The Mexican Grand Prix started yesterday for me when I went along to a promotional event featuring Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon playing in a 5-a-side football match on the roof of a shopping mall in town. There were office buildings all around, a host of interesting mascots and a huge local media contingent.Sergio, or Checo as he’s known here, scored a couple of goals and clearly was more talented than his Force India teammate who was only on the field for a few minutes.Today though, it was out to the track via Uber Black (a 30 min. trip for US$4.50) which is near the airport and it’s impressive. The media centre is above average and the canteen is one of the best, serving up complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner, and soft drinks.Right behind the paddock is the stadium. This used to be a baseball stadium but not anymore. A section was cut out of the stand so the track could pass through it and it’s fair to say there is nothing like it at any other track I’ve been to this year.It was a joy to be in the arena with no crowd, so come Sunday it should be quite an experience with 20,000+ fans packed in.
Unlike every other track, the podium is not near the finish line near the pits; it’s in the stadium with Paddock Club guests on either side. If there was any F1 race worth paying the steep price for a Paddock Club ticket (US$4k-$7k), this would be one of them.While the view from the grandstand is spectacular, your arse will kiss bare concrete, so bring a pillow if your seats are here.Today though was all about Checo. He starred in the first press conference,and was mobbed in the autograph session later in the day – they love the guy.Early in the day I stumbled across Max Verstappen entering the Paddock accompanied by a mariachi band. There was a sizable media pack walking backwards to get their/my shot, which is always dangerous but thankfully no one came to grief. All of the F1 Paddocks are tarted up with greenery, or in Mexico’s case, yellowery, so I incorporated the flowers in this shot of Carlos Sainz sitting on the rail and turning to allow the sun to kiss his face.The press conferences were held early in the day (to accommodate the European market) which meant some of the drivers, including Sebastian Vettel, did their track walks in the late afternoon. And while the drivers walked it, others ran it, like Italian F1 TV presenter Federica Masolin.Checo sat down for a chat with Chilean football legend Ivan Zamorano,while the fellow below (look closely at his eyes) gave me the evil eye.Of course there were some car pics but Thursdays are mostly about the drivers and punters, particularly when they come together at the autograph session. I had been warned about Mexico traffic but thus far it’s nowhere near the worst I’ve experienced and on the journey back to the Four Seasons Hotel (where a good number of the drivers and team bosses are staying) tonight, I managed to complete most of this blog, so it’s not been wasted time. And the local Mexicans? They are warm and welcoming, full of spirit and endeavour, and happy to wear a smile.
Tomorrow sees the first practice session at 10am local time and with temperatures in the mid-twenties and no rain forecast, I’m looking forward to a great 3 days.