Mexico… arriba, arriba!
“Now we head to Mexico. Last year, I took a helicopter trip to visit a Honda factory and to see the huge sprawl of Mexico City from the air is a truly impressive sight. The city seems to spread out forever. The first day you arrive, you can feel you’re at altitude, but after that you don’t notice it anymore. It has a bigger effect on the cars than the drivers. We can prepare and train for it, but its more complicated for the engine, cooling the brakes is a consideration and there is less downforce, so it’s the car that suffers more than we do. We put a lot of downforce on the car and you do notice you have less grip as the aero effect is lessened because the air is less dense. So it can be strange, we ran pretty much maximum rear wing, but the feeling you get is very different to what you would normally expect with that level of downforce. It’s always very good to go very fast in a straight line as that’s always exciting. During the race, I reckon we must see some of the highest top speeds of the year. Apart from these technical aspects, the whole weekend has an amazing atmosphere. I remember last year, during the Drivers’ Parade, I was in a car following Sergio Perez and it was incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much support for one driver, with people shouting, cheering and screaming. It was madness. That stadium area is so impressive, with so many people in it and when they all start shouting it gives you goosebumps. The whole circuit has a big crowd and that’s great to see. As for the track, it’s quite slow with plenty of slow corners, but then you have the esses section in the middle of the track, which is what I prefer, because the faster it is the more I like it. During the race, it can get quite busy, especially at the first corner where you can fight other cars. I’ve never had much luck there, as I had to take engine penalties which dropped me down the grid, although last year I came from the back row to finish tenth and score a point.”
“The thing that impressed me most about the Mexican GP the first year I went there was the circuit and the crowd. Two weeks ago we were in Japan where the fans are also special but in Mexico it’s something different. When you go through the stadium section on the drivers’ parade and you hear the roar of the crowd, it’s an incredible noise, everyone is cheering. There’s a fantastic atmosphere there. As for the actual track, it’s mainly slow corners requiring lots of full lock on the steering wheel. The layout is still quite technical, there are some medium speed chicanes in there and the final part flows a bit more while you hit very high speeds down the very long main straight. The most important thing is that it makes for an exciting race. That’s what matters in the end. If the race is exciting, it means the track is good and for us drivers, we just put it on the limit on every corner we have to take. The thin air at altitude has an effect on the PU and also the aerodynamics, as there is less drag. It means we hit high top speeds but also run a lot of aero downforce. I remember again the first year I went there, I noticed the altitude a bit, you feel a bit lower on energy the first couple of days but then you get used to it and it’s fine. It would be nice to train at altitude, but we never have the time as this is a particularly busy part of the season, involving a lot of travelling with long flights. Overall, it’s an enjoyable weekend, I have some good memories here and had a good result a couple of years back, finishing fourth and Mexico City is also where we have one of our usual team dinners and, as we head towards the end of the season, it’s nice that everyone gets together in a more relaxed way than at the racetrack.”