Why ‘Mexico’s Interlagos’ would be perfect for F1

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Riccardo Patrese, Nigel Mansell, Williams, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 1991

Riccardo Patrese and Nigel Mansell in the 1991 Mexican Grand Prix

Mexico has held 15 world championship races in the past and is among the most likely forthcoming additions to the F1 calendar.

Local interest is growing thanks to Sergio Perez, Mexico’s first F1 driver for 30 years. Perez is entering his second season in F1 after an impressive debut campaign which included a test for Ferrari, whose driving development programme he is part of.

Hot on his heels is fellow countryman Esteban Gutierrez, who won the GP3 championship in 2010 and is expected to contend for the GP2 crown with Lotus GP (formerly ART) this year.

Both enjoy backing from Mexican telecommunications giant Telmex. Carlos Slim Domit, son of Telmex’s chairman (and the world’s richest man) Carlos Slim Helu, is an enthusiastic supporter of bringing F1 back to Mexico.

Domit, an FIA Senate member and patron of the Asociacion Mexicana Automovilistica (Mexican Automobile Association), believes a Mexican round could connect with the existing races in Canada and Brazil and forthcoming two rounds in the USA.

He told the FIA’s InMotion magazine last December: “Linking races in Canada and the US with a Mexican round would perfectly consolidate Formula One’s footprint in North and Central America and provide a viable bridge to the race in Brazil.”

On a recent visit to Mexico FIA president Jean Todt said: “Today, Mexico is an economically strong country and I am convinced that in the future [an F1 return] is possible,

“However, we know that the races have a cost, [and] there are also a number of criteria for the approval of an event, especially in terms of safety.”

The best of both worlds

Mexico previously held F1 races between 1963 and 1970 and again from 1986 to 1992 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. Domit calls the circuit the “obvious choice” for a revived Mexican Grand Prix.

It’s not hard to see why. Most F1 circuits can be broadly divided into two categories: permanent facilities built outside of city centres, and temporary facilities built within city centres.

Both have obvious compromises: Circuits built on public roads have restricted layouts and while some can produce excellent tracks (Monaco, Long Beach) others turn out less well (Valencia, Phoenix). Permanent facilities do not have this problem, but they lack the key advantage of holding a race in the middle of a city – immediate access to a large population.

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez potentially offers the best of both worlds. The circuit is already built, though it would undoubtedly need updating to modern standards.

And, like Interlagos in Brazil, it has the advantage of being situated in a very large city. Mexico City is home to 20.4 million people, making it the world’s third-largest metropolitan area, outstripping current and future F1 venues Sao Paulo (Interlagos) and New York (New Jersey) respectively.

Safety

Domit called the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez an “obvious choice” for a race. But, like Todt, he stressed the need to bring the circuit up to F1′s safety standards: “This would of course need remodelling to bring it up to the standard of the circuits now gracing the F1 stage, but several design agencies have been consulted and the possibilities for the circuit are good.”

Last year FIA safety delegate Charlie Whiting inspected the circuit to examine its potential for upgrading to FIA Grade 1 status.

Domit added: “The circuit also has enormous heritage value and features such as the legendary banked Peraltada corner (the 180-degree right-hander at the end of the lap) would make the track a fine addition to any calendar.”

But when it comes to modernising old circuits while retaining their character, F1 does not have a great track record (excuse the pun). Hockenheim’s conversion has not proved popular with fans and the circuit now hosts races on alternate years. Fuji Speedway was emasculated with a seemingly endless series of tight, slow corners – and held just two F1 races before being dropped again.

It’s unrealistic to expect F1 drivers to be allowed to tackle the Peraltada in its current form without either drastically reducing their entry speed or adding extra run-off (unlikely as there’s a public road behind the retaining wall). Hopefully much of its simple layout and sinuous curves could be retained without resorting to the usual Tilke tricks of making the lap excessively long and infested with hairpins and chicanes.

Potential

Sergio Perez, Sauber, Guadalajara, 2011

Perez entertained a huge crowd at Guadalajara

At a time when many F1 circuits are suffering from falling spectators numbers, the potential popularity of a Mexican Grand Prix is an exciting prospect. Last year over 150,000 people turned out to see Perez drive his Sauber in his home town of Guadalajara.

Domit adds: “The 2005 Champ Car race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez reportedly attracted a race day crowd of some 159,000 people and an event weekend total of 271,000 fans. These are figures that would be the envy of any F1 circuit.”

There are rival new-build projects competing to be the home of a new Mexican Grand Prix. No doubt these would offer pristine tracks, gleaming pit buildings and somewhere fancy for the Paddock Club denizens to quaff their champagne, nibble their amuse-bouche and ignore the inconvenient din of racing cars.

But none of them could rival the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez for heritage, nor its proximity to such a vast audience. F1 would be crazy to consider going anywhere else in Mexico.

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Image ۩ Williams/LAT, Sauber F1 Team

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98 comments on Why ‘Mexico’s Interlagos’ would be perfect for F1

  1. Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 15th February 2012, 15:42

    I’m going to go against the grain of the article and say I don’t think this track would be very suitable for modern F1 racing. Not due to safety issues, but because those esses are going to make getting close to the car in front incredibly difficult. In it’s heyday, yes it was fantastic. I’ve raced it in GPL and it’s a pretty awesome (if very technical and tricky) track. But because of the dirty air problem when following in fast corners, I see it easily becoming processional. I’m all about bringing back some of the heritage with older tracks, but I’m not sure this is the right one for it.

    • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 15th February 2012, 15:51

      What do you propose then? Tilkedromes? Straight hairpin straight hairpin so the cars can get close to one another? Like, say, Abu Dhabi? Besides, with KERS and DRS it’s a moot point already.

    • djdaveyp85 (@djdaveyp87) said on 15th February 2012, 16:42

      Cars seem to follow each other through becketts at silverstone. I don’t think the sirty air problem is as bad as made out. Look at where Lewis Hamilton overtook Vettel around Shanghai last season, he caught him through a high-speed corner and passed him into the next one. You’ve gotta have cojones that all!

      • peru-kowalsky said on 15th February 2012, 21:10

        agree. And don’t forget montoya. He never seemed to have any problems overtaking when everybody was saying it was imposible. Yo just have to have the talent,and the will to go for it, even if sometimes you know you are going to get it wrong.

  2. Sean Newman said on 15th February 2012, 16:00

    I can’t see how they could use the Peraltada at all at the moment. There’s not even space to put in a chicane before it. Best Option would be put the road behind in tunnel and have the run off over the top.

    Here’s why the Peratalda need to be kept. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2g1yrGputA

    • peru-kowalsky said on 15th February 2012, 21:13

      i remember that one. You’ve got to love nige. He was so brave.
      He fought the best drivers in the history of the sport, and he beat them sometimes.

  3. Alonso (@alonsomanso) said on 15th February 2012, 16:05

    the track is good have lots of history, in that track the first Nascar race out of the US was ran there, the Champ car ran there also the cart, the Grand AM i think not sure.
    i really like the final turn “la peraltada” (have lot of banking that turn).

    Mexico have a lots of avantage but have a little problem
    1) the surface of the track because, Mexico is down under mud the whole Mexico city in under mud so the track have a deformations in the track and they have to repave the track each year and is very expensive.

  4. slowhand (@slowhand) said on 15th February 2012, 16:12

    Attenede 3 GPs at Mexico City- always had a great time inside the track, but the area surronding the track was very depressing. Hope things have improved since the 1980’s – F1 must be careful not to create an image where it is seen as an amusement for the wealthy playing while surronded by proverty

  5. I’m certainly for returning to circuits with a big history in F1, in countries where the sport has always been felt intensively rather than building a new circuit in the middle of nowhere, or closing some random streets in a metropolis and holding a race there.
    However I don’t think this current way of changing the rounds on the calendar will work well for long. Hosting a race, spending millions to adjust the circuit to modern day standards, just because there is currently a Mexican in F1 is ridiculous. If the fans follow the sport just because Perez is racing, what will happen when he will retire? The race will be dropped as no one will be interested anymore.
    On the other hand, if the Mexicans are really fascinated by F1 and want to host a race there, and it’s not only a momentary passion which Perez is bringing, I’m all for a race at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit.
    I don’t have a clear opinion on the circuit: everyone says the Peraltada is a great corner, and @keithcollantine praises the whole track, so I loved it when I finished reading the article. Then I read @dan-thorn‘s comment, and I saw the other face of the medal.
    Definitely I’d rather a race in Mexico, which has a great heritage, on a glorious track, than another Tilkedrome designed for its infrastructures and not for good racing.

    • peru-kowalsky said on 15th February 2012, 21:18

      the perez factor is just what’s necesary to bring f1 back. But without mexican drivers the race track is full no matter what.
      Do not understimate the fan base in south america. All races live on tv, at a very early hour. The dakar, and they are building tracks now that the economy is booming.
      Who would build a race track nowadays in europe?

  6. Tim Wood (@Austin_F1) said on 15th February 2012, 18:17

    I don’t think F1 would be crazy to consider the Cancun area, with its massive hotel base and popularity as a tourist destination for travelers from all over the world.

    My family and I would be there literally every year.

  7. Shimks (@shimks) said on 15th February 2012, 18:24

    …and somewhere fancy for the Paddock Club denizens to quaff their champagne, nibble their amuse-bouche and ignore the inconvenient din of racing cars.

    Keith, that has to be one of the funniest things you’ve ever written!!! :O)

  8. David B said on 15th February 2012, 19:25

    I’m absolutely a fan of this track. The lay-out is unique, and isn’t only chicanes. Not to deny that Peraltada is the best attractive spot. I don’t see how they could make it feasible for current standards, but would be very sorry to see a race there without the famous Peraltada design.
    For the rest…long straight, great braking and overtaking spot with no need of DRS, than a difficult sequence of curves, than another straight and a hard fast-slow combination…then hairpins and increasing speed esses, so difficult to correlate…great track, guys, great track!

  9. Kanil (@kanil) said on 15th February 2012, 21:02

    Would they really need extra runoff at the Peraltada? Couldn’t they build an oval-style retaining wall with SAFER barrier there?

    Works for IndyCars, and F1 cars would be slower and safer than them as well, even flat out.

  10. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 15th February 2012, 21:10

    I think the best thing that Hermanos Rodriguez has going for it is the circuit’s altitude. Because it is so far above sea level, the air is thinner than at any other circuit, which provides its own set of challenges for the teams.

    Hopefully much of its simple layout and sinuous curves could be retained without resorting to the usual Tilke tricks of making the lap excessively long and infested with hairpins and chicanes.

    I think this is a bit of a strange comment, Keith – you linked to the Buddh International Circuit, but that was very well-received. Yes, the Indian Grand Prix was dominated by Sebastian Vettel, but I think that had more to do with the RB7’s superiority over the rest of the grid rather than a bad circuit design.

    • peru-kowalsky said on 15th February 2012, 21:20

      the altitud factor bring back memories of the old kyalamy. When the renaults usually dominated, if they got to the finish.

  11. I’d love for F1 to return to Mexico City, hopefully without a badly castrated Peraltada. Still, I think the track is great because the series of Esses in the middle of the lap flow so brilliantly. They’re like a reverse Suzuka or a Becketts to Maggots combination.

  12. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 15th February 2012, 22:56

    I never knew how seriously to take the Mexico bid, or if there would ever be a realistic possibility. However, this article has convinced me otherwise!

  13. JustinF1 (@justinf1) said on 16th February 2012, 2:27

    Great job Keith !!
    A Mexican GP would help F1 greatly and probably help American GP’s popularity as well and thus give F1 an added boost.

  14. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 16th February 2012, 3:19

    Here’s an idea to save the Peraltada: dig it up. Then excavate the ground underneath it, and build a retaining wall on the outside of the corner, and line the barriers with catch fencing. Finally, rebuild the Peraltada exactly as it was, but the only difference is that it would now be several metres lower than it originally was.

  15. Fisha695 (@fisha695) said on 16th February 2012, 6:14

    Didn’t read all the comments but I remember the NASCAR Nationwide & Grand-Am series races there and they were pretty good. As for that final corner I believe the baseball stadium is setup in a way that the track can weave through it and take only the last half of that banked corner.

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