Depart for Mexico City from San Antonio a day later than scheduled after my flight is cancelled. This plays havoc with hotel reservations as it means an additional day in Texas and shortening my Mexico City visit. Here’s a pointer to how hotels rip rings out of prices at F1 time: Truncating my two-day stay - reserved at £200 after I booked early - cost an ADDITIONAL £200 (for one day) as they view modified bookings as new deals!
Arrive at circuit and quickly realise that the Mexico Grand Prix we all loved pre-Covid is back: Where before the pandemic the paddock offered numerous side activities including a barber shop and Jimmy Paintz, a street/clothing artist, 2020’s race was cancelled and last year’s paddock devoid of such fun amenities. This year they were, though, back - Jimmy offers to decorate my cap and duly delivers!
Thereafter it is time for driver press conferences and I have fun with George Russell: In Austin, after his collision with Carlos Sainz he implied on the radio that he had been turned into, yet during the post-race media session he said he had apologised to the Spaniard. I asked him to explain the difference, to which he replied he would do so in Mexico City.
The bottom line is George admits to being disingenuous lest the stewards investigated the accident: “I’m not going to admit I’m wrong on the radio…but will apologise afterwards,” he explains, in the process providing an insight into the mind of a race driver.
Thursday evening means Welcome Party time, with the theme being the 1960s as the Mexican Grand Prix is celebrating its 60th anniversary as a tribute to the fearsomely (and fearlessly) fast Rodriguez brothers - Pedro and Ricardo - both of whom paid the ultimate price for their love of speed. Indeed, replicas of their helmets are displayed in the media centre, to be presented on Saturday as Pole Position Award.
To create authenticity at the party the promoter provides a number of us with 60s gear – I’m given a stylish denim jacket – while the food is the best Tex-Mex imaginable. It is touches such as these that make the entire weekend a simply wonderful experience. It’s just a pity we need to work while there…
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The FIA announces the outcome of its Budget Cap reviews, finding that Red Bull Racing committed an $1,8m overspend and a procedural breach – and is fined $7m plus a 10% reduction in aero testing - while Aston Martin is guilty of the latter transgression only ($450,000). Crucially, the FIA found RBR’s overspend was not wilful. Having revealed the background to the Red Bull’s breaches last week none of this is surprising.
Around two hours later Red Bull boss Christian Horner hosts a press conference in which he robustly outlines that the purified overspend amounts to $400,000 after all variances are explained. Of course, some searching questions were asked by the media, and, most amusingly, Sky’s representatives seek answers to questions they apparently do not understand, or they just fumbled it. They are given short shrift.
After the conference I wander the paddock and pick up two snippets that may (or not) eventuate: American Express will join F1 as a commercial partner in 2023, and Daniel Ricciardo - out of a drive for next year after being cut loose by McLaren - has signed a 3rd driver deal with Mercedes with race options. The Australian later denies this to be the case but is possibly just being cagey in best F1 tradition.
Yuki Tsunoda’s post-FP2 media session is canned - due to overcrowding, raising questions about the number of passes issued by F1 to teams and (paying) guests. I’ve never known a paddock to be filled by so many folk with gold VIP passes, and I’m told F1’s premium experience contractor did roaring trade with paddock visits hosted by so-called ‘Expert Hosts’. I wonder how many autographs will end up on eBay to help defray costs…
The evening ends with a group media visit to a lucha libre contest – effectively Mexico’s equivalent of WWF - and judging from the pack crowd in the stadium this is a very popular local sport.
Part two of Dieter's Diary from Mexico will be live tomorrow morning, where he discusses the foundations of the Ricciardo rumours, more paddock overcrowding issues and Red Bull's remarkable decision to turn down Sky interviews...
F1 Podcast: Is Red Bull's cost cap penalty enough of a deterrent to others?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth discuss the key issues from the United States Grand Prix, including whether Red Bull's cost cap penalty will deter others from breaching the budget limit.