The first weekend back in the paddock is a tense time for everyone, so most of us tend to fall back into our tried and tested routines: like any job, over the years you develop a sixth sense for what works and what doesn't, and in a high pressure world like motor racing there is a lot of comfort in falling back into the old rhythms that help you to get everything done efficiently.
Unfortunately for ART their routine was broken before they even arrived at the circuit, when regular truckie Willy was in a car accident the day before he was due to leave for Barcelona. Luckily his injuries were restricted to bruising around his ribs, but that meant there was no chance that he would be able to come to the race.
Cue a frantic call to their Asia Series truckie Jean-Michel, who was relaxing at home over a few drinks just before taking a well earned holiday with his girlfriend, but within a few minutes he was putting on the coffee and packing a bag for the trip to Barcelona. “I don't think he is too popular at home at this moment, but he is here!” laughed engineer Gaetan Jago as the mechanics were pulling down the awning after the race on Sunday.
“But I hear that Willy cannot wait to get to Monaco, so hopefully Jean-Michel can head home this afternoon and we can free Willy for the next race!” Bad puns aside, we all hope he gets well soon.
One person we were happy to see on the mend was Lucas di Grassi, who was back in action in race two with a much quieter race than the day before, when he had a close encounter with the underside of Alvaro Parente's car.
Despite the damage to his headrest (and helmet) the day before, the genial Brazilian was already laughing the incident off the next day, when he popped upstairs in the bus after the second race. “No problems,” he smiled when asked how he was feeling, “My neck is strong and there's nothing in my head anyway, so everything is fine!”
I've always suspected that racing drivers are missing something upstairs...
There have been a lot of people who have had to miss a race weekend from time to time for a variety of reasons, whether through illness, family or business commitments, and there have been others who have been at the track but been unable to make it to the pitlane for some reason or another, but Super Nova team boss David Sears had the strangest excuse we've heard for a while for his non-attendance in race one.
Staying in nearby Grenollers with his family, David figured that he would be able to relax and spend a bit of extra time with the kids before making the short journey to the circuit: with our paddock being on his side of the circuit the drive had been only five minutes on the previous two days, and so he felt he had plenty of time in hand before he needed to leave.
Unfortunately he didn't factor in the efficiency of the Spanish traffic police, who redirected every lane of traffic on the roads surrounding the circuit to run outwards only so that fans leaving after F1 qualifying would have a quicker run to the freeway, which left him with no way to get into the circuit despite his frantic calls for help to the paddock.
All of which meant that he was unable to witness first hand not only the successful return of Luca Filippi to the team (with a drive that had many in the paddock remarking on the return of the real Luca after a torrid season last year), but also a dramatic moment before the race.
Javier Villa was leaving the pits after being topped up with fuel (the heat for race one meant that fuel may have been marginal, and after Valencia last year no one was taking any risks), but some of the overflow caused a fireball in the pitlane which, thankfully, dissipated quickly.
Of course it is possible that it was just the team's way of outdoing their rivals: many of the cars sported small flames from their exhausts during the race as small amounts of fuel dripped onto the hot exhausts, and engineers are known for their mischievous streaks. While that's probably not the case, David was notable for his earliness in the paddock to keep an eye on things on Sunday morning...