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The Mexican Grand Prix

The Mexican Grand Prix

IM000207-001My first ever visit to Mexico was the final stop in a trip that started in Boston Massachusetts for some whale-watching then to Chicago for some pizza-eating and finally Mexico City for the Grand Prix.

Following the earthquake I was not sure whether continuing on to Mexico City would be appropriate, not feeling comfortable spending my leisure-time in a city dealing with the aftermath of such a tragedy. But a few weeks further on and with the circuit and organisers being so positive about proceeding with the Grand Prix, I was happy to go.

Slightly worrying though, more so for the local population than myself, was the fact that the hotel I had booked was in the Roma/la Condesa district which had suffered much of the damage. Five nearby buildings had collapsed and all attempts at making contact with the hotel, right up to the time of my UK departure, were met with ‘unavailable’ or similar messages.

All was well, the hotel had in fact suffered no damage and was expecting me. I had chosen it due to its location and proximity to the metro, but was surprised at how nice an area it was in. It was safe to wander around day and night, full of little bars, cafes and restaurants (and street stalls), opposite a little park and a seven stop metro-ride to the circuit. The metro in that part of town was comfortable and not overcrowded as it was in the city centre (but that’s another story).

My three-day ticket was sold as the only general admission area but in fact turned out to be an allocated seat in a grandstand alongside the fast straight between turns three and four. It was close to the track and offered a good view, although somewhat limited as It was flanked on either side by trees restricting the lateral views. From the lower few rows it was possible to see the cars exiting turn three and entering turn four. On the Friday there was plenty of space so I could roam around the stand but for Sunday it was a sell-out. On Saturday I did not go to the circuit but did some Mexico City sight-seeing.

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is within a large sporting complex set in a park which is more than just a race track. It is a superb facility surrounded by the local township reminding me very much of Monza and Interlagos. The public ‘walkabout’ and ‘Fanzone’ areas behind the stands are extensive and grassy with plenty of seating for the multiple food outlets.

My only disappointment was that there was a lack of ‘local’ style entertainment put on. COTA has numerous stages around the public areas for local bands and musicians and Sochi had several areas displaying Russian folk music and dancing. It would have been nice to chill between events to a Mariachi band or some Tex-Mex music instead of the continuous thumping of drum and base from the ‘Heineken Garden’.

The Formula 4 paddock though was in the area behind my stand and open to the public. The organisers also put on an F1 Masters race as a support event which was good, although unfortunately with only eleven entrants. The Grand Prix also coincides with the ‘Dia de los Muertos’ (Day of the Dead) celebrations, which promotes a lot of colour and spectacular costumes and make-up in many race-goers and officials.

For the Saturday I did some sight-seeing. Going to the Coyaocin district in the morning, an area that houses the Frida Kahlo museum, traditional buildings and parks where I got my dose of Mariachi Bands and other performing musicians. Many of the locals were dressed in their ’Dia de los Muertos’ costumes, happy to mingle and be photographed. In the afternoon it was time to experience the city centre metro horrors as warned against in all good guide books as I went to Zicalo, also known as the Plaza de la Constitucion, to join in the celebrations and festivities and watch the Aztec descendants (or people pretending to be) perform their ceremonies.

Despite being aware that I was being ‘eyed up’ and even winking at my would-be assailant as he moved in behind me thinking I could outsmart him, I was pickpocketed. When the train arrived in the ensuing stampede I was shoved into the carriage losing all control of my arms and legs, whilst the deed was done. Still, I was only carrying about forty pesos (less than £2), enough for a drink, so it was no big deal.

Back at the circuit on Sunday, the organisers put on a vibrant and colourful pre-race show, inevitably themed around the ‘Dia de los Muertos’ followed by a moving tribute to the recent earthquake. It was spectacular enough watched on the big screen and would almost have been worth the price of a main grandstand ticket to see it live. The events of the 19th September were also remembered on lap 19 when all spectators and most of the marshals rose with their right arms aloft, fists clenched, as they did during the singing of the National Anthem.

It was not a great race, but a great place to watch motor-racing amongst a friendly and passionate crowd. And to top it off with a Max Verstappen victory, I actually witnessed someone other than a Mercedes win for the first time since Spa 2014.