2015 Mexican Grand Prix Preview

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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.

New heights

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.

More rain?

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
Laps: 71
Corners: 17
Lap Record: N/A
Last Held: 1992
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
DRS Zone: Main Straight (T17 to T1); T3 to T4

Roger Penske vows new downtown Detroit GP will be bigger than the Super Bowl for city

Roger Penske Detroit
David Rodriguez Munoz/USA TODAY Sports Images

DETROIT – He helped spearhead bringing the town a Super Bowl 17 years ago, but Roger Penske believes the reimagined Chevrolet Detroit GP is his greatest gift to the Motor City.

“It’s bigger than the Super Bowl from an impact within the city,” Penske told NBC Sports. “Maybe not with the sponsors and TV, but for the city of Detroit, it’s bigger than the Super Bowl.

“We’ve got to give back individually and collectively, and I think we as a company in Michigan and in Detroit, it’s something we know how to do. It shows we’re committed. Someone needs to take that flag and run it down through town. And that’s what we’re trying to do as a company. We’re trying to give back to the city.”

After 30 years of being run on Belle Isle, the race course has been moved to a new nine-turn, 1.7-mile downtown layout that will be the centerpiece of an event weekend that is designed to promote a festival and community atmosphere.

There will be concerts in the adjacent Hart Plaza. Local businesses from Detroit’s seven districts have been invited to hawk their wares to new clientele. Boys and Girls Clubs from the city have designed murals that will line the track’s walls with images of diversity, inclusion and what Detroit means through the eyes of youth.

And in the biggest show of altruism, more than half the circuit will be open for free admission. The track is building 4-foot viewing platforms that can hold 150 people for watching the long Jefferson Avenue straightaway and other sections of the track.

Detroit GP chairman Bud Denker, a longtime key lieutenant across Penske’s various companies, has overseen more than $20 million invested in infrastructure.

The race is essentially Penske’s love letter to the city where he made much of his fame as one of Detroit’s most famous automotive icons, both as a captain of industry with a global dealership network and as a racing magnate (who just won his record 19th Indy 500 with Josef Newgarden breaking through for his first victory on the Brickyard oval).

During six decades in racing, Penske, 86, also has run many racetracks (most notably Indianapolis Motor Speedway but also speedways in Michigan, California and Pennsylvania), and much of that expertise has been applied in Detroit.

“And then the ability for us to reach out to our sponsor base, and then the business community, which Bud is tied in with the key executives in the city of Detroit, bringing them all together,” Penske said. “It makes a big difference.

“The Super Bowl is really about the people that fly in for the Super Bowl. It’s a big corporate event, and the tickets are expensive. And the TV is obviously the best in the world. What we’ve done is taken that same playbook but made it important to everyone in Detroit. Anyone that wants to can come to the race for free, can stand on a platform or they can buy a ticket and sit in the grandstands or be in a suite. It’s really multiple choice, but it is giving it to the city of Detroit. I think it’s important when you think of these big cities across the country today that are having a lot of these issues.”

Denker said the Detroit Grand Prix is hoping for “an amazingly attended event” but is unsure of crowd estimates with much of the track offering free viewing. The race easily could handle a crowd of at least 50,000 daily (which is what the Movement Music Festival draws in Hart Plaza) and probably tens of thousands more in a sprawling track footprint along the city’s riverwalk.

Penske is hoping for a larger crowd than Belle Isle, which was limited to about 30,000 fans daily because of off-site parking and restricted fan access at a track that was located in a public park.

The downtown course will have some unique features, including a “split” pit lane on an all-new concrete (part of $15 million spent on resurfaced roads, new barriers and catchfencing … as well as 252 manhole covers that were welded down).

A $5 million, 80,000-square-foot hospitality chalet will be located adjacent to the paddock and pit area. The two-story structure, which was imported from the 16th hole of the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, will offer 70 chalets (up from 23 suites at Belle Isle last year). It was built by InProduction, the same company that installed the popular HyVee-branded grandstands and suites at Iowa Speedway last year.

Penske said the state, city, county and General Motors each owned parts of the track, and their cooperation was needed to move streetlights and in changing apexes of corners. Denker has spent the past 18 months meeting with city council members who represent Detroit’s seven districts, along with Mayor Mike Duggan. Penske said the local support could include an appearance by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmer.

Denker and Detroit GP  president Michael Montri were inspired to move the Detroit course downtown after attending the inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We saw what an impact it made on that city in August of 2021 and we came back from there and said boy could it ever work to bring it downtown in Detroit again,” Denker said. “We’ve really involved the whole community of Detroit, and the idea of bringing our city together is what the mayor and city council and our governor are so excited about. The dream we have is now coming to fruition.

“When you see the infrastructure downtown and the bridges over the roads we’ve built and the graphics, and everything is centered around the Renaissance Center as your backdrop, it’s just amazing.”