F1 Returns to Classic Mexico – Sort Of

The main news this week in between the German and Hungarian races has been the announcement that F1 has signed a 5 year deal to race in Mexico from next season. With two drivers in the field along with telecoms giant Tel Mex heavily involved in the sport it was a logical move to bring a race to Mexico. After the (apparent) failure of the New Jersey race there was still scope for another race in the Americas and with the amount of Mexicans visiting the Grand Prix in Texas the market is quite clearly there.

After many discussions of new tracks the sport will return to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodrigez for the first time since 1992 however as suspected many changes at the track are necessary to accommodate modern F1 machinery. The biggest issue with the track is its final corner the Peraltada which is a long 180 degree left hander onto the start finish straight. The corner is hugely fast and features little to no run off. Further adding to the complications are a large public dual carriageway which now sits behind the corner and the construction in 1993 of the Foro Sol baseball stadium which makes the entry to the corner completely blind. This will be solved be diverting the cars into the baseball stadium itself and then out mid way onto the final turn. When Champ Car raced at the circuit in the 2000’s the corner was deemed too dangerous and a chicane was added before the turn to slow the cars down, this from a series where the cars were designed to run on walled ovals.

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However the track features more re-profiling alongside the curious decision to add more hairpins than necessary into the final corner sequence. The first two sections of turns have been tightened, one would assume to promote overtaking and slightly reduce corning speeds in the modern cars, but this should provide similar speeds to the old track when raced using late 80’s machinery. The removal of the first ess in the sweeping section again is likely due to run off requirements as it gets close to a bank of tress, however this will speed up the cars entry into the remaining corners. Previously the track featured grass run off into tarmacked areas but we’d unfortunately expect run off areas to be heavily tarmacked despite already providing punishing but safe run off.

The track was built out in a park in 1962 but the city has grown out to meet it and now sits as a sporting oasis in a metropolitan sprawl. When the track underwent its last regeneration in 2001 it pulled a staggering 402,413 spectators to the race. With a best of both worlds situation of a permanent circuit in a populous area it could be primed to pull in huge crowds to cheer on Sergio Perez if it is priced correctly and one can only hope this will be the case after witnessing the sparse grand stands of the Hockenheimring last weekend.

It is again another return to a classic circuit after Austria’s triumphant re-appearance a few weeks ago, the loss of the final corner was to be expected (many commentators believed the sport wouldn’t return to the track due to not being able to re profile the last turn) but the decision to change so much of the circuit is a curious one and it will remain to be seen how much character will remain. The circuit will join Texas and Brazil towards the end of the season Americas leg again leaving Canada as a stand alone race in the great white north. However there are a mooted 23 roundss lined up for next years championship as along with the 19 races from this season along with Mexico there will be a return of India (which was only on a “break” this year), Azerbaijan (Baku street race) and New Jersey. As mentioned before all indications are that the New Jersey race has fallen through, furthermore¬† the political situation hasn’t shifted any in India meaning the sport is unlikely to return there. This still leaves another race to face the chop if the Baku street race goes ahead as the calendar is unlike to go beyond 20 events but the political situation in Russia may create the appropriate opening.

The Chopping Block – Mid Season Report

With the season 9 races down (out of 19) its that time again when we cast our critical eye over the grids less fortunate and see who is on the chopping block come seasons end.

1. Marcus Ericsson – Caterham – 0 Pts – 18th

On this blog we didn’t exactly greet the appointment of Marcus Ericsson with glee, a middling GP2 driver that we assume has been promoted to the top flight on the strength on his pockets not his talent. While this is not always a sure fire reason not to get the step up, his team mate Kobayashi, Sergio Perez et al all had poorer results than the swede. Last year in GP2 he picked up a win along with 5 podium places but its a series we still want to see the top 3 graduate to the top flight not those finishing 6th. His season has largely been anonymous apart from the fact he finished 11th in Monaco hence his championship position, however when it gets slippy out there he’s often found in the barriers. With the team being sold to new management and a Red Bull protege (Robert Frijns) waiting in the wings one would assume he will depart from Abu Dhabi to pastures new.

2. Max Chilton – Marussia – 0 Pts – 21st

Ahh Max your fathers Aon cash may not save you now. While the Briton’s deep pockets helped him to a second season in F1 alongside the remarkable feat of finishing every race the F1 reaper could soon be calling time on Chiltons top flight career. Again another GP2 driver that we suspected just didn’t quite have it Max has shown he’s a safe pair of hands but while his team mate has gone from strength to strength (including scoring points) Chilton has seemed to have stayed still. Furthermore his finishing streak came to an end after he punted off his team mate on the opening lap in Canada, alongside the likely fact that Marussia will finish inside the top 10 for the second year running meaning they will reap the fiscal rewards from Bernie they may decide against taking more of Max’s cash. He may be saved if Bianchi moves to a better team but if Jules remains for another year I suspect the Marussia boys may scout out for some newer talent.

3. Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber – 0 Pts – 20th

Gutierrez is another drive on year 2 of his career but despite his up turn of form at the end of 2013 he can’t shake the look of a fish out of water. While he may of got to grips with the 2013 formula the complex 2014 power trains combined with Sauber’s dog of a car have possibly proved to much for the young Mexican. He has often tangled with the barriers in races (including at Monaco when running in 8th!) as well as a few practice shunts combined with being out shined by his experienced team mate despite his huge weight advantage in the lumbering obese Swiss challenger. Therefore one can predict sweeping changes at Sauber over the winter and unless there is a serious amount of willing from Telmex to keep him there (when Sergio Perez is doing a fine job flying the flag in the Force India) expect him to be given the chop.

4. Pastor Maldonado – Lotus – 0 Pts – 19th

Pastors move to Lotus was meant to be the dream move for the race winner from a poor Williams to a race winning team but its not turned out that way at all. The Lotus team has really struggled on track and off it and despite their form last season the move to hire the grids most notorious pay driver (estimates put his sponsorship at anywhere from 10 – 25 million a year!) should of been a warning sign to all. But while Romain Grosjean has gritted his teeth and pushed on to score 8 points Pastor finds himself way down the pecking order and yet to get off the mark. Every weekend its either dire reliability or his love of crushing carbon fibre against Armco that has squandered things. While the team haven’t given him the car he hasn’t had it in himself to get the thing over the finish line when it doesn’t go up in flames (although not the literal flames of the forward exhausts). If Lotus can secure funding expect to find Pastor out on his ear with his old habits burning his chance at the big time.

5. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 19 Pts – 12th

What is it about second drivers at Ferrari? For years the team suffered along with Felipe Massa, who now at Williams looks like a new man, and now his World Champion replacement has done no better. While his illustrious team mate has notched up 87 Pts including a podium the Finn has struggled to break into the top 10. With his major complaints being about the breaks he’s taken to smashing his car to bits in an effort to get higher up the chopping block table. He has a two year contract but he is in serious danger of his second stint at the Scuderia also being cut short by a year. Bare in mind last year in a Lotus Kimi scored a win alongside a further 7 appearances on the podium, this year he can’t even keep his team mate in sight down a Tilke straight.