Hocus Pocus

Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn, cauldron bubble, Happy Halloween to one and all from the Red Bull Spy. ‘Tis an eldritch and strange England to which Spy returns this day from North America. The clocks have gone back, everything is dark, and wild*, these are the dying days of the 2018 season, and the air holds the scent of change.

But enough about our laundry service. Whoo-hoo! Victory in Mexico. Get in Max! Faultless drive, peerless weekend, totally dominant grand prix. For Spy and some of the other greybeards hanging around the garage, that felt like old times – though admittedly with the caveat that the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is an atypical circuit almost purpose built for our car and a great engine equaliser as nobody can run at full power. Would that every week we got to race on a track that demands vast, glorious amounts of aerodynamic and mechanical grip, a car that’s kind to its tyres and not any of that other stuff.

There is much waxing lyrical about Max’s performance in the funny pages this week – though really? I mean, sure, he drove a very, very good race but winning doesn’t automatically confer greatness. This week Max had the car to get the job done and he did the job; for real genius, you’ve got to look at what he did in Texas the week before. 18th to second: that’s his drive of the season.

What Max did in Mexico was excellent in a different way. He built the gaps where the gaps needed to be built, didn’t over-stress the tyres or over-stress himself when the strategies were doing weird things, and kept the temperatures in the green.** The only blot in the copybook came towards the end of the race when he was casually banging in quick sectors and received some mild correction from GP. That gave Spy a warm, nostalgic glow – reinforced by the presence of both Sebastian and Rocky on the podium.

Sadly, another taste of déjà vu for Daniel. It’s always disappointing for everyone who’s worked so hard all week, and it’s even more gutting to have it happen so often – but when he was having a brilliant hammer-and-tongs battle with Seb, it’s a real kick in the nuts. If Daniel didn’t have bad luck he wouldn’t have any luck at all. In an age of scientific enlightenment and reason, we obviously don’t believe in jinxes and bugaboos – so don’t read anything into it if Car 3’s bay at Interlagos has a giant pentagram chalked on the floor and chicken entrails hanging off the services rig.***

Other than that, what a race! Spy doesn’t really know what the neutral likes (not having been one for more seasons than wanting to remember) but suspects that was a good race for Formula One in general. Quite a bit of credit needs to go to Pirelli who took the brave decision and went for the softest tyres in their race. That created race conditions where the two-stopper was the safe strategy with an outside chance of being ambushed by the long one-stop. It injected that element of drama that’s been lacking in the identikit one-stoppers we’ve had for most of the year. Of course – and inevitably – the drivers all gave them some tap for the level of degradation – but ask a driver what makes a grand prix interesting, and they’ll all say it’s the race where they have tyres that don’t go off at all, masses of downforce, vast reserves of horsepower and get to win by a minute. Which is why you really should never listen to drivers: they’re like the kid who’s going to eat that entire bucket of sweets this evening, run around like a hyperactive chinchilla all night and then be sick on your slippers at three o’clock in the morning – all the while steadfastly refusing to see any connection between cause and effect.

But let them have their fun. So long as it isn’t Spy who has to clean out the simulator, why would I care?

* But, y’know, normal for Milton Keynes…

** Like lemmings hurling themselves of cliffs, the thing an F1 car desperately wants to do in Mexico City is get really, really hot and then explode. Not having your car explode is an underrated talent.

*** Though it’s Brazil, so nobody’s going to notice.