Last Sunday Formula One made its triumphant return to Mexico. For the first time in 23 years the ,albeit somewhat quieter, sounds of F1 machinery could be heard coming from the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. The reception the F1 circus received was nothing short of spectacular, with drivers, journalists, and fans questioning how the Mexican GP ever fell off the Formula One calendar in the first place.
The Mexican Grand Prix was a true success in every sense of the word, not only did the fans create a unique atmosphere, perhaps more importantly government and business supported the event. Jennie Gow in her blog for Grid 1 earlier today commented the Mexican GP should act as a reminder that passion is more important that the pound and that F1 should not forget its roots with the future of Silverstone & Monza’s place F1 calenders continually questioned. Whilst I whole hearty agree with the sentiment, for me possible more than the incredible atmosphere in Mexico what was significant about the race was the pound.
Not relying on its place in history organisers of the Mexican Grand Prix have invested hundreds of millions in upgrading not only the pit and paddock area, but also the circuit design itself. Taking into consideration both modern safety requirements and maximising fans views and engagement with the cars on track aiming to create a fan experience unique to the Mexican GP. The person that came up with the idea of placing the podium in the stadium section of the circuit ,rather than as is traditional position above the pitlane, deserves every accolade they receive. The track gave the feeling of having the everyday fan at the heart of every decision taken. This focus on the fan paid off. Sell-out crowds, lead to sold out merchandising, and food stalls, exactly what is needed to ensure a venue is profitable.
Capacity crowds resulted in FOM world feed broadcasts packed with carnival like images of fans all weekend, relying this message to the millions of viewers at home paid off. Social media was a light with comments around the venue jumping to the top of everyone’s ‘the next race I’m going to’ list. Something the savvy Mexican Tourism board will no doubt capitalise on with the race becoming a stalwart of how the country is promoted. Beyond the circuit organisers, and the tourism board, Mexican business got behind the return of F1 to the country, half the teams on the grid sported additional Mexican sponsorship agreements for the race weekend.
None of this happened by chance. The Mexican Grand Prix did not return to the F1 calendar for sentimental value, it earned its place through making a sound business case. To the venue owner, the government and tourism board, to the local economy and to perhaps most importantly to businesses.
It was hugely refreshing to see such a dynamic and vibrant event and yes, again echoing Jennie Gow’s comments hopefully some of the ‘new territories’ can take some lessons in how to put on a show, but to me the real lesson should be to those traditional venues. European venues increasingly complain about an F1 event not being profitable, that increasing hosting fees cripple their finances. Perhaps the time has come to look at the product they offer as hosting fees increase their offering should evolve. Government and business don’t see the benefits of a home race because they haven’t been shown in a convincing way. Silverstone, Nürburgring should take the example of Mexico and show the county what F1 could do for them.
Retaining a place on the F1 calendar should not be a right, it should be earned. The Mexican Grand Prix serves to show when faced with that challenge the true classic venues are ready for that fight.