Esteban Gutiérrez will be attending his first home grand prix as a Haas F1 driver, the Mexican driver acknowledging that this weekend is a very important one in terms of his racing career. Last year we saw the enormous amount of support given to fellow Mexican racer, Sergio Perez, and with two to cheer for this season, the ambience should be extraordinary!
Gutiérrez is one of six Mexicans who have competed in Formula One, but one of just two active Mexican drivers in Formula One. Both drivers were preceded by the Rodríguez brothers, of whom the circuit is named after. Ricardo Rodríguez made five starts for Ferrari in 1961 and 1962, and Pedro Rodríguez drove for Lotus, Ferrari, Cooper and BRM between 1963 and 1971. They are joined by Moisés Solana, who made eight Formula One starts between 1963 and 1968, and Hector Rebaque, who made 41 starts from 1977 through 1981.
Esteban was not on the starting grid here last season, instead, he was the third driver at Scuderia Ferrari, helping to develop the racecar for four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel and 2007 Formula One champion Kimi Räikkönen.
Here he talks about the coming weekend and what it means to him to be racing in front of his home fans.
You’re heading to your home race. How important is the Mexican Grand Prix for you?
It’s a very special week for my whole career. It’s probably one of the best two weeks of my career because it represents so much to racing, to motorsports in Mexico in general, and to me. It’s a kind of connection where I can share my passion for racing and what I do with all Mexicans. I feel grateful for their support.
After a 22-year absence, Formula One returned to Mexico last year. What was it like to have Formula One return to your native country?
Last year was great. I could live the event from a different perspective, but now it will be even better when I will be racing there. I’m very excited to enjoy that.
You didn’t compete in last year’s Mexican Grand Prix, but you were in attendance serving as the third driver for Scuderia Ferrari. What was the atmosphere like for that race?
The atmosphere was amazing. I enjoyed it so much. Obviously, I would have liked to have been racing, but that was my position and the reality is that I wanted to enjoy in that perspective. It was a very special weekend and I felt very proud to see all the fans having a huge interaction. It turned out to be one of the best events of the season.
How much pride will you take in driving a Formula One car around Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez?
A lot of pride. As a Mexican in Mexico, you can imagine how special that is.
When you’re in the racecar, will you be able to soak in any of the experience during your installations laps, or will it be all business all the time?
Of course I will cheer to the people. They are there supporting us and they make the difference to make a fantastic event happen. It’s their support and their interaction which provides the best environment for an amazing event.
Since you haven’t yet driven a Formula One car around Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, how have you prepared for the Mexican Grand Prix?
It will be important to do the best we can with our car. It’s a track we believe can suit the style of our car, and we’re hoping that will be the case. It’s going to be important to have as much track time as possible to adapt to the circuit.
You have a strong relationship with Telcel and have been a brand ambassador for the company for much of your career. How did the relationship come about?
Our relationship is great with them. There is much more than just sponsorship. There is an important passion that we share together. It all started back in 2009 when I was racing in Formula Three. I got contacted and the relationship started from there. It was always with the goal of making it to Formula One.
Telcel does a lot of activation in Mexico and you’re a key component of its sponsorship. Talk about some of the events you’ve participated in and how they leverage Formula One and your role with Haas F1 Team.
In Mexico the events are pretty different. They are more intense and there are usually more people involved. They’re interesting and fun. I’m looking forward to it.
When you’re participating in a race on home soil, the demands on your time are higher. How will you balance all of your commitments during the Mexican Grand Prix?
Just by enjoying every part of it, every moment.
Outside of the racetrack, what is your favorite part of Mexico City?
I love the restaurants in Plaza Carso and Polanco.