The Triumphant Return of Formula 1 to MexicoMon, 09/15/2014 - 19:10
Q: After more than 20 years, Formula 1 is finally returning to Mexico. What made the International Automobile Federation (FIA) decide Mexico was once again ready to host a Grand Prix, and what made 2015 the right time for its return?
A: While Mexico’s financial stability over recent years has been a decisive element, the key factor that led to this moment was undoubtedly the decisive, responsible, and committed collaboration from the Ministry of Tourism and the Mexico City government, through the Mexican Council for Touristic Promotion, and the Sports Institute. Their joint efforts were aligned with the common goal to promote Mexico at an international level. The private sector also played a major role, with its support resulting in two Mexican drivers being involved with the Grand Prix; one driving, and one in reserve for a top-level team.
Q: Other than Tilke and CIE, which other companies collaborated on the renovation project of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, and what did they bring to this project?
A: Tilke is only one of the 20 companies that were involved in the Autódromo’s renovation. Nineteen Mexican companies were in charge of designing and remodeling the facilities and the track, and they did an extraordinary job that was acknowledged by the FIA authorities supervising the project. Each of these companies played a key role that required amazing coordination, as well as professionalism and commitment to working on all the different fronts required. Their work included all aspects related to the image and logistics objectives of the new Grand Prix, enabling us to receive our local visitors, as well as national and international tourists.
Q: What were the Formula 1 committee’s main concerns about the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez before the renovations began?
A: FIA was mainly worried about safety, since the Autódromo did not meet the standards that Formula 1 establishes for all its races. From the first inspection, Charlie Whiting, Race Director and Safety Delegate of FIA, pointed out the requirements for run-offs, the ring segments, the FIA fence, the use of security materials such as Tecpro, the need for a new curbed area, as well as a total renovation of the drain and sewage system. Tilke was in charge of implementing all of these changes to the renewed Hermanos Rodríguez circuit, which now complies with all the safety specifications and standardization. This new circuit of 4.305km will be a fast track, with a 1.302km front straight, which is one of the longest straight stretches in the series. It will be a circuit with slow curves, and a technical layout that is sure to give the audience an exciting and unique show.
Q: Given that there have been some major changes to the original track, including the elimination of La Peraltada, what has been the reaction from the local residents?
A: The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez was inaugurated in 1959 as the Autódromo de la Ciudad Deportiva. Since then, it has witnessed the achievements of great figures within the racing world, such as Pedro and Ricardo Rodríguez, Héctor Rebaque, Mario Domínguez, Adrián Fernández, and Michel Jourdain, not to mention other international stars like Jim Clark, John Surtees, Graham Hill, Fittipaldi, Piquet, Prost, Senna, Mansell, and Schumacher. Thus, one of Tilke’s main challenges was to preserve the essence of the track, while making it a legendary first-class track. The historic sloped curve La Peraltada caused many accidents, as well as the death of the Mexican driver Ricardo Rodríguez. This part of the track was cut in half in 2002 for the Cart series, just before entering the Foro Sol. The design inside the baseball field, which was previously a 90° left curve, has now become two curves to give Formula 1 vehicles more time inside the spectacular stage that will host over 28,000 people. This is a unique feature of the circuit, offered by no other racetrack in the world. When it comes to safety, the evolution of this sport has made promoters and fans realize that it is impossible to keep the sloped curve, but it has been traded in favor of a greater audience and prestige.
Q: How will these changes affect the cars’ performance on the track, and how are the teams preparing for this?
A: Specifically, none of the changes will affect vehicle performance. The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez will be a great challenge, since it is a new circuit for both drivers and teams. Furthermore, adapting to Mexico City’s altitude will be another challenge for the engine. This track has fast stretches, slow sections, and it will be really technical. According to simulations, the maximum achievable speed is 203.80mph (327.98km/h) in the main straight, including also dramatic braking and speeding parts that will make this track a delight for drivers and spectators.
Q: What will be the expected media coverage for the event, and what are FIA and OCESA planning to make the return of Formula 1 to Mexico extra special?
A: There are great expectations after 23 years of absence. The media coverage will definitely be one of the most intense compared to any other events hosted in Mexico. More than 280 international journalists will join the national press to cover the race, and CIE, in its promoter’s role, will provide its 25 years of experience organizing world- class events, as well as its more than 15 years’ experience with sporting races. Attendees of the Formula 1 Mexico Grand Prix will have an unforgettable experience from the moment they step into the renovated Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, and they will be truly astounded with the new entertainment areas, food and beverage courts, official merchandise stores, and all other services that will turn their attendance into a unique experience.
Ticket sales have been a success and demand exceeded our expectations. Firstly, we had a pre-sale with Banamex and Superventa Santander, which received an excellent response from fans. We later opened ticket sales to the general public, helping to reach an initial attendance figure of 90,000. That led CIE to hire NUSSLI, a Swiss company specialized in grandstands for stadiums and stages, enabling us to increase the original seating capacity by 10% from 100,000 to 110,000.
Q: What do you still need to work on before the end of October, and what opportunities do you see for next year’s Grand Prix?
A: Formula 1’s Mexican Grand Prix will generate one of the highest incomes in terms of foreign currency, in addition to creating a massive number of jobs. There are different crews working on different fronts, with on-track and off- track operations, grandstands, and accesses. Furthermore, the government and federal offices are working to make this a successful event that will rank our country among the best in the world. The priceless experience of this first year will give us useful insights for the following years, and we will certainly have more challenges to overcome.