If it's Monza, a signing session with Luca Filippi can't be far away. The laid back Italian absolutely loves his fans, and will always go the extra few yards to make sure that they get whatever they want from him: when he's at his home race he seems to constantly have a pen in his hand to sign something, or his arm around someone else as he waits for the flash, a broad grin spread wide across his face.
This weekend, however, he wasn't quite his happy go lucky self: “I am not so very lucky this weekend,” he sighed, a smile nevertheless still playing around the edges of his mouth. “I arrived here on Thursday, and we had the race suits stolen. And even before that, first my chief mechanic had a baby, so he can't come to the race.
“For sure I'm very happy for him, of course, but he was replaced by somebody, and then he goes up to take a picture and breaks his arm! And then last night my engineer Sean eats a fish and he gets a bone stuck in his throat, and he is in the hospital still. I am all alone! So now I will ask my father to change the tyres, get my girlfriend to be on the jack, and I think I will get you to be on the lollypop!”
Straight after that it was back to the paddock and into the iSport pits for the next teammates interview. The photoshoot was first, with Al providing the entertainment for the boys by tripping over a jack as he moved out for a long shot. Now I understand why our passes state that motorsport is dangerous.
Giedo might have been complaining about the heat, but Diego found a novel way to cool down:
Make sure you read the article next week: after the stunning breadth of contacts on Karun's phone you can find out who is his polar opposite, as well as a novel reason for why Brazilians don't have to worry about fashion.
And before we knew it, it was time to go out onto the grid. Which means only one thing: rain. If a picture is worth a thousand words, there but be at least a short story here:
Didier after a swim
Gaëtan Jego from ART looking miserable - that's because he didn't know the camera was on him...
But one man was having a blast: Giedo van der Garde's race engineer Richard Selwin!
Vitaly lost a lot of time when Michael Herck spun in front of him, but there is no question that Giedo was on the money today. Is the championship written, or is there one last shock to play out? Tomorrow has a lot to live up to, but there have been a number of truly amazing sprint races here in the past...
Monza is always hectic, a chaotic blur of a weekend with too many people in the paddock, too much work to do, and not enough weekend to do it. This year it's not the final round here, at least, but there hasn't been a noticeable drop in the stress loads of anyone in the paddock.
Which is why we were so delighted that it all got off in the best possible way: with multiple thefts.
It didn't take people long to realise what was missing: Andi Zuber had both of his helmets and a HANS device stolen, Luca Filippi had two of his three race suits nicked along with a load of Super Nova's clothing, while Christian came out to tell us that a huge amount of the meat for the weekend was taken and also that, weirdly, they'd eaten the insides of a lot of bread but left the crusts.
“Have you had anything stolen?” he asked, concerned at the extent of the paddock-wide crime spree. “What about the press conference stuff?” We walked around the corner but, sadly, it was all still in place. I shuddered inwardly at the inevitability of having to ask Nico Hülkenberg the same questions yet again for another race weekend.
Which turned out to be the case, obviously. After the press conference I told him that I had run out of questions, and so next time I was likely to ask him his favourite questions: he laughed and said fine, but he was going to interview me in Portimao. Which should be great, as long as he does the transcription too.
He was then interviewed for TV and asked what he would most miss about GP2, and replied that it would be the great press conferences, and the excellent questions he gets asked. That boy has a highly tuned sense of irony.
At least we had the Gonzalo Rodriguez Foundation awards night to take our minds off things for a while, which gave everyone a night off to relax and let off a bit of steam, as well as to help out a great cause.
On Friday morning, however, it looked like they'd taken it too far, as the paddock looked like a warzone. Vitaly Petrov's arm was all bandaged after being treated for a strange infection he'd picked up (the poor guy looked awful in the morning, but clearly perked up before a storming drive in qualifying), while a mechanic at Super Nova also had his arm heavily bandaged.
We previously had a nice story here about the mechanic and how he is overcoming the obstacles presented by his injury, but he has asked that we remove the story as he doesn't want people to read about it. We don't want to upset anyone in the paddock, so we have now removed it.
However, we don't want any of our readers to feel that they are missing out on anything, so instead we are replacing the three paragraphs with a nice photo of Richard Selwin from iSport celebrating their great qualifying session instead:
But the day passed by fairly uneventfully: the black clouds of war over the paddock next door meant that we were able to get on with life and do our jobs without too much attention, and the closest the dramas next door came to affecting our paddock was when Romain Grosjean's Renault was wheeled down the paddock and their mechanics had to ask the Piquet GP boys to move Alberto Valerio's car and the spare tyres out of the way to allow them back into their pit: there were a few rye smiles raised as they cleared a path.
We even got a small break later on when the heat of the day shattered in the evening as a storm broke overhead, cooling everything down but giving Christian one more thing to worry about as he remembered the flooding of the paddock this time last year. Luckily it just took the sting of the heat out of the paddock before disappearing as quickly as it arrived.
The break in the weather gave some of us the chance to escape for the evening, but if the thieves are reading this, please note we've locked everything up and employed a crack security force. And dogs. And laser beams. Lots and lots of laser beams.
But none of that was enough for poor old Andi, who had to buy a brand new helmet (and insisted that Alastair didn't take any shots of him today, because he was wearing a plain carbon fibre lid instead of his usual immaculate paint job). He left the track after dinner carrying his helmet himself, and the look on his face suggested that he might well be hugging it all night, just to make sure it's safe.