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

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

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.


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.


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

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

  1. Tim Wood (@Austin_F1)
    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.

  2. …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)

    1. @shimks Thanks! It was fun to write…

      (Disclaimer: I have done my fair share of quaffing and nibbling.)

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 20 years ago F1 cars were not safer than today, so let’s use the common sense, they were racing and taking those awesome corners at higher speeds so why suddenly the FIA are so scared about ‘peraltada’ in Mexico and other spectacular tracks and corners worldwide? I don’t see the FIA banning very dangerous corners such as ‘curva parabolica’ at Monza or ‘Eau Rouge’ at Spa …think about crashing at ‘Nouvelle chicane’ in Monaco coming outside the tunnel at top speed, why FIA isn’t banning this?

  12. Leaving aside the issue of whether they should and/or will go to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the larger issue is “how come everyone can largely agree on which tracks and features we like but few of them ever appear in a new facility”?

  13. Not that familiar with the circuit at all but looking at it it looks pretty good and fast, especially the fast sequence of corners.

  14. Keith Collantine: remarkable foresight, 2 and a half years ahead of his time! What a prophetic post this was.

    1. Thanks!

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