After the success of our last Ultimate Track Guide series, we’ve decided to look at a few more of the most impressive racetracks around the globe. This time we’re visiting Mexico’s Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez to look at the circuit’s history and explore its most famous races and successful drivers.
Explore our Race Track Posters, and make sure you look back at our previous Ultimate Track Guides.
Introduction to Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez
The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico’s first international racetrack, opened in 1959 but the locals had to wait a whole three years before they saw some Formula One action!
Amazingly, the track layout was designed by civil engineering student Óscar Fernández as part of his! It sits at an impressive elevation of over 2km above sea level. Because of the high altitude of the track, the air is noticeably thinner, causing difficulties for both car and driver: as if racing a Formula One car wasn’t difficult enough!
The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez has been redesigned multiple times over its 60-year lifespan though it mostly still follows the original route from 1959. The 4.3km lap is a non-stop roller coaster ride with 17 twisting corners lining up to a 1.2km blistering straight, the longest on the F1 Calendar.
Experience the breathless, technical nature of the circuit in this onboard ride-along of Valtteri Bottas’s incredible pole lap last time around in 2021. Bottas currently holds the fastest lap record around the Autodromo, a blisteringly fast 1:17.774.
Though one of the most exciting and popular tracks in Formula One, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez has not always been a feature on the racing calendar. The track has been dropped from the schedule multiple times, including a sorry 23-year hiatus, mainly due to concerns about track conditions and crowd safety.
It took a multi-million-dollar renovation which included several new grandstands, a refined track layout, and resurfacing of the entire racecourse to get the Autódromo back on the calendar in 2015.
Normally sitting towards the back end of the Formula One season, the Mexican Grand Prix has been the deciding race of the championship on multiple occasions. Lewis Hamilton secured back-to-back world drivers’ championships in Mexico in 2017 and 2018.
Not just home to Formula One, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez hosts a wide range of other thrilling motorsport events, including NASCAR and Formula E. The track layout can be adjusted into several orientations to accommodate the needs of these different series.
History of Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez
The history of this incredible track cannot be separated from the Mexican legends it is now named after. The track was originally called the Magdelena Mixhuca circuit after the public park it was built on, but the name was changed to The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in remembrance of Mexico’s most famous racing drivers, brothers Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez. Their incredible story is one of accomplishment and tragedy, though more of the latter!
Ricardo, the younger of the two brothers was killed in a devastating accident during the first day of practice at the inaugural Formula One Grand Prix at the Autódromo. Regarded as a future champion, Ricardo remains the youngest driver to ever achieve a podium in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing 2nd for Ferrari in 1960 at the tender age of 18.
His death, caused by a suspension failure at the terrifying, full-throttle 17th corner of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, sparked sorrow across the motorsport world and national mourning in Mexico.
His elder brother Pedro went on to become an excellent and well-respected racer. Considered one of the best of his era, Pedro competed in 55 Formula One races for top-level teams including Ferrari and BRM.
Renowned for his unmatched bravery, Pedro won two races in his 8-season career along with victory in the illustrious 24 hours of Le Mans in 1968, racing for Ford with teammate Lucien Bianchi.
Sadly, nine years later Pedro also died in a motor racing accident. He was racing in a European Interserie sports car race at the Norisring, a German street circuit in Nuremberg. On the 12th lap of the race, one of his front tyres came detached, catapulting Rodríguez’s Ferrari across the track where it set ablaze.
Most successful drivers on Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez
Jim Clark. Wins: 3
British two-time world champion Jim Clark loved a lap around the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Clark took the chequered flag 3 times in the Mexico Grand Prix, more times than anyone else, until his record was equalled last season by Max Verstappen.
Jim drove in an era of Formula One typified by loud smells, noisy engines and high-pitched terrifying cars! When you factor in the level of danger and lack of reliability compared to todays streamlined high-tech cars, his consistent performance is a feat to be really admired!
Look back at the stunning career of Jim Clark and his Iconic Lotus with this Green Machine – 33 poster.
Max Verstappen. Wins: 3
In his short time at the top of Formula One it has become clear Max Verstappen likes smashing records as much as Mexicans like smashing pinatas! In his time at the top of Formula One, he has become the youngest driver to start and win a race and has the record for most podium finishes in a season.
The Mexican Grand Prix is no exception, and the current two times world champion has won three of the last four equalling Jim Clark’s record.
Watch this space, as when we take to the track in Mexico on the 30th of this month nobody will be surprised if Verstappen takes the chequered flag, becoming the most successful Formula One driver ever at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
Celebrate Max’s 2nd World Drivers Championship with our Mad Max – Verstappen Poster.
When it comes to success at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez an honourable mention must also go to Max’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez. In 2021 Perez became the first Mexican driver to lead the Mexican Grand Prix at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
Perez eventually fell behind teammate Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to finish 3rd. This epic drive made him the first Mexican driver to stand on the podium at their home race. With his recent winning form the Red Bull driver could easily become the first Mexican to win at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
Most famous race at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez
1964 – Last Lap Championship Deciding Drama
In 1964 the Mexican Grand Prix was the final race on the Formula One calendar. This set the scene perfectly for the track to play host to very dramatic title conclusion that would give Hamilton vs Verstappen 2021 a run for its money!
The season had been an intense 3-way fight between British drivers, John Surtees, Graham Hill, and Jim Clark, with each driver leading the championship at points of the season.
The trio went into the final race separated by just 9 points, which just happened to be the number of points awarded for a victory by the old scoring system. It was anyone’s championship!
After an intense battle in the dry Mexican heat, we entered the final lap with Clark running clear in first, on track to claim his 2nd Formula One Championship.
Hill was playing catch-up further back in the pack; he had suffered damage as the result of Ferrari’s Lorenzo Bandini misjudged, maybe even reckless overtake attempt which resulted in him crashing into the back of Hill.
Surtees was trapped in 4th place, watching Clark’s green Lotus and his dreams of a first f Drivers Championship race reaching out into the distance.
There was last-lap drama to be had though, unbeknownst to Clark his car had been leaking oil for the last few laps, and his engine unexpectedly seized as he rounded the first corner of his victory lap. He was forced to pull off the racing line; his championship hopes in tatters.
As a consequence of Clark’s retirement, Surtees moved up into 3rd place. This wasn’t enough though; Surtees was 5 points behind Hill in the championship and only 4 points were awarded for 3rd place. If things remained like this Hill would be champion because of his points advantage from the earlier races in the season.
It was not over yet though, some quick maths in the pit lane by Surtees’ Ferrari crew concluded that if he finished in 2nd place, he would win 6 points and snatch victory from Hill. Luckily for him, his teammate Lorenzo Bandini was currently running in 2nd place.
In one of the earliest examples of team orders, the Ferrari crew ran out onto the track to implore Bandini to slow down! This was a time before cockpit radio, and health and safety!
Bandini got the message, pulled to one side allowing Surtees to glide past and dramatically claim his championship.
Can you imagine Toto or Horner running onto the track today to tell their drivers to stop?! How things have changed.
Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez Trivia
- The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is located over 2000m above sea level making it the highest racetrack on the Formula One calendar. This high altitude increases the intensity of the race for the driver and decreases engine performance. The drivers often undergo acclimatisation as part of their preparation for the race.
- Not just for high-speed motor racing, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is utilised by the Government of Mexico City for marathons and bicycle races! That doesn’t sound fun at 2000m altitude!
- In 1999 the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez hosted a very different type of event to the usual motorsport fare. Pope John Paul II used the track as a venue to give communion to over 2 million faithful worshippers.