Marie Misso travelled all the way from Australia to the Mexican Grand Prix in 2016 to support one of her favorite drivers, Sergio Pérez, and his charity for disadvantaged children. Here’s her report.
All images © Marie Misso.
I’m not confused, but I do have difficulty with favorites. That’s why I have three favorite Formula 1 drivers: Sergio ‘Checo’ Pérez, Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo. I run a charity myself, so have an instant fondness for anyone like Perez who use their profile for the good of others. This is how I found myself at the Mexican Grand Prix this year and also spent a week of charity-related fun with Fundación Checo Pérez in Guadalajara.
I travelled from Melbourne, Australia to Mexico City via LAX and the US Grand Prix in Austin. If booked in advance, the flights are fairly reasonably priced. I paid for a full fare economy with Virgin Australia to LAX for $2000 AUD so that I could use my points to upgrade to Business, but the discounted economy was around $1200 AUD at the time. Short-haul fares in the US to Mexico and back were between $100-300 AUD each way, all with luggage and food. I flew Delta from LAX to Austin, Southwest to Mexico City via Houston, Interjet to Guadalajara and Alaska Airlines back to LAX.
I had used BookF1 previously for my Monaco and Silverstone tickets, and was very satisfied with the seats I was allocated, so bought my tickets from them again. This time however, I was in the opposite direction to where I requested (they do acknowledge they can’t guarantee you will get the area you want). If I go to this race again, I will be better equipped with my Spanish language skills to navigate the Mexico Ticketmaster site so that I can choose my seat. That said, my seat in section 18 in the Foro Sol (Grada Sur/14 in Zona Gris) was still very good – I was just hoping to be a little closer to the podium. The 3-day ticket cost me around $700 AUD.
Getting the shots
Foro Sol did not disappoint! For photography enthusiasts, the top of section 18 allowed a uninterrupted (fenceless) view of the cars entering the Foro Sol and taking the next two corners, plus a view of the podium. Local heroes Checo Pérez and Esteban Gutiérrez spent a good ten minutes here during the drivers’ parade and the other cars slowed right down at this spot as well. I used my 300mm lens for two days with limited sharpness and then risked taking in my 400mm lens on Sunday, which gave me pretty sharp pics without a monopod (anything more than 300mm and monopods were not permitted). Bag checks were inconsistent. The Free Wi-Fi was great in this section, particularly given that with the sheer volume of people in the vicinity, networks ended up jammed in most areas.
The one negative about this spot is that you are limited to a very small part of the grand prix precinct and I’m not certain that you have access to the Fanzone with the best food, merchandise and activities. (I didn’t try to get to it while there and I can’t find any certainty on Google). Food options in the section were limited to Dominos margarita pizzas, hamburgers or bread rolls with limited fillings. There was a Heineken bar but all drinks, including water, were served in cups. This made it pretty inconvenient to take drinks back to the crowded seating areas. I bought a Mexico GP merchandise bottle and filled it with water each day.
Pitlane walk & autograph sessions
Keep your ears and eyes on social media and the dedicated Mexico GP race app in the lead up and be ready for plenty of pushing and showing at the gate for entry to pit lane walk and drivers’ autograph session. A Thursday evening autograph session was advertised for 3-day pass holders but when we got there, we spent an hour trying to convince the staff to let us in. Some people were granted entry and others not. We were fortunate to get in and saw many drivers, including Checo, Nico and Dan (all my favorites!). I was also very happy to get a selfie with Ted Kravitz, my F1 tech guru from Sky Sports.
Mexico City is a beautiful and vibrant city, particularly on F1ESTA weekend during the Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. The people are friendly and welcoming and the food is plentiful and delicious. I stayed in an Airbnb a few blocks from the Zocalo (Centro Historico), which I would highly recommend. The spacious apartment, which was more like a large open-space studio (with two large beds, a kitchen, Wi-Fi and terrace with spectacular view) cost around $800 AUD for 7 nights which is far less than most tiny hotel rooms in the area. The location was unbeatable with food options everywhere and easy walking distance to many landmarks such as the Plaza de la Constitucion (a huge market square which was spectacular at night), the Cathedral, Templo Mayor, Palacio de Bellas Artes and Alameda Central garden.
A word of warning: on the Thursday night, there were fireworks going off all night across the whole city and the noise was deafening! I suspect they would be felt across the city and unavoidable, wherever you stayed. In terms of safety, ask your hotel reception or Uber drivers where the few risky spots are. I felt safe walking in most parts of the historical centre of the city, even at night. A local sim card (or sim chip) cost about $5 and could be topped up at many places giving me all the data I needed for under $40 AUD for my two weeks in Mexico.
I was linked up with a lovely local driver who pretty much drove me anywhere I wanted for around $20-30 AUD a day, including going to and from the track; he also provided me with Spanish conversation practice! The traffic was heavy but not terrible and I was usually at the track within 30-45 mins. I got dropped off right next to my gate, which was a very welcome difference after the challenging accessibility and transport options at the US GP in Austin a week earlier. Uber is also easy, cheap and safe (and means you don’t need to carry cash). I can’t comment on public transport but was told that it was an easy option to get to the track.
I found street food and local cafes to be completely safe, clean and super cheap. Dinner was never more than $6 AUD and was often more like $2 AUD and left me completely satisfied and as full as a python! Don’t leave without trying Tacos al pastor, corn (in the cup is less messy) and horchata (sweet rice milk, great for cooling the chilli). For a fancier Mexican food experience, Pujol offers a six-course degustation of Mexican haute cuisine by Chef Enrique Olvera for about $120 AUD per person. Another cool thing I would recommend (among so may in this city) is the Frida Kahlo Museum; and definitely an artisan market or two.
The final word
I would definitely recommend visiting Mexico and its F1ESTA aka Formula 1 race – it hasn’t won best F1 event of the year two years running for nothing! The Foro Sol atmosphere, great views and unique podium celebrations are just brilliant.