However, arriving at the circuit named in honour of the two famous racing Rodriguez brothers, Ricardo and Pedro, the atmosphere is so unique and special that it gives everyone a lift. With the Foro Sol section of track – the one near the podium – so near to the paddock and the big grandstands on the main straight, you can feel the intensity of the emotion of the fans as they flock here in their thousands – Even Friday drew a crowd of over 88,000. Inevitably, Mexican Sergio Perez was the man they’d all come to see, but they’re a knowledgeable and fun crowd who were equally keen to see our drivers at the various autograph sessions, at the track or even outside it, at events organised by Red Bull.
But who were our drivers? Our line-up has made headlines for the past three races, and for this the 18th round of the championship, Pierre Gasly was back in the STR12, having missed the USA race and Brendon Hartley was alongside him, to tackle his second F1 start. The Kiwi is no stranger to the Mexican track, having won here in WEC only a few months ago.
Our French driver had to wait until the second free practice session on Friday to reacquaint himself with the STR12, as once again, Sean Gelael was given a run. We did this in the knowledge that Gasly was already going to be hit with an engine related grid penalty on Sunday. In fact, Pierre spent more time on the pit wall than in the car that day, as he only managed one lap in the FP2 session before being sidelined by an engine problem. An engine change was required and another was needed after the final hour of free practice on Saturday morning. The work involved meant that Pierre took no part in Qualifying, but the Stewards permitted him to start the race, as he produced good enough lap times during free practice. As for Brendon, he was definitely more confident in the car than he had been on his debut in Austin and was hoping for a strong qualifying. But an engine problem stopped the New Zealander in his tracks and the subsequent change of PU elements meant he too had a penalty that meant he had to line up 17th on the grid.
The build up to the race on Sunday morning was even more colourful than in Texas seven days ago, as the Mexicans showed off their enthusiasm for the “Day of the Dead” celebrations. All the drivers were given giant sombreros to wear as they tackled the Drivers’ Parade in an array of old sports cars and prior to the start the entire crowd stood with one fist raised as a gesture to remember the victims of the terrible earthquake that hit Mexico City. It happened on 19th September and so, on lap 19, the fans yet again stood to mark the event. It was good to see the sport as a whole do something to help get the city back on its feet, as the owners of Formula 1 and the Mexican GP promoter launched a project to build 600 schools.
As for the race itself, Pierre was more or less driving the car for the first time! In that situation, to finish seven places higher than you started is pretty good. Brendon showed his combative spirit, enjoying several duels, but yet another problem, an exhaust failure, meant he had to park the car. While most of the team can pause for breath before the penultimate round of the season in a fortnight in Brazil, Brendon has got other plans, as he heads to China for another round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The season finish line is in sight, with just Abu Dhabi to come after the Interlagos weekend and everyone at Toro Rosso will be giving their all to make it a successful finale.