D he trip to Mexico begins for Tobias Grüner and me in Houston. This time only on Wednesday. We want to take the first plane to Mexico City at 9 a.m., but three weeks in advance our travel agency tells us that the flight has been canceled. The next one is at 10.30 a.m. Because we have to fight our way through the rush hour traffic in Houston and the George W. Bush Airport is far out, it starts at 7.30 a.m.
The flight cancellation forced us to have a busy program on the first day. We still want to go to the track to take photos and, if possible, to post a few current stories online. If you arrive at 12.30 p.m .: entry, taxi to the hotel, check-in, subway to the route, work. Can we do it by 4 p.m.?
Machine stress at check-in
My day starts with the usual stress with the United staff. When you check in there are hardly any people, but lots of computers. Tobias Grüner loves machines. I hate them. And the machines know that. They pay me back regularly. Of course the stupid machine can't find my name and the flight that goes with it. Now the United emergency service has to act as a punishment.
More time is wasted than if we had checked in the conventional way. That the airlines don't get it. These are service companies. The word service implies that I am served. The airlines want to reverse this principle and force us to perform the service on ourselves.
We should do work that is actually theirs and pay for it. Not with me. I also have to go to the machineprint out the baggage slip. At some point the airlines come up with the glorious idea that it is the guest's fault if the luggage does not arrive. With a few curses that scare the United staff away, I get my boarding pass. And the luggage will actually arrive in Mexico City.
The approach to the 20 million metropolis is an experience every time. It leads across the whole city. Houses, to the horizon. Shortly before landing, the racetrack appears to the right of the airport. Entry is surprisingly quick. We just have to wait a while for the taxi. The Mexican wants the gringos to be driven into town in a befitting SUV. And that for a mere 15 euros.
Anyone coming to Mexico for the first time would probably be shocked. Immediately after the terminal, the driver turns into a slum area. It is the shortest way to the Ringstrasse. Contrary to expectations, we are in the hotel at 2 p.m. and in the subway half an hour later. A trip to the route takes 40 minutes with two changes over hill and dale. We'll take all our valuables along with us. They are safe in the lockable storage compartment.
Red Bull copies Ferrari
While Tobi is taking pictures of the latest technical news in the pit lane and discovers that Red Bull is copying the underbody of Ferrari with the spikes I go hunting for stories in the paddock. The Mercedes engineers tell me why the Silver Arrows in Austin overheated the rear tires. Because of the hectic replacement of the water pumps on Sunday morning, an error occurred in the assembly of the cars. The right side was up to 50 kilograms heavier than the left. That explains everything.
Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder is annoyed with the HaasF1 drivers. In the last two races they targeted Charles Leclerc. Each time points were lost. 'Do we just have to make up our points on Toro Rosso like every year in Sao Paulo,' says Zehnder. Little does he suspect that it should be so far on race Sunday in Mexico.
The first two stories are in the box. We're gondola back to townand see how people on the trains out of town are squeezed into the wagons like sardines. Fortunately, we are driving counter-cyclically. In the evening, as usual, we meet up with colleagues from the Bild newspaper at the Argentinian. There's beef. The smallest size for a steak is 600 grams.
Over the next few days we will experience a similar picture as in Austin. Mercedes has opponents again. This time two. Ferrari is back to its July specification, incredibly fast on the straights, but too slow in the corners. “We lack downforce,” explains Vettel. “We drive with an old aerodynamic version. The others have gained downforce since then. ”Much more important, however, is that the vehicle is in the right balance. That protects the tires.
First Verstappen frustration, then victory
Vettel only misses pole position by two tenths. A Red Bull is on the best starting position. No, not Max Verstappen, but Daniel Ricciardo. Verstappen is pissed off and shows that too. At the press conference he stares in the other direction when Ricciardo speaks.
A little more relaxed, Max, please! Even if he had to write off the record of the youngest Pole man of all time. He was only annoyed because he had messed up the best place on the grid with two mistakes. The misfire number Mad Max brings out every other sentence is a bad excuse. Ricciardo has it too, but copes better with it.
The evening program this year is enhanced by the fact that Bild colleague Helmut Uhl has found a new restaurant. It is a tip from a friend who lives in Mexico City. The restaurant is called “Capital” and is a direct hit in every respect. We'll go there twice. So we are well strengthened when Verstappen wins the Grand Prix on Sunday and Hamilton becomes world champion for the fifth time.
We would have preferred to have had a decision in the final, but the scenes after the race make up for a lot. The Mexicans turn their Grand Prix into a real fiesta. Sergio Perez's failure is long gone when the winners arrive at the arena. TheF1 management is better organized this time around and has made provisions in the event that Hamilton becomes world champion and does not make it onto the podium. This time the celebration takes place in the baseball stadium.
Vettel is the first congratulator. Later he storms into the Mercedes pavilion. He comes towards me and I still wonder what he is doing here in the enemy camp. A day later I know. Mercedes filmed and posted the moment when he congratulated all engineers and team boss Wolff with a handshake on the title. A strong scene.
For us, the Grand Prix evening comes to an abrupt end at 10.30 p.m. This time the last shuttle doesn't take us to the hotel. So we need a taxi, and because it's not that easy to get in the area, we prefer to break our tents a little earlier and continue working in the hotel later. In between there are a few tacos and a beer around the corner. Mexico City is pretty dead on Sunday evening.
The next day we drive to the airport early. The sky shows as many bruises as there has not been for the whole weekend, but large thunderclouds are building up on the horizon. In the airport building we don't even notice that when it gets dark all hell breaks loose outside. The streets are flooded, as we have seen from mobile phone videos from colleagues.
Unfortunately, this also affects our Lufthansa crew. The jumbo is at the gate, but the team is not there. She's stuck in traffic jams and in the chaos after the downpour. Boarding only starts one hour late. We would still have made the first connecting train to Stuttgart if it hadn't taken Frankfurt airport forever to reclaim baggage. I'll stick with it: Frankfurt is the worst airport in the world.