The History of Formula One in Mexico
Since its inauguration more than 40 years ago, the racetrack Hermanos Rodriguez has hosted major championships.
Many of us are extremely excited to see the great Formula One race on October 29th, but how did racing in Mexico begin?
As its name indicates, the history of the racetrack Hermanos Rodriguez is intertwined with that of the brothers Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez, the best Mexican drivers to compete in Formula 1 in the 1960’s.
Their father, Pedro Natalio Rodriguez, worked as an advisor to Adolfo Lopez Mateos, who was the president of the country in those days. Spurred by his love for racing, Mr. Rodriguez suggested that Mexico should build a Grand Prix racetrack.
His dream was fulfilled, and between the family and the government engineer Gilberto Valenzuela, they designed a world-class racecourse, based on careful study of other courses around the globe. The track opened in 1959, when the Rodriguez brothers were still teenage rising stars in the racing world. In the first competition in Mexico, they took first and third place.
But their story soon took a tragic turn. Ricardo, just out of his teens, had been signed by Ferrari after a series of early successes. Now, in 1962, he was to race at the new autodrome for Mexico’s first (non-championship) Formula One race. But, he ended up having to drive an unfamiliar car, and was killed in a crash. The Mexican racing world, plunged into mourning, renamed the track after the Ricardo.
Out of this sad moment soon rose Pedro, the older of the two brothers. While he first stepped back from racing, opening a car import business instead, he eventually came back, participating in Mexico’s first Grand Prix race in 1963, and zooming to first place in Grand Prix races in South Africa in 1967 and Belgium in 1970.
Mexico’s Grand Prix then became the traditional end-of-season event during the late 1960s. Pedro triumphed on his home track in 1971, but two years later, lost his life in a race in Germany. Now the track had to be renamed again, this time in both brothers’ honor. But the course, now mired in disorganization, took a long break from hosting world-class races. Yet the brothers had left their legacy: more than 40 years later they are remembered as some of the best who ever raced.
It was not until 1986 that Formula One returned to Mexico City. Jose and Julian Abed modernized and re-opened the course, which at its high altitude, favored the turbo cars of that time. Formula One events drew huge crowds who witnessed both thrilling victories and several dramatic crashes which some blamed on the track’s surface. But again, the course moved in and out of use when racing events moved increasingly to Asia. The track lay dormant and even had a stint as a baseball stadium and concert venue. It was remodeled anew in 2001 and 2005 for ChampCar and NASCAR events. Then, in 2015, thanks to a strong injection of private and government investment, Mexican Formula One returned to the calendar in a completely renovated circuit.
The entire track had been resurfaced for the occasion, and the event was a great success for both drivers and fans, an amazing 240,000 of whom packed the autodrome, proving that Mexico continues to have a strong appetite for racing sports and F1.