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Mexico return imminent?

30 May 2012

Despite talk of the Spanish Grand Prix being shared between Barcelona and Valencia in future years, a more immediate threat for the latter has emerged in the shape of Mexico City.

Spanish newspaper Marca reports that, owing largely to Sergio Perez's successful graduation to the ranks of F1 driver, Mexico has ramped up its bid to return to the fold, and has promised to give the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez a makeover in order to secure a round of the world championship in 2013.

Having not held an F1 round since 1992, when Nigel Mansell led home a Williams 1-2 en route to his world championship success, Mexico has made noises about returning on several occasions, but has not had a driver capable of sustaining interest in the project until Perez came along, impressing in F3 and GP2 before being handed his chance in the top flight by Sauber at the start of 2011.

Of course, the step up was helped by sponsorship and Carlos Slim Domit, whose telecoms billionaire father is one of the new wave of backers for the Sauber team, insisted late last year that Mexico deserves a spot of the calendar as soon as possible. At the time, he was working with entertainment company CIE to bring F1 back to his homeland after an absence of nearly 20 years, and firmly believes that the likes of Sergio Perez and current GP2 star Esteban Gutierrez can help lead the campaign.

"I embrace the idea and believe that a new race for Mexico is ..... a 'no-brainer'," he wrote in FIA in Motion magazine at the time, "Mexico has long been close to F1, closer to it indeed than it has been to many other racing series that have visited the country. The rise of a new generation of Mexican racers has only served to boost the interest in F1 [and] the potential of these young drivers has reawakened interest in F1 beyond hardcore fans. The huge crowds who flocked to see Perez's F1 demonstration in his home town earlier [in 2011] attest to a new-found popularity for the sport that should be capitalised upon."

While Slim Domit referred warmly to a variety of potential venues should F1 decide to return, including the tourist resort of Cancun and 'second city' Guadalajara, it would appear that the latest bid, as reported in Marca, is set to return to the familiar surroundings of Mexico City, at least in the short term.

Sauber/Perez sponsor Telmex and several other national companies - including Interprotección, Tequila Cuervo - and the Ministry of Tourism have expressed support for the bid, which the report insists Valencia on the 2013 schedule. Mexico has previously held 15 grands prix, in two bursts between 1963-70 and 1986-92, but the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez more recently played host to the US-based Champcar series, for which it altered its layout to bring cars in through the local baseball stadium, NASCAR and A1GP.

The circuit is located within the Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City complex and, despite being owned by the city government, is operated by CIE through its OCESA subsidiary. All parties have apparently agreed a five-year deal with Bernie Ecclestone, with work to begin on bringing the circuit up to scratch starting as soon as forthcoming elections, scheduled for 1 July, are completed.

The report claims that Mexico would link up with Canada on the schedule, almost directly filling the slot set to be vacated by Valencia. How this would work in future seasons remains to be seen, however, as the Spanish city believes it has agreed to share the national GP with Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, with the race returning to its port-side street layout in 2014. Barcelona, meanwhile, has been suggesting that it would actually like to keep the grand prix to itself [see story here], creating the possibility that Valencia, despite Ecclestone's apparent fondness for a venue that has yet to produce an exciting race, could be in danger of dropping off the schedule altogether.

Mexico, of course, is not the only country hoping to join the F1 tour, with Russia due to link up after the 2014 Winter Olympics christen its Sochi venue and a second race in the USA set to add to Austin next season. Argentina, too, has made headlines in recent weeks, with a dramatic seafront circuit in Mar del Plata apparently on the drawing board, and France seeking a way to come back part-time, possibly in partnership with Belgium. All have been subject to rumour and counter-rumour, however, and it remains to be seen which, if any, get off the ground.


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