Formula 1 Expert & Columnist
Rachel's Mexican GP Diary
Sky F1's Rachel Brookes brings the behind-the-scenes stories from Mexico, featuring face masks, driver conundrums and interviewing the newly-crowned champion
Last Updated: 16/11/17 10:55am
Following the United States Grand Prix, we stayed in Austin for a couple of days before the journey to Mexico. Unfortunately, one of our two flights was delayed by four hours due to a broken plane but eventually, late on Wednesday night, we arrived in Mexico.
Races to the West always have early starts to allow for the time difference - Thursday's press conference is at 11am instead of the usual 3pm, for example - and so it was straight to bed.
The drive to the track on Thursday took us past some of the earthquake damage but for the most part, it was the same Mexico we had seen previously.
In Thursday's press conference Sergio Perez was sat next to Max Verstappen so I asked Checo what he thought when he heard Max was staying at Red Bull.
All the paddock rumours had suggested that Max was being courted by Mercedes and Ferrari for a 2019 seat but now that he was staying at Red Bull, a seat at one of those teams may now be an option for Checo.
He laughed and smiled and said thanks to Max, and Max jokingly replied: "I did it for Checo." They laughed, but deep down if Perez is ever to fulfil his dreams, he has to make one of those seats his.
The Mexican GP is a huge event in his country and everywhere you go, you are confronted with enormous billboards of his face and the words 'Vamos Checo'. No pressure then.
He is a superstar in Mexico and, with his fiancé, has the kind of attention Posh and Becks get here. When asked about his bucket list, he said to win a world championship and have a couple of kids. They have one on the way so it's just the world championship he is seeking, but he knows he needs to leave Force India to do that and realistically it's only Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull that can offer him that chance.
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Whether they want to or not depends very much on how he performs in the next 12 months. Some may expect McLaren to challenge once they have the Renault engine, but it's hard to imagine Checo wanting to go back there after the year he had with them.
Sergio is one of those on the grid that leaves you with the question, 'what if?' What if he had gone to Mercedes instead of Valtteri Bottas? What if Ferrari had chosen him, instead of re-signing Kimi?
Unfortunately now for him, Esteban Ocon is proving genuine competition. He is younger and a Mercedes protégé, and if a Mercedes seat does come up, will no doubt be in the forefront of their minds.
Checo has it all to do if he is to complete that bucket list.
Back to the paddock and on Thursday evening, the circuit put on a party with face painters and traditional music and artists. It was great fun but we didn't stay late because Mexican traffic always means at least an hour - if not longer - is added to the end of your day.
On Friday, we started to see the kind of problems the teams would be facing all weekend as cars stopped on track and engines failed in the high altitude. It is always on teams' minds in Mexico as we are at the same altitude as a ski resort, or even higher.
Toro Rosso suffered the worst and it was such a shame for Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly as they try to prove their worth, although judging by Friday's press conference, the team have already decided they will be their drivers for 2018.
Friday's F1 Show was fun and we were supposed to end by putting on our Day of the Dead masks. However, they all had loose ribbons so as we tried to tie them on while Simon talked through our schedule for the weekend, we all failed so it ended up with me holding one up to my face.
There has been some talk of moving the race to June, but understandably the organisers don't want to move it. Coinciding with the Day of the Dead festival gives the world an opportunity to see a huge part of Mexican culture. It's lively, colourful and creates a fantastic atmosphere. It really showcases the country in a fantastic way and I can't imagine the race weekend without it.
After practice on Friday, I spoke to our producer and suggested I try and talk to Max Verstappen on his walk to the track parade on Sunday. Friday's times showed Red Bull were well suited to the track and conditions and I just had a feeling it was his weekend (nothing to do with the stat that every time Dani Kvyat gets dropped/demoted, Max wins!)
I spoke to Max's press officer before qualifying and asked if we could talk to Max before the track parade. He said yes, so now I just had to hope he qualified well.
He did, although not on pole, but I decided it was still definitely worth speaking to him. He was so close to being the youngest pole sitter in Formula 1, although for a brief while there were concerns he may be penalised for blocking Valtteri Bottas.
Mercedes just had no answer to Sebastian Vettel and Max's single lap pace on Saturday and Lewis was pretty flat afterwards.
He is a fierce competitor so any time he is off pole, he finds it hard to hide his disappointment, but he was far enough forward to keep his hopes of a fourth title alive. He was already eyeing up the long run to Turn One.
That said, Vettel's lap was phenomenal and if Lewis was to be crowned a four-time champion, Sebastian was going to make it as hard as possible.
Saturday night, we found somewhere to watch the boxing and a big group of us watched Anthony Joshua win. It's always weird when there are big sporting events at home as you can feel really disconnected being away so much, so gathering for the boxing made us a feel a little less homesick as we watched just as everyone at home was.
On Sunday, I was waiting outside Red Bull hospitality for Max and I saw his press officer, James. I spoke to him briefly and asked him to ask Max to not walk too fast, as it was only a short distance and I had a bad knee.
James obliged and when Max came out, he asked me what I had done. I told him I had ruptured my ACL and, after he asked when my surgery was, we set off on the walk to the FOM garage where the drivers all meet for the track parade.
He was in a good mood and clearly excited for the race, but still walked at a manageable pace for me. He was confident he could win; I would almost say he was certain he could win.
I had to ask if he had any concerns about the engine, having seen what had happened to other Renault powered cars, but he said: "If it blows up, it blows up."
All eyes were on the start and it didn't disappoint with contact between Vettel, Verstappen and Hamilton, with Hamilton and Vettel needing to pit at the end of lap one for a flat tyre and new front wing respectively.
I was just writing my notes in the media centre about the start while watching it on the big screen when I was told in my ear piece that Daniel Ricciardo was in the drivers' pen already.
Our screens hadn't even confirmed his retirement yet, so I dashed down the stairs and out into the pen to speak to him.
He still tried to be his cheerful self, but he admitted he was hurting inside. That hurt was not helped by his team-mate taking the race win an hour later.
Daniel is another one in an interesting position. Max is with Red Bull until 2020 and it's clear how much the team think of him, so does Daniel stay and hope the team treats them the same? Or does he make a move?
Lewis has admitted he would like Daniel as a team-mate. so could he end up at Mercedes?
Before Max committed to Red Bull, Daniel seemed the perfect fit for Ferrari with his Italian heritage, but would he want to be team-mate to Seb again, even though he beat him at Red Bull?
At Mercedes or Ferrari, he would be joining a team where the driver he teamed up with has been there a while and no doubt has a car designed or developed to his liking.
He is in a difficult position right now and his next move could define his career.
And so to the champion.
Lewis did enough to seal his fourth title, even if it wasn't his best performance. But having been so dominant this year, he didn't need to win another race.
After celebrating in the stadium section, he made his way through to the pen and got a round of applause from everyone there.
He came straight over to us and I asked him about the crazy race. I also mentioned the extra work he has put in this year which involved a kind of psychometric testing after each race weekend to assess stress and anxiety levels.
The results determined what he needed to do to be ready for the next race, whether that was carry on with planned commitments or whether, as it was in some cases, he needed to take a break and get away.
That attention to detail by him and the team of people he now has around him helped him achieve the fourth title he missed out on last year.
He really did leave no stone unturned and that is what his competition will now have to do if they are to stop him in 2018.
I can't wait.