The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez proved a difficult venue for qualifying with Romain placing twelfth and Pastor thirteenth for tomorrow’s Mexican Grand Prix.
Clouds loomed but didn’t displace their loads as qualifying played out, with Romain and Pastor missing out on fighting for a top ten position as they struggled to find grip and extract the maximum performance potential from Pirelli’s soft compound slicks.
“It could have been worse than P12,” said Romain. “The track temperature dropped a lot after the first session so even though I was pushing harder the grip just wasn’t there.”
With Mexico City at over 2,200 metres, the 20% reduction in air density means the wings on the car don’t deliver as much downforce as you’d want.
“You need so much downforce even to get to Monza levels because of the altitude here, but hopefully when we start the race with the extra weight of full fuel it should feel a bit better,” said Romain. “Then as the race goes on the grip levels will improve. It’s going to be a long race, tricky for everyone as well as for the brakes and the engine.”
With a long drag down to turn one, Romain has a particular strategy in mind. “For the last few races I’ve been hit from behind at the first corner so I think this time I’m going to have to just brake later!”
Over on Pastor’s side of the garage qualifying was a similar story.
“We pretty much knew whereabouts we would qualify and of course, we’d like to be further up the order, said Pastor. “That said, we usually have better relative race pace than in qualifying so we will hopefully be able to react better in race conditions.”
Echoing the sentiments of much of the field, Pastor reckons the relentless quest for grip will be order of the day in the race.
“The track is very, very slippery and the tyres are pretty hard for the conditions,” he said. “Certainly the soft and super soft would suit us better here.”
Tyre preference notwithstanding, Pastor was quick to praise the circuit after his second day unleashed on it.
“The track is very interesting, very, very interesting and I love it. You really need to think about how you drive it, some corners you need to enter a little slower to maximise your exit; it’s tough for the drivers as we have to be very focused all the time, it’s great.”
As for race prospects, Pastor is confident, although wary of any potential rainfall. “Tomorrow we can fight for the points easily!” he said. “But if it rains it will be very tricky, believe me!”