The Mexican Grand Prix is one of those Formula 1 races where the fans are as much a part of the spectacle as the cars and the drivers. The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has only been back on the calendar since 2015, following an absence of over two decades, but the atmosphere generated by the Mexican crowds makes the event feel like one of the classics.
Located in a public park in the middle of one of the world’s most populous cities and already used by Formula 1 in the early 1960s, there was little room for expansion when the championship made its most recent return in the last decade. But the one major change that had been made – intersecting the fearsomely fast Peraltada final corner with a slow and fiddly complex through the middle of a former baseball field – has proven something of an unlikely success.
The Foro Sol is a true stadium section, one where every driver receives a rapturous reception on every one of the 71 laps. Although the greatest cheers are of course reserved for Mexico’s modern day racing hero, Sergio Perez. Fittingly, it’s also where the podium ceremony takes place, making it one of the spectacular of the season.
Perhaps the circuit’s most significant characteristic is nothing to do with the layout but rather its location. Specifically, its altitude at over 2200 metres above sea level. At this elevation where the air is thinner, cars encounter less aerodynamic drag, meaning they can run with higher-downforce setups without suffering from a loss of straightline speed.
And while normally-aspirated engines would struggle to breath in such rarefied air, the turbochargers in Formula 1’s hybrid power units simply spin faster, leading to some of the highest speeds of the season.
As a result, drivers can be travelling in excess of 350 kph when they reach the end of the long main straight and into the best overtaking opportunity on the circuit at Turn 1. The initial chicane is followed by relatively long straight and more chances to go side-by-side. Over the rest of the lap, things get more technical, with a series of fast sweepers in the middle. By this point, the challenge is mostly to try and stay close to the car ahead into the Foro Sol to be within striking distance heading back onto the pit straight.
Mexico City is an incredible destination, but it’s as much about when to visit. The period leading up to the Mexican Grand Prix always coincides with the build-up to the Day of the Dead: the biggest event on the Mexican social calendar. During that time, the city becomes a huge fiesta, with parties on every street corner – many of which last well into the night. If you’ve got any energy left, there’s plenty to do explore in Mexico City itself: starting off with the famous Zocalo Square, which formed a spectacular opening sequence to the James Bond film Spectre seven years ago. Outside Mexico City, one of the biggest attractions is the archaeological complex of Teotihuacan just to the northeast, complete with Aztec temples and pyramids that you can ascend for a spectacular view over Mexico City. You can even see the complex from a hot air balloon if you’d like a different perspective on old meeting new. Art fans also won’t want to miss the Frida Kahlo museum, in her former home that was called ‘La Casa Azul’, located in one of Mexico City’s most beautiful neighbourhoods. For some slightly more basic evening entertainment try to catch some lucha libre: Mexico’s unique wrestling matches, famous for the colourful masks worn by the wrestlers.
Any visit to Mexico City wouldn’t be complete without sampling the best of Mexican food: a high tolerance of chilli is definitely recommended. Some of the best places to eat include La Opera – a typical Mexican cantina – and the Hacienda de los Morales: like a farmhouse in the middle of a metropolis. Another highlight is the San Angel Inn: located in a former monastery and allegedly the place to find the best margaritas in Mexico City.
The most memorable thing to do though is just to wander the streets and soak up the unique atmosphere. Mexico City – also known as CDMX – is a capital like no other.
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