Mexican Grand Prix turns drivers into gladiators

Formula 1

Like a conductor leading an orchestra, Mexican Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg stood on top of his Mercedes on Sunday to take in the applause of more than 50,000 fervent Formula 1 fans.

The scene was like no other in the sport - Rosberg stood in the middle of what doubles as a baseball stadium, packed stands surrounding him.

In other races, the podium usually stands elevated above the start-finish straight, with team personnel and a lucky few allowed to watch on from below.

In Mexico, though, the drivers stood like gladiators, presented as heroes to the enthusiastic masses.

Mexico
Foro Sol was built in 1993 as a baseball stadium and music concert venue
Formula 1
It has been transformed into a weaving section of the circuit for the Mexican GP

Mexican magic

The Mexican Grand Prix was back on the F1 calendar for the first time in 23 years, with Britain's Nigel Mansell the last driver to win the race before Rosberg's triumph on Sunday.

Back then, there was no stadium section but drivers and team personnel alike were united in their praise of its inclusion.

"The best I've ever seen in all my life. The best," said three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who is now non-executive chairman at Mercedes.

"The magic is the Mexicans. The magic is the organisers who made this happen. The way they organised the spectator places for me was the best I've ever seen. And then the podium right in front of all the people.

"Formula 1 got back to where you can feel it and touch it and this is the most important thing."

Sergio Perez
Whether it was the acoustics or the enthusiasm of the fans, the crowd could often be heard above the engines, and Mexican driver Sergio Perez slowed down in final practice to give them a wave
Mercedes
An estimated 140,000 people were at the track to watch Sunday's race in Mexico City
Formula 1
After cutting out a corner to gain a place, Carlos Sainz let Sergio Perez pass him inside the stadium, much to the delight of the crowd

'It's like a football match'

"It's the best podium of the year," said Rosberg, moments after facing the cheering crowd on the podium inside the stadium.

"To be in a stadium like that and the atmosphere and the energy was just unbelievable."

"It is like a football match," added Lewis Hamilton, who finished second.

"In the whole entire time I have been in Formula I have never seen anything like it."

For Guadalajara-born Perez, who was greeted by huge cheers from the local fans wherever he went, it has been an unforgettable experience.

"I will remember this weekend forever," he said. "I think everybody has enjoyed the energy of the crowd and this must surely be one of the most popular races on the calendar now."

Formula 1
Unusual in Formula 1, the top three parked their cars in the stadium section at the end of the race, with the podium also there
Formula 1

It would seem, then, that the return of the Mexican Grand Prix was a resounding success and Lauda had one piece of advice for F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone: "Copy this race."

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