Nestled in the heart of Mexico City lies a racetrack of legendary status: the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
With a history of over half a century, this circuit is a testament to Mexico’s passion for motorsports and has seen some of the most dramatic races in Formula 1 history. It even has its own intro.
History of the Hermanos Rodríguez Circuit
In 1958, local businessmen dreamed of bringing F1 to Mexico. They chose Magdalena Mixhuca in Mexico City as the site and built not only a racetrack but also soccer fields, tennis courts, and baseball diamonds. The track opened in 1962.
Tragically, during an event that year, racer Ricardo Rodríguez lost his life due to a car malfunction. Still, the Mexican Grand Prix made its debut.
Fast forward to 1970: things got wild. A quarter-million fans swarmed the track, causing chaos and safety concerns. Despite the madness, the race went on. But afterward, Mexico was banned from hosting international races for 16 years.
Come 1986, things had changed. New organizers, sponsors, and a revamped track brought the race back. This time around, there was top-notch security (think guard dogs and armed soldiers).
The race continued until 1992, then took a break due to financial issues. But with a stronger economy and government support, the race came back in 2015, complete with an updated track.
1962-70 & 1962-80: The first design was a unique mix of an oval track and a road course. It had everything from the La Peraltada corner (part of the oval) to the super-tight La Rodeo hairpin. The track was wide, offering bold drivers a chance to overtake.
1986-92: The track had several updates when racing resumed in ’86. There was a new pit, a longer pit road, and changes to some corners to improve safety and provide better viewing for fans.
Current: The latest update in 2015 brought more changes. The track got a major facelift, the pits moved, and the famous La Peraltada corner was transformed. A baseball stadium inside this corner became part of the track, allowing up to 50,000 fans to watch the action up close.
Features of the Hermanos Rodríguez Circuit
Hermanos Rodriguez is one of the toughest tracks because of the high altitude (over 6,500 feet above sea level). High altitude affects everything, from aerodynamics to engine performance.
💨 Air Pressure
- Air gets thinner as you go higher, affecting a Formula 1 car’s performance.
- Each generation of cars has its unique challenges with air pressure.
🗜️ Engine Power
- There’s less oxygen at higher altitudes, which the engines need to burn.
- In the 90s, for every 100m increase in altitude, engine output dropped by 1%.
- Modern F1 cars use turbo-charging to compensate. This means the turbo has to work extra hard, which can cause it to overheat or fail.
- F1 cars cool down using air, but with thinner air, there’s less of it to help.
- Cars that are more “open,” with bigger brake ducts and air intakes.
- Although this creates more drag, the thinner air balances it out.
- Thinner air means less downforce on the car.
- In places with thin air, teams try to add as much downforce as possible.
- Even with maximum downforce settings, cars can reach super-high speeds.
- People struggle at high altitudes as breathing becomes harder
- The main challenge for drivers is avoiding altitude sickness. They prep with some light cardio and diet adjustments before the race.
Memorable F1 Races
1986: Gerhard Berger celebrated his first victory with his Benetton B186 car.
1990: Epic battle between Nigel Mansell and Berger for the second place. Ayrton Senna had to retire because of some car troubles.
2016: Max Verstappen missed the podium because he received a penalty. Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, was knocked out of the top three due to a braking issue. This bumped Daniel Ricciardo up to third place.
The same trio stood on the podium the next year in exactly the same order.