Jenson Button is expecting the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to produce an almighty challenge to his McLaren Honda team but is relishing the prospect of heading into the unknown.
The Mexican Grand Prix has made its long-awaited return to the Formula 1 calendar this season after a 23-year absence, with the circuit undergoing severe refurbishment and the track being revised from its original layout to meet safety standards.
The race is forecast to produce the second-highest average speed on the F1 roster only behind Monza and is situated considerably higher than any other F1 venue at 2,200 metres (7,218 feet) above sea level.
With oxygen levels at 78 per cent compared to at sea level, McLaren expects the performance of the MP4-30 and the Honda power unit to be heavily effected, as more work will be placed on the turbo to compensate for the lack of oxygen entering the internal combustion engine along with less aerodynamic downforce.
Still feeding off his sixth place result in the US Grand Prix, Button is aware McLaren is likely to struggle in Mexico due to its underperforming power unit but feels the new circuit could act as an equaliser with its competitors.
“Austin was an exciting race and the mixed conditions meant we were able to race on a more level playing field with our competitors until the track dried out towards the end,” Button said. “If the weather stays dry next weekend in Mexico, we know we'll have a much more difficult grand prix on our hands, so we need to take the opportunity to gather as much data as we can and work on maximising our strategy for our car's performance.
“The circuit itself looks really interesting - I remember as a kid watching some incredible battles there and the drivers hanging onto their cars around Peraltada, which looked mega, if a bit scary!
“The altitude is easily the highest we have to deal with at any grand prix on the calendar, so that in itself will be something new for all the teams to work with, and the fact this circuit has the second highest top speed after Monza will mean it won't be easy for us.
“Saying that, having good balance and downforce in the car will be crucial so we'll get stuck in with set-up and see how we fare on Friday morning.”