Of the 100,000-plus fans that packed into the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City on Saturday for Formula 1 qualifying, many will have been cheering for local drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez.
However, neither of Mexico’s favorite sons could impress during qualifying as both were left disappointed after falling short of their own targets.
Gutierrez was the first driver to fall, suffering a Q1 knock-out after spinning on his final lap that left him 17th on the grid.
The Mexican driver is racing in front of his home fans for the first time in F1 this weekend, and said that the support helped to lift his spirits after qualifying.
“It’s been quite a challenging weekend for us. Heading into qualifying, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I really gave it my best,” Gutierrez said.
“I was driving over the limit trying to put everything together for the team and for the fans – they have been incredible.
“I had to try to be aggressive as I knew the lap at the beginning of the run may not have been enough. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t, but at least I know I gave it the maximum.
“When I got out of the car, I wasn’t very happy, but walking along the pit lane everybody was cheering, and it was an amazing feeling just to see their support.
“They’ve made a huge difference to our motivation and I really want to thank them all.”
Perez was Mexico’s best hope of a starring role in qualifying, but he failed to make it through to Q3, finishing down in 12th place.
“It’s a shame to miss out on Q3 today, but I’m optimistic we can recover some positions in the race with a strong strategy,” Perez said.
“In Q2 we went out on the soft tires to see if we could progress to Q3, but for my second run we switched to the supersoft tires.
“Unfortunately I made a small mistake on my final lap, which ended my chance of qualifying inside the top ten. I just locked up the front tires going into turn one and ran wide. I apologize for the mistake, but I hope I can give all my fans some happiness in the race tomorrow.
“The good news is that we made some progress with the car in between final practice and qualifying: our race pace looks competitive and I think we can come away with a good result tomorrow.”
The Mexican Grand Prix is live on NBC from 2:30pm ET on Sunday.