Mexico remains one of the most popular destinations on the F1 calendar, its capital Mexico City a vibrant, bustling metropolis…packed with culture, and people: 21 million, as the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world.
…with a huge thirst for motorsport, both IndyCar, where now former Red Bull junior driver Patricio O’Ward featured this year.
And Formula 1, where Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez is the only Mexican in the field, but his nation has a proud history in the sport.
The 28-year-old from Guadalajara was the sixth Mexican driver to start an F1 Grand Prix. The first, Ricardo Rodríguez, followed by his brother Pedro, who is the most successful with two wins.
It was the Rodríguez brothers’ success that led to the Mexico Grand Prix’s foundation, with the first F1 World Championship race in 1963… Jim Clark taking the win for Lotus. 2019 marking the 20th edition.
Two years later, American Richie Ginther took his only win… and Honda’s maiden victory in the V12-powered RA272, the F1 car recently celebrated ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Since then, four drivers share the top of the Mexico leaderboard with two wins each, including Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Jim Clark and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who is going for three-straight this year.
Of course, Mansell’s memories of his victories there remain vivid.
SOUNDBITE (English) NIGEL MANSELL,
1992 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"Well it makes you feel very proud, it makes you realise that obviously you are embedded in history. Winning a couple of races in Mexico was obviously something very special.”
Naturally, the focus will be on Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton able to grab his sixth crown, if he can outscore teammate Valtteri Bottas by 14 points, the Brit on a far more relaxed campaign than last year.
… when he faced a difficult early season battle with Ferrari and Red Bull. A sixth championship then too much to think about.
SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
5-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Right now, jeez, just getting this fifth has been so hard. And it has been a long, long journey. That is another dream I am going to have to think up. But I think just [take it] one step at a time. I think it is important [to do that]. I think if you get too far ahead of yourself, you can stumble. And that is not my goal.”
Stumbling may not be Hamilton’s goal, but he again heads to Mexico on the back foot. The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez a horsepower track, and Mercedes not the fastest car in a straight line.
That accolade goes to the scarlet Ferrari SF90, which will in the hands of 4-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc be the favourite for pole position.
Located around 40 minutes from Mexico City, the 4.304 kilometre track has 17 turns, seven left and 10 right - and a top speed of 350 kilometres per hour. Valtteri Bottas reset the lap record last year in his Mercedes. There are two DRS activation zones, with the first between turns three and four, the other located on the pit straight. There is just one DRS detection point, between Turns 14 and 15.
…which is in the middle of the packed amphitheatre-like baseball stadium, built to replace the old fearsome final corner the Peraltada. The cheering crowds a refreshing sight at the inaugural event in 2015.
SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“What we saw at the grand prix was unlike anything I've seen in terms of how the fans responded."
Fast, furious and with energetic crowds who have ensured the race will now stay on the calendar until at least 2022. It’s time for the 20th Mexico Grand Prix.