This was my first time returning to Mexico City since scoring a double podium in 2008 with A1 Team GBR, and it was also where I scored Team GBR’s first race victory in 2007.
Before leaving for the race, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with the track on a simulator, and I was quite surprised how different it was to my last time racing there despite looking very similar on paper.
Audi had put a lot of effort into bringing updates to the car especially for this race, to compensate for the high altitude. Being 2200 meters above sea level the air is very thin which not only reduces the downforce levels by up to 25 percent, but also has a big impact on cooling of both engine and the brakes.
Despite very low track grip and the fact that all of us weren’t particularly big fans of the new layout, testing went well, with us and Porsche extremely evenly matched.
Loic and Lucas qualified the car as previously planned, and we knew that we had a chance for pole but were absolutely delighted when we were able to secure the top spot and claim an extremely valuable point in the fight for the championship.
Lucas took the start of the race and after losing out initially to our sister No. 7 Audi, he re-took the lead and set about pulling away. Just before the 1st pit stops, we had a comfortable gap back to the cars behind with car No. 1 now in 2nd.
The majority of cars then pitted under full course yellow and we regained in the lead, but unfortunately behind a car that was driving far below the 80kph speed limit under FCY. This allowed the field to gain considerable ground on Lucas before the track went green.
Despite starting to pull away again we lost the lead having to avoid the spinning ESM car. For the next 45 minutes it was a fantastic battle between Lucas and Mark Webber as we pushed to regain the lead and managed to do so just before we pitted and Loic took over.
Loic returned to the track behind No. 1 as they also pitted on the same lap but decided to short fill and therefore jumped us in the pit stops. We kept the pressure on the leader and maintained the gap to the No. 2 car behind but had become aware we might have a potential issue with the front left wheel bearing.
At the end of Loic’s 2nd stint it started to rain with the possibility of the rain intensifying over the next 30 minutes. With the track now wet we pitted and I took over from Loic.
In the pit stop we changed to intermediate tires despite the chance of increasing rain, leaving the pits I immediately felt we had made the perfect tire call as I had good grip and knowing the Porsches had put on wets I knew we could regain the lead with the potential to comfortably pull away as long as the conditions stayed as they were.
Exiting the last corner, I felt something wasn’t right and immediately radioed to my engineer. He told me to be careful under braking for Turn 1 so I backed off and braked immediately – fortunately much earlier than normal.
The brake pedal went to the floor and I had no brakes until the rears suddenly locked causing me to spin and slide into the barriers. I was able to get the car back to the pits and we were able to repair the car and get back out on track but 30 minutes down on the leaders.
Eventually we had to stop the car due to a hydraulic issue and only came back out to complete the last lap to score important Manufacturers’ points.
It was an absolutely devastating end to the race for us after being so strong all weekend. We really felt with car we had, and the strategy calls we made, we would have gone on to win the race.
With the No. 2 Porsche finishing down in 4th had we gone on to even finish on the podium which considering Audi No. 7 finished 2nd and was 2 laps down on us before our issue would have been more than likely we would have closed the gap considerably in the championship.
With four races left to go, our focus will be on wins to keep the Championship in sight. We have now seen how competitive we can be, so we just need our luck to change for the rest of the year.