Paddock Diary: Mexican Grand Prix day four

2019 Mexican Grand Prix

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An FIA inspection of Ferrari’s power unit may have debunked one theory about how the team achieves its remarkable engine performance, @DieterRencken reports in the final instalment of his Mexican Grand Prix Paddock Diary.

8:30am

After an easy commute in I grab fruit, pastries and coffee, then prepare for day. There are two issues bubbling under I’m keen to look into.

The first is questions over the accuracy of F1’s tyre graphics after Pirelli voiced concerns about them on Friday. The second concerns suspicions Ferrari boosts its performance by somehow ‘leaking’ intercooler fluid into the engine – a theory which was revealed here during the Russian Grand Prix.

On the first point, I’m scheduled to meet with F1 broadcast folk to understand how they derive the data. On the second, I speak to an official who has knowledge of the engine’s workings.

They tell me that after the FIA inspected the system with the full co-operation of Ferrari, there were no discernible high pressure points within the system from which fluids could leak. Three distinctly different liquids are used for cooling.

The question of how Ferrari is achieving its prodigious power output therefore remains. It’s a matter their rivals will be anxious to get to the bottom of in order to close the gap before the start of the 2020 F1 season.

10am

Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019I meet with Dean Locke, F1’s director of broadcasting, who explains the methodology and philosophies behind the graphics. We reported some of this shortly before the race, and will bring more soon.

Thereafter I head for Scalpers, the paddock barber shop for a tidy, stopping to ask Jimmy (Paintz) to apply his talents to my cap. Hair trimmed, I collect my cap – to be worn in Austin – then take a paddock stroll.

Wherever one goes within the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez there is a carnival atmosphere, be it from the sounds of mariachi trumpet groups; folk wearing traditional dress; or colourful alebrijes, the Mexican folk art statues. The grand prix is promoted by an entertainment company, and it surely shows.

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11am

Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019Along the way I discover that teams have received 2021-25 commercial offers (aka Concorde Agreements), a prelude to the next big fight after the sporting, technical and financial regulations are published on Thursday. Asked what he thinks about the commercial offers, a team boss says with a wink, “Most of us are laughing, the others are crying.”

I take this to mean that Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull will lose all of their special terms (or some of them, in the case of Ferrari). My source just smiles at this…

11:45pm

I head to McLaren where I’ve been invited to lunch (medium-rare steak with fries) by Katharine Mohr, the team’s resources manager. Mohr followed team boss Andreas Seidl to Woking from Porsche, where she held a similar position, and is another of the highly organised executives who is bringing structure to ‘McLaren 2.0’.

12:30pm

Head for grid, and once again I’m struck by the festive atmosphere of this race, simply unlike any other. As promised, I wear my colourful jacket despite the midday heat as I stroll about the grid, spotting Greg Maffei, president and CEO of Liberty Media – thus Chase Carey’s boss – taking a keen interest in his company’s multi-billion dollar investment. No doubt he’ll be in Austin.

3pm

Race over, it’s time for the post-race interviews. I ask Alexander Albon, who on Saturday spoke about the effects of jet lag on his most western visit.

I ask how he coped during the race, but he seems to have recovered. “I think it’s maybe the easiest race of the year,” he tells me. “This and Monza. Pretty simple.”

He explains that the long straight at both venues give the opportunity for a breather. He does, however, lament his missed podium chance, having run third in the opening stages.

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4:30pm

A heavy thunderstorm breaks. I duck into the media centre and am suddenly surrounded by a mariachi band which breaks into, I’m told, ‘Happy Birthday’ in Mexican.

Thereafter Rodrigo, the circuit’s marketing director, presents me with an F1 birthday cake. Sure, the actual day was Wednesday, but the Mexicans just keep giving – thanks so much!

5pm

F1 race director Michael Masi debriefs us, during which he tells me that teams had a 30-minute window to protest Ferrari’s alleged intercooler transgression, and that time has passed.

“Our technical guys look at all matters of legality on all cars regularly and will continue to,” he said. “And as we are all well aware the teams have the ability, if they wish, to protest the matter.” Draw your own conclusions…

6pm

Circuit duties done, I head for the shuttle back to the hotel where I plan to work in peace, but not before some minor drama: an electric cable shorted during the storm, causing a fire, with the resultant flames licking at a neon light on the wall of the entertainment alley. Fortunately extinguishers are to hand and the flames are soon doused.

It’s been a great event and I’m looking forward to returning next year – but for now I’m off to Texas (Tuesday) and the next Mercedes-Ferrari battle of the year, one at which Lewis Hamilton is likely to seal his sixth world title.

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2019 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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13 comments on “Paddock Diary: Mexican Grand Prix day four”

  1. spotting Greg Maffei, president and CEO of Liberty Media – thus Chase Carey’s boss – taking a keen interest in his company’s multi-billion dollar investment.

    This interests me.
    Never heard of the guy and I have no interest in him, but does he often turn up to F1 races? Or is this a sign of concern from the money worshippers?

    a 30-minute window to protest Ferrari’s alleged intercooler transgression, and that time has passed.

    If they haven’t protested it is because they want to do the same thing?

    Top stuff as always Dieter. Thanks ;)

    1. I haven’t heard of him attending a lot of races, but it isn’t that long of a trip from Colorado relatively speaking.

  2. Happy (Belated) Birthday, Dieter!

  3. Dieter,
    It sounds like you believe a lot of promoters could learn from Mexico on how to put together a successful weekend.

    Also, it looks like they treat you like a rock star down there. :)

    1. Which would probably explain some of the rather bitter remarks that Joe Saward has been making about Dieter “grovelling around and sucking up to […] people” in the F1 paddock…

  4. I’m told, ‘Happy Birthday’ in Mexican.

    You mean “in spanish!”. Feliz cumpleaños, Dieter!

    1. Actually, the lady in the media office did say it was ‘Happy Birthday in Mexican’ – who am I to argue with her?

        1. Maybe speaking Mexican is another thing the Spanish plundered.

  5. My problem with those tyre graphics (and all the other prediction data by AWS) is that not knowing and waiting to see what happens is why we watch. If we had accurate readings on the development of the race, or the finishing order, why would anyone watch?

    That’s what makes F1 or any other sport a boring spectacle. Knowing in advance what’s going to happen, who’s going to win, what the difference is between teams, drivers, players, whatever.

    Sure it’s a “prediction” so it can be wrong, but why even use it? having all the information available is very common these days, but I wish we knew even less…

    Besides, laptimes give a much more accurate reading on the state of the tyres, car and driver, so why not use the “last 3 laps” graphics we used to get?

    1. @fer-no65: Great point.

      Sometimes I wonder if Liberty thought since they were getting the fastest motorsport on earth – each race would be over in 30 minutes. Sometimes they are, but take another 90 minutes to decide the winner.

      It doesn’t help with the Sky F1 air-crew blabbing about strategy for toddlers. They must believe the majority of Sky F1 viewers are idiots who need to be told in advance how everything will end. Except subscriptions – those are meant to never end.

    2. yes, agree. they went the wrong way (again) with the graphics & aws deal. but, fans that can deduce the state of tyres from lap times are not the type of fans that are being catered to. as dieter also wondered while at the wrestling demo, is that the ‘vision’ of the sport. frankly, i can’t stand to watch it on tv anymore, the camera angles are so close & low it doesn’t even make sense, where they are on track & what is actually going on. i suppose that’s the point of the graphics, to help someone ‘watch’ the race because it’s not easy to follow from the pictures alone.

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