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F1 History 19

The return of the Mexican Grand Prix?

Most exciting news of the week? Webber might go to Ferrari? Vettel might leave Red Bull? Hamilton offered £95 million to stay with McLaren? (Yes, really).

No, the best of the news of the week, for me anyway, is the possible return of the Mexican Grand Prix. Not at some new Tilke Drome, but at the highly charged Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez (The Circuit of the Brothers Rodriguez) in Mexico City, the scene of so many dramas over the years. It is reported that the Gran Premio di Mexico will replace the race at Valencia from 2013 onwards. Well, not everyone loves Mexico, but very few will mourn the loss of the Valencian circuit from the F1 calendar.

history  The return of the Mexican Grand Prix?

This is perfect timing, of course, with Sergio Perez riding high in the charts. And, who knows, maybe Sergio will be in a Ferrari by the time he gets to race in his home country. The place will go berserk whatever he’s driving. The Mexicans adore their motor racing, always have done, ever since Pedro and Ricardo Rodríguez (below) stormed onto the Grand Prix scene and immediately impressed with their skill and courage. Pedro became a hero in Europe, his exploits in a Porsche 917 can never be forgotten, never mind his results in a Formula 1 car.

history  The return of the Mexican Grand Prix?

Tragically, and in the cruellest twist of fate, Ricardo was killed in practice for the very first Mexican GP in 1962, a non-championship race in which he was due to drive Rob Walker’s Lotus after Ferrari opted not to do the event. The car’s rear suspension failed at the fearsome Peraltada corner and Mexico lost a hugely talented driver, a teenager who already had a Ferrari contract in his pocket. The original Magdalena Mixhuca circuit was later re-named in memory of the Rodríguez brothers, but it was not until 1991, after Senna crashed at Peraltada, that the 180-degree banked corner was modified.

Then there’s the Carrera Panamericana, one of the oldest road races in the world, and still being staged to this day, albeit in a slightly emasculated form. The Carrera is still a mighty challenge, however, and attracts huge crowds along its route across Mexico.

history  The return of the Mexican Grand Prix?

When the older ones among us first saw the rumours, our immediate thought was surely the challenges involved in bringing the famous Autódromo up to 21st Century safety standards. The last Grand Prix to be held there was in 1992, a race that gave Michael Schumacher (above) his first podium. He qualified third in the Benetton-Ford and finished third, behind a Williams one-two for Mansell and Patrese who’d locked out the front row of the grid.

The reason why some may raise an eyebrow at a return to the atmospheric Autódromo is because, in the past, crowd control was not always as it should be and safety was always a nagging concern. In 1970 a gigantic crowd, estimated at 200,000, turned up to see Pedro Rodríguez race his BRM. The championship was over, Rindt had already won posthumously, but the locals cared not for the championship, they were there to worship their hero. The race was delayed while attempts were made to get spectators back behind fences they’d torn down in the fights to get the best vantage point but – even as the race got underway – there were people on the grass beside the track. Then, while running in third place, Jackie Stewart collided with a stray dog and retired with suspension damage. This crazy event finished with a one-two for Ickx and Regazzoni in Ferraris and as soon as the cars crossed the line spectators ran out onto the circuit and brought proceedings to a merciful halt. Pedro Rodríguez was sixth for BRM and he, like the rest of the participants, was just relieved to see the end.

history  The return of the Mexican Grand Prix?

There would be no more Mexican Grands Prix until 1986.

Of course this is all a long time ago, there are now pockets of immense wealth in Mexico, and no doubt the Autódromo will be brought in line with what is expected by contemporary Grand Prix racing. Not everyone likes to go racing in this part of the world but, like the Brazilians at Interlagos, the home fans will make this one of the more thrilling, colourful and highly-charged events on the modern calendar.

Add your comments

19 comments on The return of the Mexican Grand Prix?

  1. Lewis Lane, 1 June 2012 08:23

    If this happens, it’s great news for the sport. At least it’s going to somewhere where there is a passion and a history, and where the locals will welcome it with open arms. My only reservations are that i hope the fans aren’t priced out of the circuit, that at does actually happen at the Rodriguez Brothers Circuit and nowhere else, and that the track itself (another of the world’s greats in my opinion) doesn’t get Tilked. The Peraltada pretty much vanished a while ago i think, and i hope the rest doesn’t follow it… The atmosphere should be electric!

  2. Carlos Sanchez, 1 June 2012 08:39

    Couldn’t be happier myself, VIVA EL GRAN PREMIO de MEXICO!

  3. C C, 1 June 2012 11:53

    Ask me 25 years ago if it would be good to go and race at this circuit and i’d have shrugged my shoulders, not bothered either way. F1 still raced at some pretty good tracks.

    Fast forward to the 2012 Tilke-a-drome Championship and the prospect of racing somewhere with history and passion is a welcome relief.

    Western Europe, Japan, Australia, South America, North America. Thats where F1 needs to be, so its a step in the right direction. The way we’re going, I now regard the Hungaroring as an out and out Classic F1 Track… yes, its thats bad.

  4. Rich Ambroson, 1 June 2012 16:12

    The track was great before they destroyed the Peraltada and shortened the main straight. One of the best races I’ve seen from start to finish was the Mexican GP of 1990.

    As well as the track not being what it once was (though still interesting), the safety concerns in Mexico overall would seem to be much worse than in Sao Paolo for the Brazilian GP. Losing Valencia however, is no loss at all. As well, at least this isn’t BCE adding a Syrian GP to his list, so it is a positive step in comparison to some of the new GP venues lately.

  5. Chris Hall, 1 June 2012 21:24

    Fully agree with Rich Ambroson as regards the circuit changes. The original, banked, Peralta, that claimed Ricardo Rodriguez in 1962 was considerably flatter by the time the F1 circus arrived in 1986 and now exists as three 90 degree corners in the middle of a football stadium before rejoining the original line back onto the main straight. Having said which I always preferred the preceeding section which is a series of left right esses, each corner being quicker than the last.

    Given the cost of putting on a GP these days, I wonder if this will be known as the Carlos Slim Grand Prix of Mexico :o)

  6. ray fk, 3 June 2012 18:17

    the circuit has been ruined

  7. Dino, 4 June 2012 03:02

    Dear Mr. Ambroson,

    As an european living in Mexico City, I can tell you that I’ve not having a single safety issue in the four years I’ve been living here, but for instance was assaulted three times during my last year in Madrid. Like many places in the world, a low profile image saves you most times.

    The circuit is really great, it reminds me of Monza being so big and inside a park, and locals are really keen on morotsport. I really believe that the F1 calendar needs more classic circuits on conuntries where people loves the sport.

    Kind regards,


  8. rob widdows, 5 June 2012 12:07

    Thank you very much everyone for your observations and reactions. Yes, the circuit is not what it used to be, but the atmosphere will make up for that. Despite the emasculation of the Peraltada it is still a fine track and with Perez on the grid there will be a huge crowd. I am very slightly biased here because I just love racing in South America and in that part of the world – the fans make it such a BIG happening and yes, I am sure Signor Slim will be involved………..!
    I hope all you Brits had a great Royal Jubilee holiday. I did!

  9. Carlos Sanchez, 5 June 2012 12:27

    Dear Rob, may I just make a small correction to your otherwise superbly written, and documented, articles and thus may I clarify that Mexico, though culturally associated to Latin America, being geographically in the northern part of the hemisphere is therefore not in South but in North America.

  10. Sandeep Banerjee, 5 June 2012 13:01

    I wish they had kept Peraltada corner banked as it was and instead installed a chicane 200 metres before it. It is a pretty bland and uncharacteristic circuit today for the most part.

  11. ray fk, 5 June 2012 13:54

    The atmosphere may be great but the circuit like I previously mentioned has been absolutely ruined.In fact I now believe it’s worse than any Hermann Tilke circuit,it’s that bad.

  12. rob widdows, 6 June 2012 13:22

    Thanks Carlos! Yes, I know it’s in North America…….! I just meant that, to me, it looks, feels and sounds more South than North if you see what I mean!
    Anyway, on to Montreal, which – if the past is ever any guide to the future – should be a very good race. At some point in this crazy season we will get a proper idea of how the year will evolve – but next Sunday could well be another very unpredictable affair, especially in the area of tyre wear on a notoriously demanding track.

  13. Adrian Muldrew, 7 June 2012 14:58

    Thanks Rob; it’s always a joy to read your doses of pure enthusiasm for the sport we all love, in the way we all want to love it.
    I just sincerely hope that our expectations will not be dashed in the way they increasingly seem to have been in the weeks since you brought us similar news of a historic GP revived, i.e. France.
    I don’t know if anyone is still reading that thread, as it is so far down the site’s pecking order now, but, as it concerns the oldest GP in our sport, it is something about which I feel deeply, so I have posted quite a few times there, at some length I admit, to catalogue what looks like an ever-deepening tale of woe. Do please have a look, anyone who’s interested, if you have a moment, because I think it’s an important issue.
    There’s one thing I’ve read about the Mexican proposals which sound eerily and unhappily reminiscent of the French debacle. It was a report in the Spanish newspaper Marca, which said “Refurbishment work on the (Hermanos Rodriguez) circuit should begin as soon as the elections happen.” That’s a reference to next month’s presidential elections in Mexico and If it’s an indication that such work is dependent on a particular candidate winning, then it may or may not be relevant that the currently ruling party is presently lying third in the opinion polls (or joint second in one), at best 14% behind the frontrunner. Certainly we can say we’ve seen a nonchalant attitude to the effect of impending presidential elections elsewhere – “a local matter” was how a certain octogenarian described the French ones – and look what happened there.

  14. Ray T, 7 June 2012 19:02

    Memories of Mexico surround the spectators.
    But modern F1 is no longer about the spectators. F1 HATES spectators, they are an inconvenience. I doubt many would be able to afford to watch the race.

    As for tracks…Codemasters just released a simulation video on YouTube of the Circuit of the Americas, and man, that is one boring, featureless track. Tilke has outdone himself.

  15. Don Larsen, 9 June 2012 03:57

    Please keep in mind the level of drug war violence being visited on Mexico these days, and be sure you want to go anywhere near that.

  16. andre sassi, 10 June 2012 21:31

    “Not everyone likes to go racing in this part of the world”: just the idiots with no heart.

  17. Rich Snape, 17 June 2012 21:56

    Even though it’s not quite the same as it was, just imagine how good a sight the modern F1 car going around the Peraltada would be, and how it might be one of the very few corners to actually scare the drivers a little bit these days!

  18. Susie, 8 December 2012 15:41

    I will be in MC on January 25th. Anyone know if there is any Motorsport on?

  19. robert burnett, 17 March 2013 07:24

    I was there. A memory of bottles thrown on track. No? Rb.

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