Mercedes’ Vowles discusses engine cuts in Mexico that caused ‘a small loss of performance for both drivers’
Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Chief Strategy Officer James Vowles gave his thoughts on the engine cut issues the team faced during the Mexican Grand Prixwhich was ultimately caused by the high altitude of Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
At more than two thousand meters above sea level, the high altitude of the circuit has a huge impact on the performance of the cars – and the powertrain in particular. Vowles said the engines are typically “mapped” for common sea level conditions and therefore aren’t as well suited to Mexico City’s thinner air.
“We were suffering a bit from the engine cutouts and here’s the reason why – you usually map the engine for the conditions it’s used the most in, i.e. sea level, that’s where happens most races, when you suddenly go to these altitude levels, you’re in a very different condition.
“Instead of having a really, really well-tuned engine, you’re back to a situation where you have to do a lot of work with the power unit in a very short time to try and map out those irregularities. I’m convinced that all teams will suffer, it won’t be unique to us.
This problem was compounded under the stress of qualifying, where george russell took second place and Lewis Hamilton came third, both within reach of pole position in a venue where Mercedes were quite strong.
“It’s usually accentuated in qualifying because you apply the accelerator pedal very quickly and quickly, which means the turbo and the fuel systems have to follow that change very quickly and normally it’s better in the race.”
When it comes to race day, the Mercedes pair have adopted an alternative tire strategy to pole position Max Verstappen in an effort to fight for victory. Hamilton ended up finishing second while Russell took fourth thanks in part to their strategic call. Vowles said their engine issues persisted on race day, however, and they hoped to “fix” those issues for the future.
“We were hoping the race wouldn’t be as bad and that comes down to a factor when the riders are asking for throttle and accelerating, it just wasn’t delivering the power they’re asking for fast enough, so enough fuel or enough air.”
“It can be sorted out in time and where we got to the race was not a bad position, I think qualifying was worse, but still enough to cause a small loss in performance for both drivers.