OCTOBER 23, 2015
Teams prepare for Austin with one eye on Mexico
Hurricane Patricia, and the "life-threatening storms" it is set to bring to Austin this weekend, is not the only worry on F1 teams' minds at present.
Another is the looming Mexican grand prix next weekend -- the first at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit since 1992.
Detailed simulations show that the cars could hit top speeds of about 360kph, perhaps in excess of what is seen even at the ultra high-speed Monza.
Mexico City is situated more than 2 kilometres above sea level, which some say can actually cause mild altitude sickness for unacclimatised visitors.
The thin air can also cause problems for F1 engineers, as the wings produce less downforce and the usual cooling mechanisms of the car may not work as effectively.
In the Austin pits on Thursday, a notable addition to Nico Rosberg's car was a couple of extra 'ears' or 'nostrils' alongside the air box.
It is believed the German will test the Mexico-specific modification, also including more cooling openings at the rear, during Austin practice. The engine cover also has a different dorsal fin.
Whether the innovations can be effectively tested in Austin, however, is questionable, as locals are bracing for downpours that have led weather-men to even warn normal motorists to stay off the treacherous roads.
"It looks like the whole of Texas is going to be under water," said McLaren's Jenson Button.
"And with a track with so much elevation you are going to get pools of water. They had a WEC race here last year that was very wet," he added, "so hopefully they have learned from that."