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WATCH: Schumacher’s maiden podium and 8 other classic Mexican moments

25 Oct 2016

From horrifying shunts to titanic battles, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has produced plenty of excitement over the years. Here’s our pick of the best action…

Schumacher opens his account, 1992

The 1992 Mexican Grand Prix was by no means a classic, Nigel Mansell leading team mate Riccardo Patrese home as Williams romped to an emphatic one-two, but it did feature a moment of considerable significance: Michael Schumacher’s very first appearance on an F1 podium.  Having started third, Schumacher dropped to sixth at the start behind McLaren’s Ayrton Senna, Benetton team mate Martin Brundle and Ferrari’s Gerhard Berger. However, the German would quickly pass the latter two, and when Senna dropped out with a transmission fault, third was his. “I was hoping for a podium finish this year, but didn't expect it quite so early on in the season,” said a delighted Schumacher afterwards. “I feel very happy with this result and it's just taking a while to believe it has actually happened.” A further 154 podiums would follow over 18 subsequent seasons, as Schumacher well and truly re-wrote the record books - but the ‘rostrum rush’ began here.


Vettel’s Mexican nightmare, 2015 

Sebastian Vettel’s career has undoubtedly featured more highs than lows, but last year’s race in Mexico is probably one he’d like to forget. After qualifying third on the grid, Vettel declared polesitter Nico Rosberg - his rival for P2 in the drivers’ championship - his 'primary target' in the race, but that challenge faltered as soon as the lights went out as he was passed by one Red Bull and clashed with the other, picking up a puncture in the process. A fightback seemed possible when he returned to the track on fresh rubber and set a string of fastest laps, but a subsequent spin at Turn 7 badly flat-spotted his tyres and left him with another mountain to climb. A bungled pass on Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus followed before the German crashed out for the first time in 106 races after another error at Turn 7. Vettel’s personal assessment of his own performance? “I did a **** job today.” 


Prost wins as Senna suffers, 1990 

Many had expected a McLaren rout in Mexico in 1990, but in the end it would be old adversaries Ferrari who would have the last laugh thanks to a combination of tyre trouble for long-time leader Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s stirring drive through the order from 13th - his lowest grid position in ten years. For the first 45 laps or so, Senna had looked in complete control, but then a slow puncture began to slow his progress just as Prost - the Frenchman having optimised his Ferrari's set-up with less wing for the race - was making a dart up the order. The denouement of a barn-storming spectacle came on lap 60, when Prost swept past his title rival to take the lead. But there was still time for McLaren to suffer more woe - three laps later Senna suffered a rear-right puncture and stopped, while Prost’s team mate Nigel Mansell was moments away from dramatically making it a Ferrari one-two...


Mansell gets bold with Berger, 1990

“Sheer lunacy at its best!” laughed Nigel Mansell when recently asked him to describe his audacious around-the-outside pass of Gerhard Berger at the formidable Peraltada corner in 1990, a move which secured him a last-gasp second place. “I think Gerhard was surprised - it’s not a manoeuvre you do,” Mansell continued. “It’s an outrageous manoeuvre and I think he backed out because he thought there was probably going to be a big accident that he might be involved in...” Ironically, it was a near miss with the Austrian at Turn 1 three laps from home that had spurred Mansell on.  “He locked up and if I’d turned into the corner he would have T-boned me and we would both have been out of the race,” he recalls. “It was very rude and I thought ‘there’s no way you’re going to get second place by driving like that!’”


Alliot walks away from frightening shunt, 1988 

Has there been a more significant safety development in the history of F1 than the carbon fibre safety cell? It was this that helped save Philippe Alliot from serious injury after the Frenchman suffered a terrifying crash during qualifying in 1988, his car slamming into the pit wall with enormous force after getting loose coming out of the fearsome 150mph Peraltada corner. Remarkably, Alliot crawled uninjured from the wreckage, and in an even more astonishing turn of events his Larrousse team, with no access to a spare chassis after the Frenchman had crashed at Monaco earlier in the year, were able to rebuild his car in time for the race.


Perez feels the noise, 2015

Last year’s race in Mexico attracted huge numbers of spectators, and nowhere was the atmosphere more electric than in Foro Sol - the baseball stadium that was dissected by the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez’s new section of track. Fittingly it was here, in front of more than 50,000 screaming fans, that home favourite Sergio Perez completed the pass on Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen that netted him eighth place. With the podium located in the same complex, you can only imagine the scenes - and the noise - if Perez ever makes it onto the rostrum…


Berger no stops his way to victory, 1986 

He may have scored more victories for McLaren and Ferrari, but Gerhard Berger and Benetton will forever be inextricably linked. The Austrian scored the team’s very first podium finish (at Imola in 1986) and their final victory before Renault’s takeover (at Hockenheim in 1997), but his most memorable performance in Benetton colours was undoubtedly Mexico ’86 when he recorded his and the team’s first triumph with a remarkable no-stop strategy. With their Pirelli tyres, Benetton always knew they had a potential ace up their sleeves, but it wasn’t until around half way, when his rubber was still wearing well, that Berger chose to press on to the finish, while the likes of Prost, Senna and Piquet were all forced into multiple stops to replace their blistered Goodyears.


Senna on a roll, 1991

It’s fair to say that Mexico was not a particularly happy hunting ground for Ayrton Senna. The great Brazilian won there once - in 1989 - but he also suffered a fair bit of bad luck and a couple of big accidents. In 1992 he spun off during qualifying and hit the wall with such a thud that he initially thought he’d broken his legs, but it was the above shunt at Peraltada in the same session a year earlier that many remember most, not simply because of its magnitude but because it was so unusual to see Senna’s red and white McLaren inverted. “He was taken to the medical centre and I could hear him screaming with pain,” remembers McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who was initially very alarmed at what had happened to his charge. “Then Sid [Watkins, the F1 doctor and a close friend of Senna] came out with a smile on his face. I said ‘how is he?’ and he said ‘he’s fine, he’s not hurt. He’s just a little shaken up’. I said I’d heard him scream, and he said [Ayrton] had a big stone stuffed in his ear, where gravel had gone right up his helmet and into his ear!” Stone removed, Senna would go on to finish third in the race.


Fighting Finns clash again, 2015 

For a brief period at the tail end of last season, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen seemed to develop a magnetic attraction to one another, clashing twice in three races. In Russia Raikkonen was deemed guilty of the last-lap contact that cost both men a potential podium, but in Mexico the stewards decided not to apportion blame for the Turn 5 clash, leaving the way clear for Bottas to pick up his second rostrum finish of the season. "It's racing in the end, but I think I was expecting that it probably might happen after Russia,” said Raikkonen afterwards. "Has he done it on purpose? I don't know, you can decide yourselves, it doesn't change the final outcome right now and it's not going to change anything for me for the future."