Fan fever should make up for toned-down track

2015 Mexican Grand Prix preview

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Track data: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez

Lap length 4.304km (2.674 miles)
Grand prix distance 305.354km (189.738 miles)
Tyre compounds Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track data in full

With telecommunications giant Telmex pumping money into the careers of drivers like Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez, an F1 return to Mexico was always going to be just a matter of time.

And the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, which hosted F1’s two previous spells in Mexico from 1963 to 1970 and 1986 to 1992, was the obvious choice of venue. There aren’t many FIA Grade One racing circuits which nestle in the heart of cities home to over eight million people.

However the limited footprint of land presented some problems when the race organisers came to bring the circuit up to the FIA’s exacting standards, particularly its famed Peraltada corner. In the years since F1’s last visit several series had bypassed the corner or used chicanes, making it inevitable F1 would have to do the same.

When F1 last raced at the track the lack of run-off was already a cause for concern but there was no room for expansion on the outside. The year after it left the track owners built a baseball and concert stadium inside the corner called Foro Sol, further limiting their options to continue using Peraltada. The position of the pit lane entrance and the high approach speed to the fairly narrow bend further complicated matters.

For F1’s return the track owners therefore decided to make virtue out of necessity, and revived the practice of routing the course through the stadium, as was first done when CART visited the circuit in 2002:

Although F1’s version of the same solution will be tighter and slower, as is Hermann Tilke’s wont, this seems a reasonable compromise. The unique experience of the Foro Sol will be completed by the fact the podium overlooks this section of the circuit – expect deafening roars if Perez is back on the rostrum on Sunday.

There was too little room for renovation at Peraltada
Even so, it’s impossible not to look on the loss of an iconic corner like Peraltada and not feel a tinge of regret. And it’s not the only challenging aspect of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez which has been toned down.

The Esses used to be a sinuous section of seven consecutive corners, each feeding into the last. The new version has just five, briefer turns, and one of these has clearly been tightened since the original plans for the circuit renovation were drawn up. Again, the pressing need has been to maximise run-off without further encroaching beyond the space owned by the track.

Perez was predictably eager to downplay the extent of the revisions. “There are quite a few changes compared to the old layout when Formula One last raced there, but I don’t think the circuit has lost any of its character,” he said.

However he was certainly right about Mexico’s enthusiasm for Formula One: “Mexico has a lot of history in motorsport, the fans know the sport, they have a lot of enthusiasm and have been waiting a long time for Formula One to come back. I think everyone will have a great time.”

While the driving challenge of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has clearly been toned down, the engineering challenge remains high. The 1.2-kilometre long straight at the beginning of the lap – which should make for a spectacular start to the race – means the circuit’s overall character is one part Monza to two parts Hungaroring.

Perez says his home race will be a “career highlight”
As anyone who has visited Mexico City will know, the altitude can take some getting used to. To put this into perspective, F1’s highest-altitude venue used to be the Red Bull Ring at 660 metres. But the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez stands at 2,200m. This will affect the drivers (though they have sufficient time to acclimatise), the power units and the aerodynamics.

Higher altitude means thinner air, which for conventional engines would mean less performance. However as F1 engines are turbocharged, and are further boosted by electrical systems which are not affected by altitude. Renault estimate that while their normally-aspirated engines were around 22% down on power when F1 last visited this track in 1992, this year the power output will be the same as if the cars were racing at sea level. However the turbochargers will spin up to 8% faster in order to achieve this.

Thinner air also means less drag, and so on the long straight F1 cars should hit some of their highest top speeds of the year – over 350kph (217mph) in qualifying.

As usual, F1’s tyre supplier Pirelli has opted for a “more conservative” compound selection at what is effective F1’s first race at a new track. The soft and medium tyres will be available, but as with most new tracks expect to hear drivers complaining about a lack of grip on the newly-laid surface.

And with the likelihood of a dry race increasing, the grand prix could turn on who can stretch their tyres out to a single stop instead of one – a traditional strength of the local favourite.

Mexican Grand Prix team-by-team preview


Nico Rosberg’s resurgence in qualifying – he has been on pole for the last three races in a row – came too late for him to stop Lewis Hamilton from wrapping up the championship with three races to go. Nonetheless if he keeps it up he has the chance to dent his team mate’s pride and keep him from victory – something which will surely appeal after Hamilton’s uncompromising turn one tactics in America.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo had a chance to drive the circuit back in July, although the track surface hasn’t been completed at the time. Despite the track’s long straight, its high proportion of corners should make the RB11 a competitive proposition against


Failing to score in Austin could have been a huge blow for the team, particularly as closest championship rivals Red Bull were leading the race at one stage. Fortunately for Williams the damage only amounted to a single point in the end, and Mexico’s long straight should allow them to press home the advantage of their Mercedes power unit.


Kimi Raikkonen now has less than half of his team mate’s points tally following his retirement during the United States Grand Prix. However he is holding off Bottas for fourth place in the drivers’ standings by 12 points.


While the twistier parts of the circuit should suit the McLaren reasonably well, the long main straight will expose the Honda’s major vulnerability when it comes to energy deployment. This could be a familiar case of the black and red cars qualifying reasonably well, only to be devoured by their rivals on race day.

Force India

Perez arrives at his first home race in excellent form after a fifth place and a podium for third in his last two starts. He expects this weekend to be “one of the highlights of my career” and believes the track will achieve “modern classic” status.

Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen’s superb fourth place in Austin has moved him into the top ten in the drivers’ championship, leapfrogging highly-rated rivals Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg.


Grosjean has suffered frustration after frustration since his podium finish at Spa, scoring only once in the last five races. Austin was another race to chalk up to misfortune. “I was pretty pissed off to get hit at the first corner like that as it ruined my race,” he said.


Monisha Kaltenborn said her team were lucky to come away from the Circuit of the Americas with points. “We can absolutely not be satisfied with this weekend,” she said. “It is not an excuse that one driver did not know the track before and we were not able to run many laps here. Almost everything that should not happen during a race happened.”


Alexander Rossi continues in his role as Roberto Merhi’s replacement having matched the team’s best result of the season so far last weekend. However their year-old Ferrari engines will be a major weakness on the long straight.

2015 driver form

Driver Grid average Race average Race best Race worst Classified Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 1.50 1.67 1 6 15/16 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 2.25 3.47 1 17 15/16 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 7.81 8.50 2 15 14/16 Form guide
Daniil Kvyat 10.31 7.62 2 13 13/15 Form guide
Felipe Massa 7.38 7.21 3 17 14/16 Form guide
Valtteri Bottas 6.38 6.71 3 14 14/16 Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 5.00 3.31 1 12 16/16 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 7.25 5.00 2 8 12/16 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 15.20 11.33 5 18 9/15 Form guide
Jenson Button 15.94 11.80 7 16 10/15 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 10.38 9.40 6 15 10/16 Form guide
Sergio Perez 10.69 8.60 3 13 15/16 Form guide
Max Verstappen 11.75 9.42 4 17 12/16 Form guide
Carlos Sainz Jnr 12.75 9.70 6 13 10/16 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 9.44 8.50 3 13 10/16 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 11.50 9.75 7 15 8/16 Form guide
Marcus Ericsson 13.88 11.62 8 14 13/16 Form guide
Felipe Nasr 13.50 11.00 5 20 15/15 Form guide
Will Stevens 17.87 15.83 13 19 12/14 Form guide
Roberto Merhi 18.08 15.18 12 18 11/12 Form guide
Kevin Magnussen 17.00 0/0 Form guide
Alexander Rossi 18.67 14.67 12 18 3/3 Form guide

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “Fan fever should make up for toned-down track”

  1. petebaldwin (@)
    29th October 2015, 13:15

    Kimi Raikkonen now has less than half of his team mate’s points tally following his retirement during the United States Grand Prix.

    Seems like he should have bigger things to worry about than teams entertaining fans…

  2. @keithcollantine , Isn’t Interlagos located at something a little bit more than 700 meters above sea level (Higher than Red Bull Ring)?-

    1. 825 m above sea level to be precise. RB-Ring is about 700 m above sea level.

      1. @srga91, it depends which point on the circuit you take – the lowest point on the circuit is 785m above sea level, rising to 825m at its highest. However you cut it, though, Interlagos is at a substantially higher altitude than the Red Bull Ring.

  3. I have been a touch disappointed with the amount of negative remarks doing the rounds before this venue even gets the opportunity to make its bow. Yes, loosing Peraltada is a shame, and yes, it does appear only the latest chapter in what appears to be a campaign to “sanitize” the world’s racetracks. But, having seen an F1 car submerged beneath tecpro barriers less than three weeks ago, what better reason can be supplied than a lack of run-off? What replaces it is a Singapore-esque arena section, which provides the fans an opportunity to see the cars right up close.

    The rest of the track offers high-speed apexes and overtaking opportunities, and the venue offers heritage and no shortage of passionate and interested fans. Accordingly, I think I am looking forward to this weekend’s race more than any calender addition since Singapore’s inaugural race in 2008. That said, maybe leave the DRS at home this weekend, eh?

    1. Well said, all of it. Can’t wait for practice tomorrow.

  4. Anyone knows Monza’s highest speed this year? The air is so thin up here (low drag) and the turbos so advanced(same power) that i think its going to be close.

    1. Who really Cares? Motogp bikes are better then f1 at comparable tracks for top speed. Also indycar has killed f1 since the dawn of time for top speeds.

      1. @kpcart, there are those who have a certain curiosity in that aspect of the sport, and I see no harm in letting them speculate about that.

        As an aside, there is not as much of a difference between the sort of speeds that the MotoGP bikes are hitting down the straights and an F1 car at the same venue as you think.
        At Silverstone, for example, Iannone recorded the highest top speed at 332kph, only fractionally faster than Rosberg was in race trim (330kph) – in reality, most of the MotoGP bikes were about level, or fractionally slower, than the F1 cars (and it should be noted that FIM counts the highest maximum speed at any point in the weekend as the maximum, whereas in F1 it is only in race trim). Equally, in Barcelona the maximum speed recorded was 347kph by a MotoGP bike, which was only fractionally faster than Hulkenberg’s 344kph top speed recorded during the race – and it should be borne in mind that the MotoGP circuit uses the faster layout for the final corner.

        As for Indycar, the question is whether you are making a comparison between the road course set up and an F1 car, or the speedway configuration they use for oval racing? In speedway trim, the current Indycars are not that much faster – the indication is that they are topping out at about 370kph in qualifying trim, when they are allowed to use a higher than normal boost pressure.

    2. Well the Monza speed is becouse its a low downforcetrack and a long DRS straight right after a high speed corner. I doubt the thin air will do much for topspeed, the teams will tailor the aero to provide the optimal downforce for this track regardless of air thickness. Thinner air = put on more downforce.

      1. @rethla How? From where? With all the recent aero restrictions, Monaco levels of downforce is the +/- the normal downforce setup, and not too much dissimilar to Monza setup. With the tighter and tighter wing depth restrictions, the banning of the lower beam wing, limiting the width of the front wing etc., there is not much downforce to take off, nor to put on.

        But anyway, take last years Interlagos top speeds as an example. I can’t bother to qote the exact figures, in historical context, because went and f-up their site and made it useless, but I do remember the speeds were incredible. Expect the same this year in Interlagos and here in Mexico as well.

        1. @mateuss, I’m not sure what race you were watching in Monza, but the teams were running quite markedly different rear wings there to any other circuit. There is still a marked difference between a Monaco aero package and a Monza aero package and, despite what you think, the teams do not run with a Monaco spec aero package throughout the year.

          @mijail, with regard to your query – as it happens, Kimi topped the speed trap in the race with a recorded top speed of 358kph. As Gabriel says though, the teams will probably tailor their set up package to compensate for the reduction in downforce, so the top speeds probably won’t be quite as extreme as some perhaps think they could be.

          1. Well with FP1 done and with recorded top speeds of 362km/h on a slippery, semiwet track with primes i can safely say that i was wrong. We will see some serious top speeds this weekend.

  5. My brother in law once told me about his time in Mexico City. Apparently once, they went to an entirely normal bar that had a couple openly (and loudly) making babies beside the bar. Nothing subtle about it, they were doing it in the canine fashion and against a neighbouring table.

    Feeling shocked and surprised (and probably being British, chronically embarassed) they tried to leave. The bar wouldn’t let them leave without paying $50.

    Weird place Mexico City!

  6. Even so, it’s impossible not to look on the loss of an iconic corner like Peraltada and not feel a tinge of regret.

    Once more, I do the impossible. The exciting visuals of the drive through the (literal) stadium section is worth significantly more to me as a F1 fan than Parabolica 2.0. I am thrilled for the onboard footage in qualifying and the race.

    1. @klon That’s a point of view I cannot understand. However much you may like the new arrangement, to see yet another of F1’s great corners go is to be regretted, even if keeping it was never a realistic prospect.

      1. The thing is, a number of the “great corners” in F1 have been repeatedly changed over time to a greater or lesser extent, to the point where some of them bear no relation to the original layout.

        The curvature of Suzuka’s 130R was altered to tighten up the exit of the corner, whilst the modern sequence of corners from Maggots to Chapel at Silverstone that has been used since the 1990’s bears no resemblance to the original layout. The Lesmo corners and the Ascari chicane at Monza have been tightened and then smoothed out again over the years, and even the Esses in Mexico that you mention in your article are themselves a 1980’s modification of the original circuit layout from the 1960’s.

        On the whole, the idea of a “great corner” is often rewritten and reinvented time and time again – developments in performance can make some corners that were previously considered challenging easier, even trivial, whilst some that did not have that same reputation become more of a true challenge.

        At Spa, the press loves to bang on about the challenge of Eau Rouge and Radillion, even though the corner really hasn’t been that much of a challenge for years (even semi-professional drivers in GT3 cars can quite comfortably take the corner flat out these days). In reality, drivers have considered Pouhon to have been the most challenging part of Spa for the best part of a couple of decades now, but it is always Eau Rouge that is given the media attention.

    2. The first half of the track has been changed significantly as well, and not for the better.

  7. Interesting situation at Mercedes, both titles won so the team must be pretty relaxed about what happens on track. No need for team orders or even just a quiet “play nice” instruction before the race. If the drivers run into each other, it’s not a worry and Mercedes Benz even benefits from the increased airtime and attention.

    And from the drivers’ perspective, you have Lewis on a high and Nico with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove. Neither will give an inch, and no one will need to tell them to play it safe.

    I predict fireworks in these final races, and I really hope I’m not disappointed!

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