Monday, October 23The Voice of London

The Mexican Grand Prix: F1 Does Not Always Go Forward

In a world where innovation and being ahead of your time are the dominating factors, it is unusual to experience flashbacks.

Words: Ena Bilobrk, Subeditor: Jack Everitt 

Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez
Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez. Source: Ena Bilobrk

But the racing weekend at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez brings it all back. The premier motorsport returns to Mexico City after a 23 year absence. The late Rodriguez brothers would have been proud to see how far their legacy has developed.

Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez were Mexico’s first F1 superstars. Ricardo started driving for Ferrari in 1961 aged just 19 and became the youngest man ever to set foot in an F1 car. He triggered a mass hype back home and it was soon decided to build a track due to the rising number of F1 fans – the Magdalena-Mixhuca track.

The younger brother, Ricardo, was steps ahead of his older sibling and his story has similarities with that of wonderkid Max Verstappen, who went fastest in the first practice session at this years event.

Pedro should have made his first Formula one debut a year after his brother signed for the Scuderia. The first ever race at the new Magdalena-Mixhuca track should have also been the first they raced side by side. But Ricardo died during an unfortunate manoeuvre in practice aged 20.

The world of motorsport had lost one its brightest racing talents and in his honour the track was renamed after the young star.

Ricardo Rodriguez at the German GP
Ricardo Rodriguez in his Ferrari 156. Source: Ena Bilobrk

Pedro Rodriguez scaled down from his racing commitments that day but returned a year later. Driving for Ferrari and Lotus. He was on the podium seven times. Sadly, Pedro’s career ended in similar circumstances to his brother’s.

He was killed in a minor sport-car race in Germany in 1971 aged 31 and the track’s name was changed to its current.

The tragic fate of the Rodriguez brothers didn’t stop other Mexican drivers trying to emulate their heroes. Force India’s Sergio Perez told Formula1.com:

“It is an honour to follow in the footsteps of these fantastic drivers and to show the world that they are far from forgotten. Racing at a track that carries their name is a dream come true.”

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is filled with memories of the glory days of the likes of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell, the later being the last to win in Mexico in 1992. The final corner of the modified track is even named after the British champion. Michael Schumacher also took his first ever podium at the last GP in Mexico City.

The history-charged 2015 racing weekend leads away from the problems the sport is currently facing. After weeks of dealing with the Red Bull engine crisis, everyone involved is happy to finally answer questions unrelated to the corporation but to the sport.

The Mexican Grand Prix is about celebrating racing and opening a new chapter of motorsport in the country.

Fernando Alonso hopes they “will put on a good show for everyone” and adds:
“There are very different parts of the circuit with a very long straight. It will be a challenge for the engineers to set up the car and the last sector with stadium will be quite enjoyable for us the drivers being so close to the people.”

It looks set to be one of the most challenging races this year, with the highest circuit on the calendar at roughly 2.200 meters above sea level. The track also boasts one of the longest pit straights in the championship.

The drivers will drive through the Foro Sol baseball stadium
The drivers will drive through the Foro Sol baseball stadium. Source: Wikipedia

It is the fans that matter in Mexico, the people that have made Formula One into the sport we love. Torro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz is impressed by the number of grand stands and feels “it is very special, something we don’t have yet in Formula One.”

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