Formula 1

Arriba, Arriba! – Five facts about the Mexican Grand Prix

7 Mins read
Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sahara Force India F1 VJM08. Mexican Grand Prix, Friday 30th October 2015. Mexico City, Mexico. Credit: Sahara Force India F1 Team

The Mexican Grand Prix has been part of the Formula One calendar since 1963, when the Magdalena Mixhuca park location held the event. It was renamed as the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in 1986 when it returned to the F1 championship following a sixteen year break, after racing driver brothers Pedro and Ricardo.

It was honoured with the name of the brothers who had been seen as gods of F1 in Mexico during their time, but were both tragically killed whilst still in their prime. Ricardo’s life was taken during practice for the non-Championship 1962 Mexican Grand Prix round, whilst Pedro also lost his life nine years later, racing at an Interserie sports car event at Norisring, Germany.

The Mexican Grand Prix ran from 1963 – 1970, before losing its hosting rights when fans broke through the fences and sat on the edge of the track. It was back from 1986 – 1992 however, before a twenty-three year gap saw it included on the F1 calendar once again in 2015, in a revised guise. It is the only location that has ever been used for the event.

The circuit is raced at over 2, 200 metres above sea level, and is the highest altitude venue on the calendar. This makes the air very thin, causing difficulties for drivers in terms of breathing, and can also interfere with car performance, causing the power unit to produce less power and making the brakes more difficult to cool.

There has been six Mexican drivers that have contested a F1 race in the history of the sport, and though none have ever managed to win on home soil, Pedro Rodriguez did win two grand prix, making him the most successful. There is still plenty of time for current home heroes Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez to change that however.

Jim Clark, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell have all taken two victories in Mexico, which for Clark included the very first race in 1963. Nico Rosberg is the only current driver to taken a win at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, with only one grand prix having ever taken place there, in all current drivers racing lifetimes.

Three F1 teams currently share the title of most successful squad to compete at the Mexican Grand Prix, with Lotus, McLaren and Williams all having three wins to their name. Lotus also took victory with Clark in 1962, but this was a non-championship event and so is not counted in the tally.

There have been some action packed races held in this South American location across the years. Here are a few interesting moments and facts from Mexican Grand Prix gone by:

Crazy crowds and canines…

The 1970 Mexican Grand Prix will be remembered amongst over things, for the throngs of uncontrollable, frenzied fans who due to the lack of safety fencing had filed onto the track in their excitement and anticipation ahead of the race.

With supporters sat on the side-lines, there was no way the event should have got underway, but despite the best efforts of local hero Pedro Rodriguez and Jackie Stewart the masses would not be moved. So start the race did, for fear if nothing else, that a riot would ensue should the cars not start-up their engines!

With no real barriers, except flimsy guard rails, to keep the crowds at bay in those days, it was easy for anyone to find their way onto the race track, including stray animals, as Stewart found out to his horror.

As the Brit sped along at 160mph, it was more than apparent that an obstacle in the form of a large dog was in his way. With no time to take avoiding action at such speeds, the Tyrrell ploughed straight into the dog, killing it instantly, but luckily not harming Stewart in the process, it was however very much the end of the Scotsman’s race!

Honda hotspot…

The 1965 Mexican Grand Prix was the setting for Honda’s first ever grand prix win as a constructor, with little known US driver Ritchie Ginther at the wheel.

Ginther came into the limelight whilst driving a Porsche in the 1950’s, which sealed him a contract with Scuderia Ferrari sports cars, and in turn earned him a drive for the works F1 team. From there he moved to BRM, where he enjoyed a number of good seasons, claiming second place on five occasions.

A win however continued to evade the American, until he finally reached that top step and took that elusive victory in 1965, having burst into the lead off the line, and remaining there untroubled until the end. It was to be Ginther’s first and only victory, and also brought about a maiden win for Goodyear tyres and Honda.

The Japanese manufacturer has always fared well in Mexico, with a record four victories and four pole positions being sealed by Honda-powered cars at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

All change…

The Mexican Grand Prix of 1968 holds the record for the number of times the lead has changed hands on Mexican soil, when it switched between Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and Jo Siffert on five occasions.

The race was eventually won by Hill, which saw the Brit crowned that year’s champion, with both Stewart and Denny Hulme having also been in with a chance of taking the honours before the start of the race.

Hill took the lead off the line, but was overtaken by John Surtees at the first corner, before taking back the lead by the end of the lap.

Stewart took the lead for a number of laps before Hill got back ahead of him, and whilst those two fought it out up ahead, technical issues and retirements were reducing the field rapidly.

Siffert began to close in on the British pair however, and by lap 22 had caught and overtaken them for the lead. A broken throttle put paid to his efforts however, and it was then left to Hill and Stewart once again to fight for victory.

A fuel feed problem saw the Scot start to drop back, and with his engine misfiring and handling shot, he ended the race in seventh.

Hill took victory by nearly two minutes over Bruce McLaren in the end, and bagged himself a second F1 title in the process.

Don’t stop me now…

The 1986 Mexican Grand Prix saw Austria’s Gerhard Berger take his first ever F1 victory, and he did so in remarkable fashion, winning having not stopped at all during the race.

The key to being able to pull off such a feat, was down to Berger’s use of the Pirelli tyres, as opposed to the Goodyear option which the majority of his rivals were using.

Having qualified in fourth, Berger moved straight up to third on the line, with Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna up ahead of him. Nigel Mansell, who had qualified in third on the grid, fluffed the start and was relegated to the back of the order.

Alain Prost had been hovering around behind the Austrian in fourth and on lap 7 was able to get ahead of Berger. Mansell meanwhile had been charging through the pack in attempt to make up for lost positions off the line, but in doing so wore down his tyres and had to make the first pit stop of the day.

The other drivers followed suit, all except for Berger who stayed out on his Pirelli’s, and whilst his rivals struggled to manage their rubber as it began to blister in the heat, Berger had no such problem, able to look after his tyres perfectly and hold on for victory.

As well as being Berger’s maiden victory, it was his Benetton Formula 1 Team’s too, and no doubt there were parties going on long into the night in that camp later!

Mansell has the moves in Mexico …

The 1990 Mexican Grand Prix saw Nigel Mansell make an extremely bold pass on Gerhard Berger round the outside of the formidable final turn known as Peraltada.

It was such an audacious move that it has been firmly imprinted on the minds of the Mexican public, so much so, that when the corner was modified for safety reasons ahead of the tracks return to the calendar in 2015, the Mexican organisers renamed the final turn in the Brit’s honour.

The manoeuvre must have been an extremely unexpected one for Berger, as no one in their right mind would usually dream of making a pass on that part of the track, which was taken at high speed, whilst going at over 280km/h.

As Mansell chased down Berger in the final laps of the race, angry at having being shoved off the track by the Austrian earlier in the lap, there was no way he was going to let him finish the race ahead of him, he was on a mission to take back what he felt was his rightful second place.

The Peraltada was looming large and Mansell chose his moment to take the McLaren on, dinking left and then right in Berger’s mirrors, before switching to the left and driving around the outside of the Austrian as they entered the corner side-by-side at speed. Berger could do little but submit to Mansell’s bigger balls!

The bumpy, banked Peraltada was hailed as one of the biggest tests of a driver’s bravery and skill, the undulations often causing the cars to jump and bottom out as they passed through the high-speed turn.

Indeed the circuit was named after the Rodriguez brothers, one of whom lost his life at that very spot in 1962, and even the late, great Ayrton Senna had come a cropper there on occasion. The Brazilian was memorably caught out when he hit a bump that flipped him upside down into the tyre barriers halfway through the corner, during qualifying for the 1991 race.

Shaken but not hurt, Senna escaped relatively unharmed, except for a big stone that had become lodged in his ear after gravel from the shunt had gone right up into his helmet. Despite that minor aggravation considering the incident that had just occurred, the Brazilian still went on to finish on the podium during the race.

2016 Race weekend

Going into the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix this weekend, Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Nico Rosberg still holds all the cards, with two seconds and a third place finish now all he needs to seal the drivers’ championship.

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton however has never been one to throw in the towel, and he will be ready to fight for the win in Mexico, after a sublime cruise to victory in Austin last time out. As long as the Brit just keeps doing what he has to, he still has every chance of overthrowing the German.

Red Bull Racing will look to continue to build their lead on closest rivals Ferrari in order to cement second place in the Constructor’s standings. Whilst the Italian squad really need to start upping their game if they are going to challenge Red Bull for the runners-up spot.

Further down the order, the Sahara Force India F1 Team and Williams Martini Racing are stuck in a close run battle for fourth place, and with just eight points splitting the two squads, this contest looks certain to go down to the wire.

The McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team look to now have the edge over the Scuderia Toro Rosso boys, having moved into a nineteen point lead for sixth place, but with three races of the season still remaining, there is still plenty of opportunity for that to change.

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