There’s no time for Lewis Hamilton to bask in the glory of his dominant win in the United States Grand Prix, as we are immediately off to Mexico. There’s work to be done for Hamilton, who must simply keep doing what he does best, put it on pole, and sail off into the distance. Nico Rosberg still knows that coming second every race will see him crowned champion, but as he saw in Austin, that’s a dangerous game to play, and with Red Bull lurking to take advantage of any hesitation from the Mercedes duo, qualifying and the start will again be crucial in determining the fate of the title rivals.
Jim Clark, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell have all managed to win the Mexican Grand Prix twice since it arrived on the F1 calendar (Clark winning a third time in the non-championship race in 1962). For the current drivers, the only experience of F1 in Mexico is last year’s race.
Mercedes Nico Rosberg enjoyed a pole to flag victory last year in the first race after Lew1is Hamilton had wrapped up the driver’s championship. Hamilton came home in second with Williams Valtteri Bottas completing the podium after a fine drive to leap frog the Red Bull’s. Ferrari had a disaster with both cars retiring. Sebastian Vettel had a day to forget, making a poor start, being forced to pit with a puncture after clobbering Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull as he turned into Turn 1, spinning off while pushing to make up ground and eventually losing control and flying into the barriers! Raikkoinen retired the second Ferrari after colliding with Valtteri Bottas while battling for position for the second time in three races.
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is the home of the Mexican Grand Prix, having hosted every Mexican Grand Prix since it first appeared on the F1 calendar back in 1963. The circuit was originally called the Magdalena Mixhuca Circuit (named after the park in Mexico City in which it is built), and was inaugurated in 1959 with the Mexico 500 km, which was won by local hero Pedro Rodriguez. The track hosted a non-championship Grand Prix in 1962 that saw a large international field, but the race was overshadowed by the death of Pedro’s younger brother Ricardo Rodriguez in practice after he crashed heavily at the Peraltada. The race would be won by Jim Clark in a Lotus, with Clark having taken over the car of team mate Trevor Taylor while in third place after Clark’s own car was black flagged! The track was renamed the Autodromo Ricardo Rodriguez and would go on to host a Grand Prix on the F1 Calendar in 1963. The first F1 Mexican Grand Prix was held in 1963, it was the second last round of the championship, and was won by the already crowned world champion Jim Clark for Lotus. The event stayed on the calendar until 1970, with the race holding the final round of the championship from 1964 through 1970, leading to a mix of title battles as well as some more relaxed races where the title was already decided. In 1964 the race was the scene for the thrilling climax of the championship, with Graham Hill (BRM) leading John Surtees (Ferrari) by 5 points coming into the race. Jim Clark (Lotus) was also still in the hunt, but looked an outside bet being a full race victory’s worth of points (9) behind Hill. Hill would fail to finish, and while it looked like Clark would take an unlikely title as he led the race with Surtees back in fourth place, he was cruelly denied when his car broke down on the second last lap, Clark being classified in fifth. Surtees would become champion by a single point from Hill (in a blue Ferrari!) after his team mate Lorenzo Bandini allowed him through into second place on the last lap, with Dan Gurney taking the victory in his Brabham. In 1965, the race was held after Jim Clark had already secured the world championship driving a Lotus, but will be remembered as the first victory for Honda in F1, with Richie Ginther taking what would be his sole F1 win, in what was also the first Grand Prix win for a car running Goodyear tyres. 1966 saw a similar story, with the championship already settled in Jack Brabham’s favour (driving his own car) before the final round in Mexico, with the race being won by John Surtees for Cooper this time. In 1967 the title was again settled here, – Jack Brabham needed a win to keep his hopes of taking the title from Brabham team-mate Denny Hulme, but Brabham was not able to keep up with Jim Clark, who was untouchable on the day in his Lotus, and Brabham had to settle for second on the day and in the championship, with Hulme securing his driver’s title with a third place finish. In 1968 Graham Hill secured the title with a win in his Lotus, Hill having started the day with a lead over Jackie Stewart (who’s Matra would wind up outside the points) and Denny Hulme (who’s McLaren retired). In 1969 the championship had already been settled in Matra’s Jackie Stewart’s favour, with Denny Hulme taking the win for McLaren. In 1970 the title had already been won by Jochen Rindt (who died after a crash at the Italian Grand Prix), and the race was a 1-2 for Ferrari, with Jacky Ickx easing home from team-mate Clay Regazzoni after Jackie Stewart had to retire his Tyrrell after hitting a dog that had gotten onto the track. That race was marred by trouble with the massive crowd, with the race delayed as spectators crossed fencing to line the track, staying on as the race started! The result was the race being dropped from the F1 calendar the following year. It would not return until 1986, with the track having being renamed the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in honour of both the Rodriguez brothers after the tragic death of Pedro Rodriguez in 1971. In 1986, Gerhard Berger took both his and Benetton’s first F1 victory for in 1986 after managing to run the race distance without stopping for tyres. In 1987 Nigel Mansell won the race despite his Williams team-mate Nelson Piquet crossing the line first! The race was split into 2 parts due to a heavy crash for Derick Warwick and the result decided on aggregate times, with Mansell the comfortable winner. The 1988 race saw the McLaren team lead home a 1-2 with Alain Prost taking the lead from Ayrton Senna at the start and the two cruising to a dominant win. 1989 saw Senna take revenge with a win for McLaren while Prost struggled with tyres to come home fifth. But in 1990 it was Prost who emerged victorious after a wonderful drive through the field to take the win, Senna having led most of the race but retired with a puncture. In 1991 Riccardo Patrese led home teammate Nigel Mansell for a Williams 1-2, with the positions reversed in another Williams 1-2 in 1992, Mansell easing to victory of Patrese, with a young Michael Schumacher recording his first F1 podium by coming home in third place for Benetton. This would be the last time the Mexican Grand Prix would be staged until 2015. The event had been struggling financially, and the bumpy track surface had led to numerous crashes over the years, including at the banked Peraltada corner (scene of Ayrton Senna’s serious crash in 1991 qualifying when he lost control on the bumps, his car spinning into the barriers and ending up upside down, the session having been restarted after an earlier incident saw Bertrand Gachot fly off the road at the Peraltada and smash his Jordan into the barriers).
The track has basically seen a separate configuration for each of the 3 stints Formula One has enjoyed at the track. The original layout was used for all the Grand Prix up to the departure of Formula One following the chaotic 1970 race. When Formula One returned in 1986 the track and pit facilities were upgraded, with a new esses section installed in place of the original first corner at the end of the main straight, with the track being further shortened by the removal of the hairpin section, with the track now doubling back sooner using an alternate configuration of track featuring another set of s bends. The Peraltada also saw its banking lowered in an attempt to make the corner somewhat safer. When Formula One returned last year after the lay off since 1992 there were major changes made to the track, with Hermann Tilke being given the task of making it suitable for modern Formula One. The track was completely modified and resurfaced, with new pit facilities built to accommodate the paddock. The layout followed basically the layout of the old track, but with modifications all along the way, seeing reprofiling of many of the corners on the track. The most stricking change is the removal of the famous Peraltada corner, with a lack of run off room to blame for the elimination of the high speed bend – not helped by the fact that a baseball stadium had grown up around it since F1 last visited in 1992! The track now cuts away from the old entry to the Peraltada and winds through the stadium and emerges in the latter half of the old corner.
The track is situated some 2.2 km above sea level, presenting a demanding challenge for the power units, with no other track coming close to operating at these heights – Brazil, at just under 800m, is the next highest altitude track on the calendar! The turbo’s will have to work harder and spin faster to get the required amount of oxygen into the internal combustion engine due to the thinner air at the high altitude, while the thin air will also reduce the aerodynamic performance and make cooling more difficult, not to mention placing more demands on the drivers themselves, so it is sure to be a tough weekend for man and machine in Mexico!
From the grid there is a very long drag down to the first corner, which will allow for cars to arrive at speed and try to outbreak each other for position. The pit exit ties back into the straight well before the corner, and the straight features the first DRS activation zone, so expect to see plenty of action into Turn 1 during the race, with plenty of moves being made and also missed here last year (Vettel pushing his Ferrari too deep up the inside and running wide as he attempted to pass Lotus Pastor Maldonado). The cars will arrive fast into the first corner, braking hard into the 90 degree right hander. The track then opens into a left/right combination, Turns 2 and 3, with the cars running wide at the exit of Turn 3, the track winding slightly to the right as the cars accelerating down a long straight featuring the second DRS activation zone. The cars move to the right to prepare for the next sequence of corners, a pair of 90 degree corners, a left hander (Turn 4) followed by right hander (Turn 5) – where Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came to grief last year as Williams Valtteri Bottas tried to pass him, Valtteri hanging around the outside of the Ferrari going around Turn 4 and running out of room on the inside of Turn 5, the Williams bumping the Ferrari out of his way and into retirement. Exiting turn 5 there’s a short stab of the throttle as the cars burst into a slow right handed hairpin at Turn 6. Exiting Turn 6 the cars run wide on the kerbs, crossing the track as they accelerate down a short straight in preparation for another quick section of esses, Turns 7 through Turn 11, the track snaking left, right, left, right, left. Turn 7 was the scene of Sebastian Vettel’s demise last year, spearing off the track having earlier spun at the same corner. Exiting Turn 11 the track winds left down another long straight leading into the stadium section, the cars braking hard into the sharp right hand Turn 12 as the enter the stadium, with not much space for mistakes on the outside (Pastor Maldonado testing this to the limit last year, just avoiding the barriers behind the stand!). From turn 12 the cars hit a short burst of acceleration before braking hard for the slow left hand Turn 13 (Sergio Perez delighted the crowd in the stadium by darting his Force India up the inside of Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso here last year). The cars wind slowly around Turn 13 flicking through a right hander Turn 14, climbing over the kerbs as they pass the DRS detection point and straight-line the little wiggle left called Turn 15 and out of the stadium, rejoining the old Peraltada via a tight right hand bend Turn 16 the cars then winding right around the remains of the old curve (Turn 17), with the pit entry on the inside, the cars shooting onto the long main straight with the DRS zone ready to challenge for position into Turn 1.
TYRES WITH PIRELLI:
The tyre nomination for the Mexican Grand Prix is exactly the same as that for the United States Grand Prix last weekend: P Zero White medium, P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft. However, the two circuits are very different, with Mexico only returning to the calendar last year following an illustrious history in its previous incarnations from the 1960s until 1992. The current layout maintains elements of the former, very fast circuit, combined with more recent technical and slower sections: making it an intriguing mix of old and new that is slightly reminiscent of Monza.
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW:
Along with Monza and Baku, Mexico is one of the fastest circuits on the 2016 calendar.
However, the cars run more downforce than at Monza, partly to compensate for the altitude.
The asphalt is still new, as the circuit was resurfaced for last year’s inaugural race (smoothing out the bumps that used to be typical of Mexico). The surface may have evolved this year.
Mexico’s most famous corner – Peraltada – is the one that takes most energy from the tyres.
Weather is always a question mark, with both warm conditions and heavy rain possible.
Last year, the track was slippery: however the circuit has been quite extensively used by a number of different championships during the season, which should lay more rubber down.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS:
White medium: a mandatory set, which has not been chosen extensively by most drivers.
Yellow soft: another mandatory set, likely to be used a lot and play a key role in race strategy.
Red supersoft: will be used in Mexico for the first time this year, mandatory for the Q3 session.
HOW IT WAS A YEAR AGO:
The race was affected by a late safety car that effectively handed drivers a ‘free’ final pit stop. Nico Rosberg won the 71-lap race, starting on soft and stopping for medium on laps 26 and 46.
Best alternative strategy: local hero Sergio Perez stopped only once, starting the race on the soft before switching to the medium on lap 18 to end up in a points-scoring eighth place.
PAUL HEMBERY, PIRELLI MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR:
“While the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is to all intents and purposes a new circuit, there’s a fantastic sense of history behind it, as the name suggests, supported by an incredible number of fans. The stadium section alone is one of the most electrifying experiences of the year. We raced here last year but there’s a strong possibility that the track has evolved since then. We’re also bringing the supersoft for the first time, so it will be important to assess all these new factors during free practice, which could present some interesting alternatives to the two-stop strategy that proved to be by far the most popular option in 2015.”
With Mexico being new to the calendar last year, there are no major changes this season.
2017 wet tyre testing continues next week with Red Bull in Abu Dhabi from November 2-3.
Pirelli has been announced as the exclusive tyre supplier to the new Blancpain GT Series Asia.
OTHER THINGS THAT HAVE CAUGHT OUR EYE RECENTLY:
Mexico is the highest-altitude circuit of the year, which means that turbo units have to spin faster to produce the same power. Deployment of electrical power is not affected though.
Top speeds in Mexico peaked at 366kph last year: this year they should be even quicker.
Lewis Hamilton did what he had to do in Austin, looking to be at ease with himself now that season is reduced to a ‘simply win it’ approach, while Nico Rosberg looked to be a little bit frozen by the fear of throwing away his shot at a drivers title into Turn 1. Red Bull certainly impressed in Austin, and Nico would be well advised to follow his own mantra of taking each race as they come, as the Red Bulls showed they are well capable of spoiling Rosberg’s title hopes if he takes his eye off the ball. Max Verstappen will be eager to have a clean race to stop the swing of momentum going his team-mate Ricciardo’s way in the intra Red Bull battle, which could all spell disaster for a hesitant Mercedes driver. Ferrari looked again to be a team unable to get their act together on race day, Vettel at least finding himself above Raikkonen in the championship standings after Raikkonen’s disaster pit stop ruined his day, but Ferrari will be expecting more bang for their buck from the four time champion. The pressure is surely still on at Maranello despite their being ‘nothing’ left to play for this year. Williams and Force India continue to fight it out for fourth place, with both teams being disappointed in Austin, time is running out if Williams are to catch up. McLaren put their dismal showing in Japan behind them with a decent showing in Austin (by recent standards only), and Jenson Button will be hoping he can grab a decent result before his impending sabattical/retirement. The battle between the Renault pair for continues to provide an interesting sub-plot to the races as they fight for their F1 lives, Palmer has been more impressive in the second half of the season, but time is almost out for the pair to prove their worth. Esteban Gutierrez could sorely do with a result on home soil as he looks to prove he still merits a place in F1 for next year.
1964– Surtees is champion on four wheels!
The Mexican Grand Prix was the last round on the 1964 World Championship calendar, and it served up a thrilling battle for the title. Coming into the race 3 drivers stood a chance at winning the title. , Graham Hill led the way for BRM, holding a 5 point cushion over Ferrari’s John Surtees, with 9 points being awarded to the winner. Hill’s position wasn’t so secure though, as with only the driver’s best 6 results counting towards the championship standings, he was already losing points (having his seventh best result, 2 points for a fifth place in Belgium already not counted). For Hill to add points he would have to score a third place or better, as his last counting score was 3 points earned for fourth place in the Dutch Grand Prix. Surtees had only recorded 5 scoring results to date, which meant he would gain any points here earned in the race, so for Hill to be guaranteed the title he had to either win, or place third if Surtees won. A Surtees victory with Hill in second would hand the title to Surtees, so everything was to play for. In third place, Lotus Jim Clark was a full race win, 9 points down on Hill, but like Surtees he would take any points he would earn as he had only scored in 4 races, and with Clark having already won 3 races in the season compared to Hills two, Clark would be champion if he could win and Hill could finish no better than fourth, and Hill didn’t finish better than third.
Coming in to the race Ferrari had taken the unprecedented step of racing under the blue colours of America at the preceding round in the United States, Ferrari having refused to race under their Italian racing licence over a dispute over the refusal to allow homologation of the new 250LM for GT racing (at least 100 cars would have to be produced to meet the criteria). Ferrari in protest entered the cars of Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini racing under a new banner, the North American Racing Team.
In qualifying Clark took pole position from the Brabham of Dan Gurney. Lorenzo Bandini in the Ferrari was third ahead of team mate Surtees, while Graham Hill could only manage 6th place behind the second Lotus of Mike Spence. Despite being a long shot for the title, things looked up for Clark at the start, as his title rivals dropped back down the field at the start while Clark converted pole position and led away cleanly, with Hill getting away badly as he was adjusting his goggles as the field started, the elastic having given way at the worst possible time! Clark seemed to be comfortable up front, racing out to a lead, with Hill 10th at the end of the first lap and Surtees abck in 13th. For Clark to win he needed his rivals to stay down the order, but Hilll and Surtees started to make their way through the field. Hill looked to have things under control as he moved through the field, working his way up to sixth place by lap 6, and over the following laps he mades moves on Jack Brabham (Brabham) for fifth, then passing Mike Spence for fourth and finally on lap 12 he passed Bandini’s Ferrari to take third place. Surtees too was moving up, and he got onto the tail of his teammate Bandini. As it stood on the track Hill would be crowned champion, but disaster struck on lap 31, well, a Ferrari struck, as Bandini barged into Hill at the hairpin as he attempted to regain his position. Both cars were sent into a spin, allowing Surtees through into third place, with Hill having to pit with a broken exhaust. This would drop Hill down the order, and with only a third place good enough to add points to his tally, effectively ruled him out of scoring points in the final round. Bandini repassed Surtees for third place, but if Clark and Gurney could hold station that position change would be academic, as Surtees would have to finish ahead of Gurney to take the title should Clark win. Up front Clark continued to power clear and with Dan Gurney holding second place it looked like Clark would earn and unlikely title. But disaster struck for Clark however, as the Lotus starting losing oil. Clark tried to bring the car home, and nearly made it, but his Lotus came up a lap short, crossing the line for the last time on the penultimate lap. Gurney flew past to take the victory, with the Ferrari drivers switching position on the last lap to allow Surtees through into second place to claim the title by a single point from Graham Hill (Hill actually finishing the season with one point more than Surtees, but seeing those two points from Belgium counted out) – Surtees, already a world champion on motorbikes, was now champion on four wheels in F1 – and done in a blue Ferrari!
1990– Ferrari 1-2 in Prost’s masterclass and Mansell’s Mexican magic
The 1990 Mexican Grand Prix served up a wonderful race. The event had been dominated by the McLaren duo of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1988 and 1989, but for 1990 Prost was now driving for Ferrari after his acrimonious departure from McLaren. It was Senna’s McLaren teammate Gerhard Berger who took pole however, with Riccardo Patrese lining up alongside him in second place for Williams. Senna was a disappointed third place, with Nigel Mansell alongside him for Ferrari. If Senna was disappointed, things looked worse for Prost, with the second Ferrari down in 13th place. Prost had lost time on Friday after he spun off, and had determined to ensure his car had the best possible race setup on Saturday, but he would have plenty of work to do from that far back. As the light went green Patrese shot past Berger off the line, with Senna slotting in behind his team-mate before diving past him into the first corner. Mansell lost ground in the run up to the first corner, with Thierry Boutsen in the second Williams and Nelson Piquet in the Benetton getting past him. Patrese’s glory would be short lived, Senna and Berger swooping past him on the straight in one go at the start of lap 2 as the Williams started to drop backwards. Senna scampered off into the lead, building a comfortable gap from Berger who could not keep pace with him. Berger had to pit by lap 13 as his tyres were not performing, dropping him down the field. Piquet’s Benetton was up into second place as the Williams struggled with their tyres. After a poor start, the Ferrari’s were recovering, with Mansell working his back up past the Williams and into second past Nelson Piquet, Mansell feigning to go wide then cutting back up the inside of Piquet on the straight. Prost was also making steady progress through the field from his low grid slot, and with Piquet struggling to make his tyres go the distance, Prost was soon past him as well. Piquet was forced to call time on his attempt to do the race without stopping, and pitted for fresh shortly after Prost got through. Prost was flying now, and he set about closing down a 7 second gap to team-mate Mansell for second place, although Senna looked out of sight a further 15 seconds up the road. Prost quickly bridged the gap to teammate Mansell, and on lap 55 Prost seized his chance as Mansell was slowed coming round the Peraltada as they lapped traffic, Prost using his better exit to squeeze past Mansell down the inside as they came down the straight, Mansell making him go all the way inside as they lapped a further backmarker, but Prost was through. Senna next in his sights. Senna was still some 10 seconds up the road, but trying to run without a pit-stop Senna was suddenly struggling with his tyres – but it was not just degredation, Senna had a slow-puncture, and he was helpless as one by one the Ferrari’s caught and passed him, Prost getting him on the straight on lap 61 and Mansell passing him the following lap, with Senna’s right rear tyre eventually bursting and removing him from the race altogether. Prost now led from Mansell, and any hope Mansell had of challenging for the win quickly evaporated, as Mansell spun his Ferrari on lap 64. Mansell was able to roll back onto the track and get going again, but instead of fighting for the win he was now under pressure from Berger’s McLaren, the polesitter having worked his way back through the field after his early stop for tyres. Berger was determined, and coming downt he straight made his move on Mansell, coming a long way back on the inside, braking late and locking up, smoking his tyres as he barged past, Mansell forced to back out and leave room, as Berger climbed over the kerbs on the inside of the first corner and took second place. But Mansell was not finished, and while his spin may have cost him any hope of the victory, he was determined not to let Berger simply brush him aside. Mansell stayed with Berger, the two going wheel to wheel around the track as Mansell tried to get his revenge. Berger denied him initially, but on the second last lap Mansell pulled off a spectacular move, moving his Ferrari around the outside of Berger’s McLaren on the approach to the Peraltada, Mansell somehow taming his Prancing Horse and keeping it on the track to swoop back into second place! It was Ferrari’s day, Prost’s drive through the field had earned him a deserved victory, while Mansell had sealed a Ferrari 1-2 with a memorable move on Berger. A tough day for McLaren, with Senna having lost what seemed a certain victory, and Berger unfortunate after being forced to stop early but delivering a stirring comeback drive.
The back up entertainment will be provided by Mexican F4 and the masters historic series.