After experiencing its first race on home soil this past weekend with the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, Haas F1 Team is set to enjoy another home race of sorts with this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix in Mexico City.
Haas F1 Team is the first American Formula One team in 30 years, and its driver lineup consists of Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez. Grosjean holds dual citizenship in Switzerland and France, neither of which hosts a Formula One race. Gutiérrez, however, hails from Monterrey, Mexico, and the Mexican Grand Prix serves as a homecoming for him and Haas F1 Team sponsor Telcel.
Gutiérrez has competed in 56 Formula One races, but none at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, site of the Mexican Grand Prix. Following a 22-year hiatus, Formula One returned to Mexico in 2015, but Gutiérrez was not on the starting grid. Instead, he was the third driver at Scuderia Ferrari, helping to develop the race car for four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel and 2007 Formula One champion Kimi Räikkönen.
That development work and his two seasons with Ferrari-powered Sauber in 2013 and 2014 earned Gutiérrez his seat with Haas F1 Team for the 2016 season. Finally, after having to watch the return of Formula One to his home country last year, Gutiérrez will be able to compete in his home race when Haas F1 Team unloads at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
Gutiérrez is one of six Mexicans who have competed in Formula One, but one of just two active Mexican drivers in Formula One. Gutiérrez is joined on the grid by fellow countryman Sergio Perez of Force India. Both drivers were preceded by the Rodríguez brothers, of whom the circuit is named after. Ricardo Rodríguez made five starts for Ferrari in 1961 and 1962, and Pedro Rodríguez drove for Lotus, Ferrari, Cooper and BRM between 1963 and 1971. They are joined by Moisés Solana, who made eight Formula One starts between 1963 and 1968, and Hector Rebaque, who made 41 starts from 1977 through 1981.
With a seat at the 22-driver Formula One table, Gutiérrez is aiming for points in his home race. Teammate Grosjean was able to deliver a point-paying finish last Sunday at COTA, and the two drivers are looking to start a streak of top-10 finishes that will deliver even more points.
This is exactly what Grosjean did last year in his final season with Lotus. He finished 10th in the Mexican Grand Prix and carried the momentum from Mexico City into the last two races of the year by securing back-to-back ninth-place results at Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Even as the season is winding down, the pace is always set on high in Formula One. This will be especially true at Mexico, with the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez being one of the fastest circuits in Formula One.
The 4.304-kilometer (2.674-mile), 17-turn circuit has hosted Formula One since 1963, but in preparation for Formula One’s return in 2015, it was completely revamped. Noted track designer Hermann Tilke penned the new layout, which followed the general outline of the original course. The entire track was resurfaced, with new pit, paddock and spectator stands constructed. The most notable changes from the old layout to the current version were an added sequence of corners comprising turns one, two and three, along with a revised set of corners through the Foro Sol baseball stadium, which was built inside the famed and feared Perlatada corner, which serves as the track’s final turn.
The new asphalt made for a slippery surface in 2015, but with a year of age and a handful of other racing series competing on the track since, grip levels should increase.
Augmenting the unknown grip levels is Mexico City’s high altitude. Sitting 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) above sea level, the thin air means there is less downforce on the cars. And the engines, particularly the turbos units, have to work harder to produce the same power. To compensate for this, teams run more downforce than they would at similarly fast tracks like Monza and Baku. But with top speeds at last year’s Mexican Grand Prix peaking at 366 kph (227 mph), teams will have to compromise between straight-line speed and the downforce necessary to push though the track’s corners.
These are the ingredients for excitement, and the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is ready to dish up another exciting race in its storied history. As a participant instead of a spectator, Gutiérrez is ready to feast on the opportunity. And Grosjean, having tasted points last Sunday at COTA, is ready for another sampling Sunday in Mexico City.