Formula One is struggling to attract crowds because it is “no longer exciting” according to the boss of Malaysia’s circuit. The Mexican Grand Prix promoters would be forgiven for not having noticed.
Track data: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
|Lap length||4.304km (2.674 miles)|
|Grand prix distance||305.354km (189.738 miles)|
|Lap record (race)||1’20.521 (Nico Rosberg, 2015)|
|Fastest lap (any session)||1’19.480 (Nico Rosberg, 2015, qualifying three)|
|Tyre compounds||See drivers’ choices|
|2015 Rate the Race||5.44 out of 10|
|2015 Driver of the Weekend||Nico Rosberg|
A huge crowd of almost 135,000 people packed the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez last year for the country’s first race in over two decades. Even more are expected this weekend, with almost 40,000 of them crammed into the Foro Sol stadium section at the end of the lap.
Of course it helps matters that Mexico has a grade one-compliant FIA circuit nestling in a metropolis which is home to 8.9 million people with over twice as many more in the surrounding areas. That alone has always made it an obvious choice of venue for an F1 race, yet one the sport avoided for over two decades until its return.
The confines of the Magdalena Mixhuaca park which the circuit is located within meant the circuit layout had to be badly compromised in order to accommodate Formula One’s return 12 months ago. But even making allowances for that, the Tilke redrawing of the layout stripped it of every corner worthy of a name.
While the loss of the mighty Peraltada was no less regrettable for being inevitable, it’s a shame more of the other quick corners couldn’t have been retained, at least in spirit if not exact configuration.
Nonetheless the vast crowd will make for a brilliant atmosphere and the combination of unusually high altitude and a very long straight – where cars exceeded 360kph last year – makes for a distinctive venue.
Last year the freshly-laid asphalt was slippery. But since then several other series have been to visit, including the World Endurance Championship last month, so the drivers will hopefully find more grip this time. If that permits cars to follow each other through the second part of the lap more closely, we could see more jockeying for positions on the straight.
Go ad-free for just £1 per month
A lap of Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
A 1.2-kilometre straight leads the drivers to turn one, so anyone who gets a poor start will pay a serious price for it. The opening trio of corners feed into each other: a 90-degree right hander followed by a slow chicane. This was once a high-speed right-hander, then a series of three quick bends, and in its latest form is completely neutered.
The main straight is so long it’s easy to overlook the second significant stretch which brings drivers to another sequence of slow bends. The right turn four-five chicane saw some overtaking last year, and a clash between Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen which put the Ferrari driver out.
The squared-off hairpin which follows is a “very weird” corner, according to Romain Grosjean. “It’s very difficult to find a line.” Drivers generally sacrifice the first apex to straighten the car up before hitting the second one.
This used to lead drivers into a sequence of connected left and right-handers not unlike the first sector at the Circuit of the Americas, only faster and increasing in tempo. Now the drivers briefly flick left, right and left, then tackle a slower right-hander leading into another left and press on torwards the Foro Sol stadium.
In the stadium a tight right-hander leads into a brutally slow hairpin – “as slow as Monaco”, according to Grosjean. “Finally, it’s the double right-hand corner with very important traction going into the old part of the oval to finish the lap.”
The density of corners in the second half of the lap means we can expect to hear a lot of complaints about blue flags during the race, even with the new procedure announced last weekend. And the limited run-off space around the stadium and other parts of the track should raise the possibility of Safety Car interruptions.
Nico Rosberg could win the world championship this weekend. The last time the title was decided at this track was in 1968 when victory in the race secured the crown for Graham Hill. The only way Rosberg can seal the championship on Sunday is by winning the race, and even then he will need Lewis Hamilton to finish a long way behind.
Note: satellite imagery may not have been updated to reflect recent changes
2016 Mexican Grand Prix
- Horner baffled by Ferrari’s decision to continue Vettel appeal
- FIA rejects Ferrari petition over Vettel penalty
- Make run-off rules simpler, Horner urges
- Ferrari ask for review of Vettel’s Mexican GP penalty
- Verstappen proposes ban on broadcasting team radio