Points from the back of the grid: that seems to be the leitmotif of our trip to North America.
As the cars left the garage on Friday in Austin, they sported large “KFC” logos on the side, as our driver line-up for the weekend at the Circuit of the Americas has three names on it, with Sean Gelael, who was behind the wheel of the STR13 in FP1 on Friday. Qualifying was only of slight interest to us as we had to take grid penalties for another PU change. It’s not ideal, but at this stage of the year, Honda is naturally looking ahead to next year and it’s better to take a bit of pain now in order to be in better shape for the 2019 season. Of course, there was an element of luck in Brendon getting two points in Austin, but you make your own luck in sport and he’d produced a strong drive from the back of the grid to eleventh and was there to pick up two places after the Stewards excluded two cars from the results. And it’s fair to say our race pace had looked good all weekend. It was a good boost for our Kiwi’s morale.
After Austin, Pierre and Sean headed off to Las Vegas, so maybe we should stick to the saying that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Once in Mexico, Brendon and Pierre went to a typical restaurant, at the invitation of Red Bull Mexico, where, after trying their hand at making Guacamole, they sat down to a traditional meal that included eating grasshoppers, getting an electric shock and having your fortune told by a canary.
Once in a while, usually at a “flyaway” race, we try and organise a dinner for every member of the team and that’s what we did on Tuesday night in Mexico. The next day, Pierre boarded a helicopter in Mexico City to head out to a Honda factory that produces road cars, where he got a very enthusiastic welcome from all the employees. They’d even laid on a bit of kart racing, with Pierre taking on 5 employees.
Wow! What a welcome the Mexican crowd provides for Formula 1. The Mariachi bands, the Day of the Dead face painting, the sheer volume of noise produced by the crowd in the fantastic stadium section, with the podium in the middle of it. It really is unique.
Once again, we took PU grid penalties, but this time only for Pierre, running the older specification unit for the weekend on both cars. In the race both our drivers fought hard and pulled off some aggressive overtaking moves and at least Pierre got a point, when he was promoted to the top ten after Daniel Ricciardo retired. The North American odyssey was not as successful as we would have liked and it saw us slip behind Sauber in the Constructors’ classification. But with no more planned grid penalties we hope to fight back from a level playing field in the final two rounds, starting on the far from level Interlagos circuit in Brazil.