Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez: The Ultimate Track Guide

Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez: The Ultimate Track Guide

After years of rumours, Formula 1 returned to Mexico City in 2015 with a capacity crowd lining the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez track. The high altitude circuit has provided plenty of memorable moments during its three stints in the sport.


FIRST F1 RACE 1962
TRACK LENGTH 2.747 miles
NUMBER OF LAPS 70
NUMBER OF TURNS 17
MOST POLES Jim Clark (4)
MOST WINS Jim Clark, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Lewis Hamilton (2)

Mexico became familiar with motorsport in the early 1950s when the road race Carrera Panamericana began to be held. The rally was widely regarded as the most dangerous anywhere in the world, and regularly attracted racing stars from Formula One. There was at least one fatality in every running of the race between 1950 and 1954, including the controversial death of a vulture in the 1952 event.

It wasn’t long before the country wanted its own permanent international racing circuit, and so one was built in the Magdalena Mixhuca area of Mexico City. The building of the track coincided with the rise of the Rodriguez brothers, Ricardo and Pedro, hence the desire for a Mexican Grand Prix was strong.

The race was run as a non-championship round in 1962. Ricardo Rodriguez, who was just nineteen, was a Ferrari driver but, as the event was a non-championship round, Ferrari declined to enter and instead Rodriguez entered in a Rob Walker Racing Lotus car. His presence in the event was enough to fill the grandstands. There was to be a tragic outcome though, as Rodriguez crashed at the ferocious Peraltada corner and died as a result.

The circuit was found to not be at fault for the crash, so the event gained championship status in 1963. By this time, the younger Pedro Rodriguez had reached Formula One. It wasn’t until 1970 that Rodriguez had a genuine shot at winning the Mexican Grand Prix, and fans flocked to the circuit in anticipation. There was controversy, however, as some fans climbed over the barriers and sat on the grass verges on the side of the track. The race went ahead, and luckily no-one was injured. Jacky Ickx won the Grand Prix, but Formula One would not return to the track until the mid-eighties. The track’s downfall was that officials were unable to control the masses of fans.

In the intervening years, the track was renamed in honour of the Rodriguez brothers. Pedro’s life was tragically cut short, just like his brother’s, following a crash in an Interserie sports car race in Germany.

When F1 returned in 1986, the track was rough and bumpy and even caught superstar Ayrton Senna out on a number of occasions. The circuit had been altered slightly, but remained popular with drivers, despite the bumps. The Mexican Grand Prix provided plenty of memorable moments over its second stint in the sport. With complaints about air pollution, and the declining standard of the track surface, Formula One last visited in 1992.

The track laid largely dormant for the next decade, aside from national racing events, until the ChampCar series came to the track in 2002. NASCAR also began visiting the track in 2005 and A1GP followed in 2007, and returned in 2008. During this time, rumours swirled of F1’s return to Mexico. In 2003, plans for a track to be built near Cancún to host F1 were mooted, but the track never came to fruition. In 2005, more rumours came of the return of the Mexican Grand Prix for 2006, but again these were false. In 2006, Bernie Ecclestone claimed the race would return for the 2009 season, but once again the season came and went without a Mexican round.

In May 2012, it was announced that the Mexican Grand Prix would return to the F1 calendar at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez track for the 2013 season, replacing the European Grand Prix. The race did not materialise. The Mexican round was then included on the provisional 2014 calendar, but removed by the time the final calendar emerged. Eventually, the Mexican Grand Prix was featured on the final 2015 F1 calendar in December 2014.

The track was partially altered by Hermann Tilke ahead of its return to the F1 calendar in 2015. A new main grandstand was built, along with new garages and a control tower. The iconic Peraltada corner was gone, but in its place was an equally impressive stadium section of the track. Turns thirteen, fourteen and fifteen run through a baseball stadium, with thousands of fans cheering their favourite drivers toward the end of the lap. From there, the track joins with the original end section of the Peraltada corner, before sweeping around to the start/finish straight.

Formula One’s return to Mexico was instantly hailed as a success, as hundreds of thousands of Mexican fans flocked to the circuit. In a sport which is always searching for a new market, it was refreshing to return to a former market and see the sport still so highly regarded despite its 23 year absence.

The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez holds a contract to host the Mexican Grand Prix until 2022.


🇲🇽 2019 RACE RECAP

Max Verstappen’s misdemeanours in qualifying saw him relegated from pole position. Charles Leclerc inherited the pole, but it was Lewis Hamilton who won, taking one step closer to a sixth World Championship win.

In qualifying for the Mexico Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas crashed in the closing stages at the final corner, bringing out the yellow flags. Max Verstappen, who had already secured pole position, failed to back off while trying to improve his lap time and was handed a three-place grid penalty for ignoring the yellow flags. That promoted Charles Leclerc to pole position, with team-mate Sebastian Vettel alongside him on the front row. Leclerc made a good start as Lewis Hamilton attempted to pass Vettel. Hamilton had nowhere to go and was squeezed by Verstappen through the opening corners, with the pair running across the grass. At the front, the two Ferrari drivers made light contact. Bottas and Verstappen battled for seventh place, with Verstappen picking up a puncture. Sergio Perez gave the partisan crowd something to cheer about in a fight with Daniil Kvyat. He went on to equal his best result at the circuit with seventh place. Lando Norris was having a good afternoon, until his pit stop, when he left the box with a loose tyre. Hamilton pitted for Hard tyres to see him through to the end of the race. Vettel inherited the lead until he himself pitted for Hard tyres, while Leclerc came in for the same compounds six laps later but suffered a slow stop, On the last lap, Kvyat made contact with Nico Hulkenberg, sending the Renault driver into a spin. The Toro Rosso driver received a post-race penalty for the incident. At the front, Hamilton was able to stay ahead of Vettel, while Bottas completed the podium finishers.


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FAST FACTS

  • The baseball stadium which the track runs through is named the Foro Sol, and had played host to musical acts such as Madonna, U2, Coldplay, The Killers and One Direction.
  • The track is at the highest altitude seen all season, at 2,200 metres above sea level. The high altitude circuit can cause a decrease in engine performance. The thinner air also makes this Grand Prix more physically demanding for the drivers.
  • Unusually, the podium isn’t located in the pit area at this track, but is instead at the stadium section of track, allowing the drivers to celebrate in front of 30,000 fans.
  • 54% of the lap is spent at full throttle.
  • The circuit has room for 150,000 fans, with over 300,000 expected over a Grand Prix weekend.
  • It takes eighteen seconds to make a pit-stop here.
  • John Surtees clinched the championship at this track in 1964.
  • Michael Schumacher took his first F1 podium here in 1992.
  • The final turn of the track, the latter half of the old Peraltada corner, was named in honour of Nigel Mansell in 2015.

🇲🇽 MEXICAN GP WINNERS AND POLESITTERS

YearPolesitterTeam On PoleWinnerWinning Team
1963Jim ClarkLotusJim ClarkLotus
1964Jim ClarkLotusDan GurneyBrabham
1965Jim ClarkLotusRichie GintherHonda
1966John SurteesCooperJohn SurteesCooper
1967Jim ClarkLotusJim ClarkLotus
1968Jo SiffertLotusGraham HillLotus
1969Jack BrabhamBrabhamDenny HulmeMcLaren
1970Clay RegazzoniFerrariJacky IckxFerrari
1986Ayrton SennaLotusGerhard BergerBenetton
1987Nigel MansellWilliamsNigel MansellWilliams
1988Ayrton SennaMcLarenAlain ProstMcLaren
1989Ayrton SennaMcLarenAyrton SennaMcLaren
1990Gerhard BergerMcLarenAlain ProstFerrari
1991Riccardo PatreseWilliamsRiccardo PatreseWilliams
1992Nigel MansellWilliamsNigel MansellWilliams
2015Nico RosbergMercedesNico RosbergMercedes
2016Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2017Sebastian VettelFerrariMax VerstappenRed Bull
2018Daniel RicciardoRed BullMax VerstappenRed Bull
2019Charles LeclercFerrariLewis HamiltonMercedes