position – the only front row start the now defunct Trulli team ever scored. Will there be a similar upset this weekend?
By racing track standards, the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit is considered bumpy. However, compared to some of the road surfaces that Formula E has raced on in the past, it’s one of the smoother courses the series visits.
One of the key gains that Renault e.dams has made for season two is in the way that its Renault Z.E 15 is able to ride the bumps and maximise traction. A smoother surface could well mean that Sebastien Buemi and Nico Prost are a little closer to the chasing pack in terms of outright pace than we have seen in some races this season.
3. Thin air
At over 2200m, the Hermanos Rodriguez track is one of the highest in the world, and the highest ever used in Formula E. For internal combustion engine cars, the thin air at this level causes a real problem as the motor is starved of the oxygen it needs for effective combustion.
For electric cars this obviously won’t be a problem. However, the thin air also means there is less wind resistance, so this might allow the teams to run a bit more wing than usual in order to find extra cornering speed without suffering the usual penalty down the straights. Will we see a bigger divergence in wing angles than usual?
There is a swirling wind that blows around the Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City park where the circuit is situated. This means that dust and dirt from the park are constantly being blown onto the track surface.
This creates a variable in the level of grip available and will catch out any unsuspecting drivers. Reading the track conditions correctly is going to be key to success this weekend.
5. Passionate local support
Mexicans love their motorsport. Indeed, crowds of over 200,000 used to flock to the grand prix in the early days, although this proved to be too many to control and ultimately led to the race’s cancellation.
The return of the grand prix last year brought out a huge crowd once again and they cheered Sergio Perez’s every move. Salvador Duran can expect a similar reception on Saturday too. Last time out in Buenos Aires, his Team Aguri team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa was running second when a one-dollar part failure ended an amazing run. If the crowd can lift Duran to similar heroics, he could be a wild card come Saturday’s race.
To buy tickets for the Mexico City ePrix on March 12 click here