Flying high - Q&A with Rémi Taffin

The Mexican Grand Prix is known for bringing Formula 1 a unique challenge of racing at high altitude. Engine Technical Director Rémi Taffin discusses the considerations for this as well as his satisfaction at the team’s current power unit performance.

What are the main challenges of racing a Formula 1 car at high altitude?
Mexico is a unique challenge for the season. At 2,000m, the air is much less dense than what we see throughout the year. Air is used to create downforce and cool the car, which we know is much lower than usual in Mexico. We run a Monaco-level aero package even if it still doesn’t create that much drag and produces our high maximum speed. Mexico is like a performance damage limitation event; we don’t primarily design the car to be Mexico specific, we only ensure we minimise the effects of the altitude. During the last few years, we’ve been relatively competitive there. In terms of the power unit, we know the engine can’t run at its maximum and the turbo is not capable of compensating for the less dense air. We can pre-empt what to expect in Mexico on the dynos in Viry and we’ve been racing there for a few years now and know what to expect from our package. We will then find out where others are.
What is the engine strategy for the next two rounds?
Both drivers have all their engines in the pool since Monza. We have to use what we have for the remaining races. We have older spec engines for Friday and then the latest specs for Saturday and Sunday.
Are there difficulties around back-to-back races?
When we go to Austin it will be back to normal as Mexico, you could say, is just an exception. You do the Mexico race and then everything normal resumes. It’s not too much of a deal for this particular back-to-back race. It’s more of a challenge for the team servicing the parts and all the logistics. It impacts the work behind the scenes rather than performance over the weekend.
What are your thoughts on the power unit performance for the second-half of the season?
We’re pleased with the level of performance we have, but we’re not stopping there. We have to work for next year and the year after. We’re happy to get this level of performance in our car and also in the way we are cleaning up our reliability after a poor start of the season in that respect. There’s room to improve and we’ll be aiming to do that. We introduced our last engines in Spa and Monza and we’re focused on delivering for 2020 and 2021 and reaching high level performance and reliability.