Will we see a Mexican Grand Prix in the next year? Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said he is in discussions to host a race in Mexico during the 2014 season.
Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, which hosted the last Mexico Grand Prix in 1992, is in line to host the event, however it requires a major upgrade. But this is thought to be faster and more efficient than building a new circuit elsewhere in the country.
Interest in F1 in Mexico has increased in recent years with the emergence of Sergio Perez, who scored three podiums for Sauber last season before signing for McLaren for 2013.
Meanwhile, Sauber have promoted Perez’s countryman Esteban Gutierrez to a race driver to make two Mexicans on the grid this season.
There have been rumours of a return to Mexico at a street circuit in the beach resort of Cancun, but Ecclestone says Mexico City is now the frontrunner to secure a race.
“Mexico City is a better place to hold the race than Cancun,” he told Autoweek. “In more or less any city around the world you could ask people ‘where is Mexico City?’ and they would say Mexico. If you said to somebody where is Cancun they would say ‘I don’t know.’
“We were going to do a race in Cancun. We had a contract but they couldn’t get the permission they wanted.”
It is generally viewed in F1 as desirable to host an F1 race in or close to the capital city of a country.
The Mexico City project is believed to have some key men behind it; one is Carlos Slim Domit, who is the son of the world’s ricest man, Carlos Slim, sits on the FIA Senate and has had financially backed the careers of Perez and Gutierrez.
Another is Alejandro Soberon who is chief executive of CIE, the world’s third largest live entertainment company, who have done studies on the project and see a business model which might work. There have been suggestions that Tavo Hellmund, who was involved in the Circuit of the Americas project which hosted last year’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, might be another. But sources in South America suggest that he is not integral to this project.
Ecclestone added: “Everybody thinks that Carlos Slim is going to pay the bills for the race but I know he’s not,”
Sources in Mexico say that Slim has worked hard to build interest in F1 in his home country, but having bankrolled the careers of Perez and Gutiettez, he would like someone else to pay for the costs of hosting a race.
That said, time is not on their side. Perez’ first season at McLaren is this year and no-one can know how long he will stay with the front-running team. It is important that the race happens as soon as possible, hence the plan to refurbish Hermanos Rodgriguez.
Mexico City has a population of around 21m, making it the biggest in the western hemisphere.
Following the successful running of the United States Grand Prix in Austin, which is one of the closest major cities to the border of Mexico, Ecclestone said that he believed “half the people that went to Austin were Mexican. There is absolutely a lot of potential in Mexico.”
However, the 2014 calendar is already looking packed with Russia and New Jersey set to join. If Mexico was to be added too, and no race from this season’s calendar dropped out, that would make 22 grands prix.
The number of races per year was restricted to 20 by the Concorde Agreement, but there is no Concorde Agreement in place currently. Nevertheless, it is likely that additional races over 20 would require unanimous consent by all 11 teams, who would all receive a slice of the additional commercial revenues.