After an absence of more than two decades, Mexico and the iconic Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit makes its much anticipated return to the Formula 1 schedule in 2015, bringing the series back to the motorsport-loving nation for the first time in 23 years.

An event that can trace its roots more than half a century ago, Mexico first officially welcomed F1 through its parkland gates back in 1963 at the very same venue that will welcome the latest generation of motor racing stars later this month.

Named after racing brothers Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez - Mexican F1 legends who both sadly lost their lives in racing accidents -, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has undergone numerous revisions over the years, but its basic DNA has remained largely intact. The same can be said for the passion of the fans, which never went away even when F1 did.

It is little surprise then that those fans - from those that maybe went to the last race in 1992 to new followers - snapped up tickets in their droves when they first went on sale earlier this year.

"We were expecting a complete sell out for sure, but not in the time that it happened," reveals Mexican GP Director of Marketing Rodrigo Sanchez. "We were selling out in seconds. We were looking at the back end of the ticketing page where we can see reports about how much has been sold and all that and it was like looking at a Las Vegas slot machine. The numbers were going up and up and up and not stopping."

Such was the take up that organisers opted to expand the capacity with the inclusion of temporary grandstands, which could well take a race day attendance figure close to - or even above - 100,000.

In many ways, F1's return to Mexico is both timely and sensible. Indeed, in an era where F1 has come into criticism for turning its back on the classic venues in favour of forging new markets in somewhat less nostalgic corners of the world, Mexico's return ticks all the boxes with its city centre location, historic significance and thriving sponsors.

It's also blazed a retrospective trail by shunning the current preference for building new state-of-the-art, out of town venues in favour of sprucing up the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit. As Rodrigo explains, however, organisers simply couldn't entertain the thought of taking F1 anywhere else.

"It's such an iconic track, we couldn't just not do it here. This is where it's been done already twice. Every single international motorsport event that has come to Mexico. It was just in the right place in Mexico City."

With one successful Mexican competitor in Perez - fresh from his most recent podium finish in Russia -, another set to re-join the grid next year in Esteban Gutierrez when he is announced with Haas and a number of local sponsors appearing on several cars, the timing of F1's return to Mexico arguably couldn't be better.

"It's huge. It always has been big since the 80s. The last time they were here in the 80s and 90s, people were just nuts about it. What we saw when we got here is that there is a naturally deep knowledge of sports here.

"People do still talk about Prost, Senna, Mansell (who will have a corner named after him) - all these legends of the sport. So they're very knowledgeable and passionate about it and obviously having representation in the championship is like the cherry on top of the pie."

Upgraded facilities notwithstanding, close attention has been paid to not deviating far from the circuit's character or challenge, with most corner changes limited to improving the tarmac, expanding the run-off areas and re-profiling some bends to encourage more overtaking.

One bend that has, however, seen major alterations is the famous Piratelda bend, a once fearsome, high-speed 180-degree right-hander that led onto the long home straight. However, modern day speeds and an inability to expand the run-off area into the street that sits behind it mean there was no choice but to change it.

Though Rodrigo admits the decision was a difficult - albeit necessary - one, he believes the new stadium-style format, which sees a right-left-right complex wend through the middle of the existing Foro Sol baseball stadium is a striking alternative.

"That was probably one of the hardest things," he continued. "People would say 'don't even change the track, it's already a great track'. It's an amazing turn, but there was literally no way we could make that turn work because you have a wall that goes into the street just a few metres from the track. That turn nowadays, with an F1 car, at speed would be completely out of the question.

"We absolutely tried, but there was just no way we could make that turn work. However, the only alternative was basically to bring the track into the baseball stadium and it turned out pretty good.

"Everyone that's been here from outside Mexico, they're amazed about the track going into the middle of the stadium and thinking that this might be one of the most iconic areas of the track. We understand their concern, but I think we've brought an iconic new thing to the sport."

Indeed, fan engagement has been close to the heart of the new Mexican Grand Prix project, from the decision to keep the race right in the heart of Mexico City - with its 25 million strong population -, to its numerous fan-based events in both the venue and in the city.

"A lot of our work and a lot of our efforts have been focused on the experience. Everything that we've done has been to make sure the Mexican Grand Prix just becomes a 3-day festival of big music, entertainment and sport.

"I think Austin did it quite well with the downtown activation area. Montreal does it really well as well and you'll see something similar here. The size of Mexico City... you can't compare it to many others cities. It's humungous!"

It's not only fans that are excited to see F1 burn up the tarmac in Mexico City once again though, with several drivers looking forward to evoking the memories of the sport's legends with a return to such a historic venue. Despite the pressure, Rodrigo is confident they will be pleased with what they find.

"A lot of people were very anxious about what we would do with this super-iconic track. We've already had a number of F1 drivers, both former and actual drivers at the circuit and it's been getting great feedback so far.

"It's been a year of sacrificing a lot for people to make this happen and we're just a few days out from bringing the show to the audience."



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