#F1 Circuit Profile: The #MexicanGP on-track report

Brought to you by TheJudge13 roving reporter Adam Macdonald (@adamac39)

The news broke of a return to the calendar of the Mexican GP to a round of approval on Twitter and other social media platforms.  While this is a time to be happy at the return of a classic race of yesteryear, the celebrations should come with consideration of the obstacles the race faces.  Furthermore, there will be significant impacts on other races – most notably that just over the border in Austin, Texas.

Having been there at the start of June, it seemed the perfect time to write up my observations from my day at the Mexico City Circuit.  The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is about to undergo major change for the better as the premier series of motorsport returns to its asphalt.

Track condition

As should be expected of a place which has been left to battle the elements for over 20 years, the condition of the track and surrounding areas will require some major investment to reach the high standards that Bernie demands.  The track is split almost the whole way round as it has been baked under the sun, as well as being used for private events and lower levels of racing.

Mind the gap

Mind the gap

Given how much safety standards have changed since the 90s, there will need to be a complete change of fencing and protective equipment around the track.  I’m told it still uses the same barriers that were used back in the last century which, of course, would fall a long way short of the high levels that Formula One akin to.

 

Safety standards are now much higher in Formula One

Safety standards are now much higher in Formula One

The barrier that separates the main straight and pit lane

The barrier that separates the main straight and pit lane

Of course, not really a ‘track’ consideration, but the podium stand has not changed since the previous races.  Maybe a Monza style podium would work here to really bring the pilots closer to the fans?

Another item for the wishlist - a new podium

Another item for the wishlist – a new podium

Is the support there?

Having been in Austin last November for the Grand Prix, for a country which supposedly little understood the nature of Formula One the race was immensely followed.  The city, the Capital of the state of Texas, was transformed for that week as Formula One took over and converted many a new fan.

However, many of the people attending the race and bringing money in the coffers of the race organiser, Red McComb and his merrymen, were of Latin origin and had travelled over the border from Mexico and other nations.  Given the large difference in cost of living between the two countries, the language barrier in the US and the ease of access to the States, it could mean a much smaller US crowd in 2015.

As far as backing for a race in Mexico City goes, one of the largest cities in the world, the support will undoubtedly come.  A very interesting ploy will come at the price of tickets and how accessible to the average Mexican the race will be.

From the people I spoke to in Austin back in November, and Mexico City in June of this year, they both want a Mexican race.  At last it seems Bernie has answered these fans’ call…

Back in Austin, Texas 2013, the support was definitely there for a race as I spoke with some of the Mexican fans present

Back in Austin, Texas 2013, the support was definitely there for a race as I spoke with some of the Mexican fans present

The race organisers are claiming it has the potential to be the most well attended Grand Prix of the year.  This is not something I would disagree with entirely, but it will depend on a number of factors and a fair amount of investment.  The metro stop which would carry people to the race from the centre of Mexico City will require serious upgrades to make it safely able to transport the 6 figure crowds the organisers are suggesting is achievable.

Currently, the station would not have the capacity to transport anywhere near the amount of fans that are being suggested.  With very few hotels and hostels in the vicinity of the track it will mean long commutes for those wishing to attend the race.

The 'Ciudad Deportiva' station will require major upgrades

The ‘Ciudad Deportiva’ station will require major upgrades

Timing

The timing of the Grand Prix, which is set to be late in the season around November time, may seem odd at first but all makes sense when all the stakeholders are taken into consideration.  A reshuffle of the calendar may be in order as the race would surely take fans away from the Austin GP.

Due to the Baseball stadium being located inside the confines of the track, it is not possible to host a race while the baseball season is on according to the staff there.  Given that the season runs from mid-March through until August, the window for Grand Prix hosting is actually relatively short as F1 only leaves Europe in September.

With the above considered, the Mexican rainy season must also be considered. Given the delicate nature of the modern race cars and their inability to run in heavy rain, the downpours that often occur during the rainy season will be too much.  This usually finishes towards the end of October, which only leaves November as a plausible time for the race.

So is everyone happy?

The simple answer is not exactly.  Much of the reason for this is the nature of the megacity and the current state of affairs for the circuit.  At present time, it is open to the public all year (barring private events) as a recreational space for all to use – which in a city where everyone seems to live on top of each other is vital.  However, assuming the people manage to find somewhere else to walk their dogs, go for runs and enjoy some open space, there should be no problem, right?

In fact, the problem goes way further than just considering people there for casual occasions.  Firstly, inside the circuit are some of the only football pitches in the surrounding area which the local football team uses as an academy training centre.  If and when the Grand Prix returns, this space will need to be used for the cavalry that comes with the Formula One entourage.  At present, there is no facility setup for hospitality, vending or any other space dependent venture that goes with a GP weekend.

The football pitches will need to be removed as the space will be required by the F1 race

The football pitches will need to be removed as the space will be required by the F1 race

The customary concert that accompanies Grand Prix weekends will not be a problem to host as there is already a stage and setup behind the pit garages.  It currently hosts many concerts and music festivals, so I have no doubt the fans will be looked after on that front.  Speaking to many at the Austin Grand Prix, this was one of the attractions for people who were not 100% sure about attending the race.  Anything that draws in the crowds must surely be considered.

The stage, photo taken from the baseball stadium

The stage, photo taken from the baseball stadium

Where footballers will train is in truth not something of great importance.  They are able to train in a range of places so I’m sure that an academy that has the backing of Cruz Azul will find a new home.  The other stakeholders are the Mexican athletes who use the space to train on a daily basis.

When I was at the circuit back in June there were no fewer than 4 Paralympians using the circuit as a training venue.  After moving on from the pleasantries of introduction and how much they loved being thrust into the limelight at the London Paralympic games – the first Paralympics ever to sell out the tickets – it quickly became apparent what the effect of a race here would do to these largely marginalised athletes.  The sobering thought of these athletes being forced to find an alternative venue to train hit home when they explained this was one of the only places to train in a city of 21.2 million people.  Is it fair that they be restricted all for the sake of a once a year race?

It was all smiles on the day, but will they remain if the Grand Prix returns?

It was all smiles on the day, but will they remain if the Grand Prix returns?

See you there?

I for one am extremely excited by the prospect of the race returning – especially as the time frame given is very realistic with building work set to start on the track complex in the coming weeks. The thought of the V6 cars hurtling around the final turn would have been a mouth-watering prospect…

The long final turn that circles the baseball stadium

The long final turn that circles the baseball stadium

Instead, they look set to be directed through the baseball stadium.  While this may not be the racing turn that many would have wanted, this will allow tickets to be sold in the stadium which seats over 50,000 people.

The Foro Sol baseball stadium, which will see the cars pass through it, right to left, under the proposed track layout

The Foro Sol baseball stadium, which will see the cars pass through it, right to left, under the proposed track layout

They’ll then dive into the short pit lane – which means a minimal loss of time pitting leading to a higher likelihood of split tyre strategies.  This combined with the street circuit fenced racing makes the Mexican Grand Prix a must have on the calendar!

The narrow and short pit entrance beneath the baseball stadium

The narrow and short pit entrance beneath the baseball stadium

The race will help promote the sport in the country, as well as the rest of Latin America, which must be considered as an essential upcoming market for the series.  As of 2015, this view will be the view from 22nd place on the grid which shows just how close the fans are to the action!

Grandstands either side of the main straight allow fans to be close to the action

Get set Mexico – Formula One is returning

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11 responses to “#F1 Circuit Profile: The #MexicanGP on-track report

  1. Interesting piece thanks Adam.
    You’ve made some good points regarding those interests that will be displaced by the revamp (and the consequent decisions), but one thing stuck with me from a comment posted on JS blog today – there seems to be an even larger undesirable contingent in the vicinity then that ‘enjoyed’ in Brazil?

    • Two things that must be considered on this side then Peter.
      Firstly, when the race was held there in the 1990s it was an area on the outskirts of the city which had been largely forgotten in terms of investment and development. The city has since expanded and made this much more of an urban area.
      Secondly, providing that people do not stay around this area, it will be very easy to keep them secure on the trains to the race, as well as between the station and circuit complex. If the correct security is employed I would not envisage this as a problem.

  2. With Russian, Korean, Thai, and Indian GPs hanging by the thread for political or financial reasons, it was expected that F1 would eventually return to Mexico.

    • The biggest question was always where Jacob. Mexico City is the most logical race for it to be though.

  3. Sadly there is no prospect of the v6’s hurtling through the final corner. Because of the lack of run off the track map released yesterday shows the turn will be cut in half, ending with a 90 degree left turn into the baseball stadium. This race will be set up as a street circuit in all but name. More Valencia than Monza.

    • I would say the reason for the cars going through the baseball stadium is more a financial driven reason. If tickets can be sold in the stadium then this will be massively increase those available to the public. While there is little run-off around the final turn, there is plenty of space behind the track barriers for cars to be lifted into if they were to crash out.

      • Yes a bit of both. No real incentive to spend money improving runoff on the final corner when the alternative comes with a massive couple of grandstands! It will be a cool track though I’m sure

  4. The last corner won’t be used. Instead they’ll likely use the double hairpin (think Indy) that goes into and back out of the stadium.

    🙁

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