F1i sits down with the last man to win the Mexican Grand Prix - Nigel Mansell - to talk about his special affinity with the circuit and the unique challenges it presents
Let’s start with the fact that you’ve got a corner named after you…
“Yeah, it makes you feel very humble, very proud. To have something in perpetuity and to have a corner of that magnitude I think is the history behind it. I think the overtake on Gerhard [Berger] was iconic, certainly for the Mexican fans and crowd and the Mexican race track. It lives in everyone’s memory, especially mine. To have the Peralta - albeit the last third of it - named after me is truly a great honour. I’d like to thank them officially for bestowing that on me.”
Is this a circuit and a race that you feel you do have a special connection with?
“Yeah coming over here is really quite weird because 23 years ago I won the race here, I won the world championship, it doesn’t get better than that. In ’91 I think we did everything OK and obviously in ’90 we came and did that overtaking manoeuvre so the last few years here racing was something very, very special for me.”
I know the circuit has changed a lot for this year, do you think they’ve done a good job with it?
“I think they’ve done a wonderful job with it. I think what they’ve created is some atmosphere as well. I mean, the last three or four turns together is like a big amphitheatre in there. I think what’s going to be sensational is I can’t wait to hear the crowd as well as the cars - I think the crowd more than the cars - you must get tens of thousands of people in the stands there. They’re going to be very vocal, it’s fantastic.”
Has it retained the challenge as well and the iconic parts?
“It’s different, they’ve obviously changed things for all the right reasons; for the safety and the run-offs. I think we had a great race in the US because there’s so many run-offs, people were able to run off, run back on and keep racing. We had a fantastic race there, so times move on.
"As a race track with the atmosphere and the fact that we’re here in Mexico City - I think the other thing that is astonishing as well is we’re 7500 feet up. It’s the highest genuine race on the calendar, it will test the drivers in a different way if it’s hot. There’s definitely less grip and the grip can change from lap to lap. If you get a little bit off-line there can be a big difference in grip, so I’m interested to see how that progress throughout the rest of the weekend.”
If we look back to the last time F1 was here and you won, the circuit has obviously changed but the location is the same, so what are the unique challenges of racing here?
“I think all of the challenges of all the other circuits around the world but one more. 20% less downforce, a slippier surface because of the smog and if you don’t have rain overnight to settle it down it then has a very, very fine dust. If you then actually have a little bit of wind thrown in to it then I think the trickiest thing I had here was I could never balance the car perfectly. Two thirds of the circuit I could get pretty good and was really pleased with and the other third of the circuit I struggled with. I’m pretty sure it was just the way the wind was and the contamination and dust that was blowing around.
"Also back then as well we had some significant bumps on the circuit. We had to learn where not to go down the straight because we could go airborne at 200mph and then rev the engine and that could cause a breakage. So there was a couple of bumps we had to avoid and I remember that very distinctly pretty much all the way round the circuit there was one really precise line you could take. Sometimes the line was weird going in to the corner but it was the smoothest line, so the car not being bumped around had better grip on that line than going on the fastest line.”
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