Hello and welcome to the sixth episode of F1 Circuits Past and Present, a second series of the miniseries brought to you by Sidepodcast. We’ve covered old and new, with a focus on the old, but now it’s time to look at the returning. Formula One’s calendar for 2015 features a race that was previously on the calendar, and is making a comeback.
The Mexican Grand Prix arrived on the calendar as a result of a top flight Mexican driver, Ricardo Rodriguez, who was making his name in Formula One. The local government sat up and took notice, deciding they should host a home Grand Prix for their famous driver. They built a track in the parklands of Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City, and were ready for the 1962 season.
It was a non-championship event, and Ricardo’s team, Ferrari, decided not to attend. He wasn’t going to miss out on his home race, however, and so rented a Lotus so he could participate. Tragically, Ricardo was killed during qualifying for the race, but the Mexicans persevered. They renamed the track after their fallen hero, and started to support his brother, Pedro Rodriguez, who was also racing in sports cars. He made the switch to Formula One, winning two races in his career. He passed away almost ten years later, after a crash during a sports car race.
Meanwhile, the Mexican track was busy hosting Formula One races. After the first non-championship event, the second race in 1963 was an official part of the schedule, and it continued to be so until 1970.
The track is notable for being more than 2000 metres above sea level, which means the air is thinner and the drivers and engines perform differently than at other events. It’s also a very bumpy track that often needs to be resurfaced. The road course is a clockwise track, but there’s also an anti-clockwise oval that takes in the final corner and banking at high speeds. Various NASCAR series use the oval, although they have had several serious accidents due to some of the corners being blind on entry.
The initial reason for the disappearance of the race from F1 schedules was an unsafe infrastructure, particularly in regards to overcrowding by the fans. The FIA did not want Formula One to return to the circuit for the 1970 season, when organisers couldn’t guarantee they could stop the crowd invading the track.
During its time off, the circuit was redeveloped with a new pit and paddock complex, and returned for the 1986 season. The second stint of Mexican Grand Prix events was noted for the increasingly bumpy surface, which caused several high profile accidents and injuries. The 1987 race had to be stopped after an accident for current race steward Derek Warwick, in his Arrows car. The race’s brief return came to an end in 1992, with Nigel Mansell winning the final event held in Mexico.
A baseball stadium was built on the inside of the final corner of the track, which was the scene of festivals and concerts in the intervening period. Although other racing categories used the track, and they had to navigate the stadium by going through it, or detouring around it.
In 2012, the Mexican Grand Prix was included on provisional F1 calendars, but its second comeback had to be postponed at least twice before it hit the official calendars. Now the race, and the circuit, will feature towards the end of the 2015 F1 season, more than twenty years since it was last attended. The Force India team, despite the country included in their name, have taken the returning race to heart, celebrating a home race for their driver Sergio Pérez. They unveiled their new-look 2015 car in Mexico City, allowing visiting media a chance to pop over to the track and see the redevelopment of the circuit ahead of the race.
That’s all for this episode of F1 Circuits Past and Present. I’d love to hear your thoughts ahead of Mexico’s return to the Formula One calendar this year, get in touch via the contact form: sidepodcast.com/contact. I briefly mentioned the Arrows team in this show, you can find out more about them in the first series of Forgotten F1 Teams, also available on Sidepodcast. See you tomorrow for the final episode and our last circuit.
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