Why does high altitude impact the car?
Altitude impacts everything that we do, whether it's going for a run around Mexico City or a turbocharger pumping oxygen into the engine of a car. And it's all related to the amount of air particles and the density of the air at that specific height.
The higher you are in the atmosphere, the thinner the air is. This is because air has weight and so the closer you are to sea level, the more the air is being compressed downwards, meaning denser air and more air particles. At 2,285 metres above sea level, there is around 25% less air density compared to at sea level and therefore a quarter less oxygen.
When you think about an F1 car, there are many crucial factors that ensure it operates correctly, three of which are: aerodynamics, cooling and the Power Unit. These elements are greatly impacted by the amount of air available to them and therefore, less air means differing performance.
High altitude doesn't directly impact the racing itself, because everyone is impacted in the same way and the long main straight and two DRS zones early in the lap do promote overtaking. However, different cars will be impacted by the effects of the altitude in different ways, some faring better and some faring worse, which can mix up the competitive order in Mexico.