After celebrating his third Formula 1 world championship success in Austin, Texas last weekend, Lewis Hamilton’s attention now turns south as the paddock ventures to Mexico City for the first Mexican Grand Prix since 1992.
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has undergone major redevelopment in the past two years to come back up to F1 standards, and promises to become one of the seasonal highlights on the F1 calendar.
In an era of swelling sanction fees and grands prix in increasingly far-flung locations, Mexico offers something of a break with the times thanks to its massive fanbase, hungry for F1 after a 23-year absence.
Their excitement largely centres on Sergio Perez, who is set to receive a raucous homecoming this weekend in Mexico City as he bids to continue his impressive recent form. Compatriot Esteban Gutierrez is also poised for a memorable weekend, with his confirmation at Haas F1 Team for 2016 due on Friday.
Here is our full preview of the 2015 Mexican Grand Prix.
2015 Mexican Grand Prix – Talking Points
No letting up for Lewis
He may have a third world championship sewn up and three races to enjoy himself a bit more without the stresses of the title fight, but don’t expect Lewis Hamilton to relent at the front of the field. The Briton has won five of the last six races, and will be keen to be the first winner in Mexico since Nigel Mansell in 1992.
It will however be interesting to see how having the championship won will affect Lewis’ demeanor as well as his on-track form. This is a luxury he has never been afforded before, having only won the 2008 and 2014 titles at the final rounds – expect him to make the most of it.
Rosberg and Vettel battle for runner-up honors
The title may have been settled, but we do now have an intriguing battle for the runner-up spot on the cards. Nico Rosberg has been unlucky in recent weeks, which combined with Sebastian Vettel’s improved form has seen the Ferrari driver seize P2 in the drivers’ championship.
Rosberg bottled the race win in Austin late on, epitomising a year where he has looked a shadow of his 2014 self. Piloting one of the most dominant cars that F1 has ever known, failing to finish first or second in the championship would be a big, big loss for the German.
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez may have been reprofiled and lost its iconic Peraltada corner, but the track promises to offer one of the fastest laps on the calendar thanks to its long straights and fast-flowing corners.
Aiding this is the high altitude of Mexico City, standing at over 2000m above sea level. This will pose a challenge to both man and machine, but it also reduces drag effect, meaning that the drivers will be able to go faster in a straight line. It should be a breathless grand prix weekend.
Checo the rock star
After Alexander Rossi gained the bulk of the media’s attention over the United States Grand Prix weekend, Sergio Perez now takes up the mantle as he prepares for his first ever home race. Perez is something of a national icon in Mexico, but will finally get the chance to delight a sell-out crowd in Mexico on Sunday.
Of late, he has been in fine fettle, scoring his first podium of the year in Russia and enjoying a quietly impressive race in Austin. As race promoter Federico Gonzalez put it in an interview with MotorSportsTalk last week, Perez will be treated “like a rock star” – it’s a big, big weekend for him.
If the F1 paddock hadn’t already got its fair share of rain in Austin last weekend, more is on the horizon for this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix. Although Friday does promise some dry running, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday are all forecast to be rain-affected thanks to the lingering presence of Hurricane Patricia.
That said, if we’re treated to a race similar to the one we saw in Austin thanks to the rain, it’s unlikely there will be too many complaints.
2015 Mexican Grand Prix – Facts and Figures
Track: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
Lap Record: N/A
Last Held: 1992
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
DRS Zone: Main Straight (T17 to T1); T3 to T4