Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2018

Paddock Diary: Mexican Grand Prix day three

2018 Mexican Grand Prix

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Why was Ferrari absent from a meeting between the teams and Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey? And does anyone know what Rich Energy tastes like? Here’s the latest from @DieterRencken in the Mexico City F1 paddock.

5am

Up, and attend to morning rituals as usual: calls, emails and e-papers, then prepare for the day ahead. Although it’s dark, I make out damp spots, so dress warmly and don all-weather shoes.

7:30am

Catch my Uber to the Media Accreditation Centre. I have company: a French journalist more used to catching the subway to the circuit – although he leaves his computer etc in a locker at the circuit, for obvious reasons – wanders up and I invite him to join my ride. As usual we swap transportation at the MAC, with the shuttle getting us to the circuit around 8:45.

While in the shuttle I receive my Uber receipt and compare the time taken early Saturday morning for the 6,6km between hotel and MAC versus last night’s identical trip, but in reverse: 12 minutes versus 45, which provides an indicator of Mexico City’s notoriously bad traffic at peak times. Expressed differently, this morning we averaged around 30km/h; last night’s equivalent was about a quarter that.

9am

Record podcast for Swedish TV – it should be online sometime next week – with the main discussion points being W Series and the demise of true team owners. Most outfits now being run by hired hands, and we consider whether this is one of the reasons for F1’s political inertia.

10am

Start of final practice – the early time slots we’ve enjoyed in North America certainly work for most of us in the paddock, as they mean we are able to return to our respective bases two hours earlier than we would in, say, Europe, where final practice is scheduled for noon.

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11am

Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2018A source in the paddock advises that the team bosses are currently in a meeting of their own calling – effectively a continuation of the ‘spice up the show’ discussions they held in Japan and Austin. I’m told they’ve agreed to meet every race.

However, according to the source, all team bosses had earlier been “invited for coffee by [F1 CEO] Chase [Carey]” for similar discussions. It seems the plan is to hold such 9:30am coffee parties regularly in future. Said source added that all bar Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene had attended; the implication being that the Scuderia had been rebellious.

When I check up with Maurizio later it transpired he had been under the impression that coffee was due to be served on Sunday, and thus missed the meeting. He blamed Guenther Steiner for the misunderstanding just as the Italian walked towards us, so I collared him. Guenther readily agreed that he’d provided the “fake news” after the invitation had gotten lost in translation.

“In fact,” he said, “I’m just back from Chase’s office, where I went to apologise personally for the mix-up.”

12am

Early lunch: sweet-sour BBQ ribs with gratin spuds, followed by a coffee-flavoured tiramisu-style cake. Also on offer in the media café are various Mexican dishes and pasta. Tomorrow I’ll try some of the ice cream offered by the paddock ice cream parlour, I promise myself.

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2:30pm

Interview time, so I walk through the paddock to the tunes of a Mexican band.

At Toro Rosso I put it to Brendon Hartley that he’s been particularly feisty towards his team and team mate recently, a point he doesn’t deny, explaining that “I need to fight my corner”. It’s clear he feels hard done by, but I do wonder whether openly criticising his team and casting aspersions on Pierre Gasly, as he did yesterday, is the best way of a retaining his seat.

Thereafter it’s time for Kimi Raikkonen’s session before some Haas chat with Romain Grosjean. Has he tasted a can of 2019 title sponsor Rich Energy’s product? “Not yet,” he says, but remarks that he’s is well used to the kind of black and gold livery the team is expected to sport next year from his Lotus days. At McLaren, their Meet the Team session is hosted this weekend by Gil de Ferran in the absence of boss Zak Brown.

I end the afternoon interviewing both Williams drivers and then the team’s tech boss Paddy Lowe. The latter provides some fascinating insights into driving styles as seen from an engineer’s perspective. Expect to read more of that on RaceFans in the near future.

6pm

Paddock work done for the day, I head for the shuttle stop, hoping to be at my hotel by 7:30pm before dining at the Argentinean steakhouse up the road. In the event I’m delayed by over an hour due to traffic caused by two major events: football match at Azteca Stadium, with our main delay caused by fans who block an intersection to enable thousands of other fans to pass through it; plus Day of the Dead parades in the city centre.

The area around my hotel is absolutely packed with revellers celebrating the Day of the Dead, so I drop my plans for a medium rump steak, and snack on a sandwich in my room instead. So much for F1’s perceived glamour.

9pm

Pack, ready for early hotel check-out and departure for the circuit with luggage. I need to be at the circuit by 9:00am as I have three team bosses to interview, plus some off-record stuff lined-up.

Clocks go back an hour after midnight, so I ensure my phone is set correctly or I’ll be up an hour early, then check-in online for my Sunday night flight to Frankfurt. I hit the pillow for my last night in MX amidst thunder crackers and rockets seemingly aimed at waking the dead…

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2018 Mexican Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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2 comments on “Paddock Diary: Mexican Grand Prix day three”

  1. Nice one Dieter.
    I’m a big fan of Tiramisu and that cake sounded good. Shame you keep getting denied the steak ;)

    These meetings are seriously interesting as is Liberty’s response in holding their own regular meeting now as well. Are they scared of losing total control I wonder?

    I think Brendon knows he is a gonner so he is now just speaking his mind and stirring the pot.
    He’s had a good run at it.

  2. ferrari always like that, lying and trying to force things and get almost everything the way they want or treathen to leave the sport. On the other hand, that crackers noises… may spice things. hope it rains to have a proper race and not tire saving.

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