It’s been a long-held belief of mine that in order to be a true World Championship, Formula 1 needs to visit each and every continent, and the additions of India and Russia have finally tapped the sport into two major regions that have, until now, remained unaccounted for.
One region that I constantly overlooked was Latin America, but the emergence of Sergio Perez (and to a lesser extent, Esteban Gutierrez) has made me reconsider. There was, once upon a time, a Mexican Grand Prix, though I was never a fan of the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit. And given the reception to Perez, both during his demonstration run in his home town and after his performance in Melbourne, it’s clear that he’s not only very popular, but that Mexicans love their motorsport. This year’s Rally Mexico had a massive turnout, and there has been talk of a resurgence of the race in recent times, most notoriously the infamous “manta-ray” circuit.
It’s a common criticism of the sport that Formula 1 is expanding into new markets with no fanbase. But Mexico has fans, and the world’s richest man, who is clearly invested in the sport. Until such time as Formula 1 can return to Mexico, Austin will have to do as a defacto home race for Perez and the Mexican fans. But should the sport return at all? It’s too soon to judge Perez, but if he makes good on his potential, there is going to be massive demand. The problem is that a Mexican Grand Prix might come at the expense of a European event, particularly a popular one like Spa (though if Valencia were facing the headsman’s axe, I doubt many would rush to its aid). Then again, Hermann Tilke has promised more circuits like Austin and less like Shanghai in future, while Bernie Ecclestone is trying to get the rules loosened up and get Tilke involved in the design process sooner (as a consultant as to the land that should be set aside). Assuming Perez is every bit as good as Melbourne implied, then I don’t think a race should be held in Mexico unless the circuit is anything less than a modern classic. The sheer number of fans deserve it.
Personally, I’d suggest Guanajuato as a venue for a new Mexican Grand Prix. The main thoroughfares of the city are built on dried-out riverbeds that are lower than the rest of the city, and they’re actually fairly wide. I think they could make a real Mexican Monaco offering fans plenty of viewing opportunities. Like these: