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02nd Nov 2018

F1 Mexico: going behind the scenes with Scuderia Ferrari at the Mexican Grand Prix

Rich Cooper

Sponsored by Shell

JOE went down to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez race track in Mexico City to see how Scuderia Ferrari do it

Mexico City is full of contrasts. The streets are full of hustle and bustle, as you’d expect from any modern metropolis, but there’s a pervading sense that the actual pace of life is more relaxed.

Perhaps it was leaving the chaos of London and life in Britain behind, but things just seem to slow down a little when you’re in Mexico City.

The perfect place to watch high-speed performance racing, then.

JOE were invited down to the Mexican Grand Prix by Shell, who took us inside the operations of Scuderia Ferrari, by far the most successful constructors in Formula 1 history. With 16 championship wins in the constructor’s history, Scuderia Ferrari know a thing or two about high performance, and we got to take a little look under the hood to see what’s going on down there.

Our base was Shell House, a swanky penthouse near the race track. Inside we were put through our paces on a driving simulator – unfortunately they don’t let just anybody hop in an F1 car, despite our asking. The simulator is frighteningly accurate, making it feel like we were actually driving on the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit.

Marc Gené, Scuderia Ferrari’s development driver, showed us the ropes, mainly the art of not spinning off in a cloud of tyre smoke, but also through the applications of the simulator – testing new steering wheels, learning new tracks and helping to develop the cars.

A Formula 1-inspired fitness session showed us the kind of things F1 drivers need to do to stay in shape – lots of balance, reflex and reaction exercises, and a large helping of yoga. And we had a little cocktail-making session, which is not a typical part of an F1 driver’s preparation, but there was a link: fuel.

Turns out that mixing fuel is a lot like mixing cocktails, but you don’t run as high a risk of an incredibly painful death if you drink a cocktail.

Now fuel is vital to the success of an F1 car. “Duhh,” we hear you say exasperatedly. Well, yes. Fuel does indeed make the car go.

But recent rule changes mean that F1 drivers can only use three engines over the course of a season, meaning that the importance of what you’re putting into those engines is more important than ever.

Enter Benoît Poulet. Benoît develops Shell V-Power especially for Scuderia Ferrari, which has powered the team to an unparalleled 10 constructors’ championship wins. Responsible for continually improving the performance of the fuel, Benoît works closely with Scuderia Ferrari to constantly get better and better results.

For him, there’s a magic moment when the performance results come in: if the number is higher than it was last time, Benoît’s celebrates as if he’d just scored the winning goal in a cup tie. And if a Scuderia Ferrari driver is up on that podium, the whole team rushes up and celebrates together.

Not everyone realises that Formula 1 is a team sport – it’s not just down to the drivers. People like Benoît’s and Marc work together as a team to help put the driver on the podium.

That said, there’s no denying the importance of the drivers, and we were incredibly lucky to get to spend some time with one of the most celebrated in Formula 1: Scuderia Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen.

The Finnish maestro let us in on a secret: the fuel used in Formula 1 and the kind you’d fill up with at the petrol station is 99% the same, and the only reason you can’t go as fast as an F1 car is down to speed limits.

Having an F1 car would probably help in that department too, but we’ll let you off, Kimi.

The Mexican Grand Prix is a particularly interesting one. Thanks to the long straights, high altitude and low air resistance, the fastest top speed in an F1 race was recorded here: a staggering 370 kilometres per hour.

Race day loomed, and we managed to get down onto the track for the qualifying sessions on the Saturday, ahead of the Grand Prix on Sunday. F1 cars sound loud on the television, but we can tell you ourselves: they are seriously loud.

Trackside was buzzing. Music, dancers, technicians running around, cars zipping back and forth – there’s honestly nothing like being down in the pits ahead of a big race.

With a double podium finish for Scuderia Ferrari, with Kimi taking third place alongside teammate Sebastian Vettel in second, it was a good weekend for us, but an even better one for Scuderia Ferrari.