David Cameron on borders, hospitals and lame excuses Things never go easy in Istanbul: it's hot, it's a long way from home, and everyone seems to be under more pressure than usual to get things done here. As much as I love the city, working in the paddock just feels more draining than the other places (apart from Budapest, where we don't get the benefit of cooling sea breezes at night) we go to race.
Which is why it makes no sense that someone would put themselves under more strain than is truly necessary, and why no one can quite understand why Racing Engineering's Alfonso de Orleans Borbon did what he did yesterday. Regular readers of this blog may recall Alfonso's earlier adventures at the Turkish border: they will already be thinking the same thought I had in the pitlane before free practice.
“So I drove here again,” he started, already chuckling at the memory, “and it was the same guy as I had last year! This time I arranged a visa form in advance, so I wouldn't have to go through the same problems again.” Last time a long delay because of his dress sense and car were only solved by a call to the Prime Minister's office. “My friend remembered me, and he didn't want to give me any grief: the only problem was that the visa form, which is in Turkish, was for the truck, not a car!
“Four hours later and I could finally enter: I couldn't even say anything this time, because I brought the wrong form! And as I was leaving he waved and said see you next year...”
No matter how inconvenienced he was, even Alfonso recognised that his dramas were mild compared to Nelson Panciatici. The young Frenchman was walking downstairs to go to dinner in his hotel last night when he slipped and suffered a big fall, coming down heavily on his ankle: his manager and a French journalist found him on the floor, and were soon driving the distraught driver to hospital.
X-rays showed that there was nothing broken, but the doctor was extremely worried about the severe swelling surrounding the ankle, which may have been an indication of serious muscle damage.
“You're going to have to stay off your feet,” the doctor sternly instructed, “or else you risk making the damage worse.” “Okay, but can I drive?” Nelson asked, conveniently failing to mention his livelihood.
“I guess that would be okay if no one else can drive you, but if it starts to hurt then you need to stop immediately.”
“No problem doc.”
Cue one limping racing driver being helped to the pitlane this morning. It takes more than serious feet damage to stop them getting out on track, as Romain Grosjean also proved...
And Nelson was clearly delighted to be out on the circuit today, even if some of his competitors seemed to wish they were anywhere else but here. Hang around with racing drivers for long enough and you will hear every excuse under the sun for why they didn't get the job done, and today was no exception.
I'm thinking of approaching the stewards to suggest I hand out instant penalties to anyone who blames traffic or yellow flags for poor laps: everyone has the same conditions, so just deal with it. Okay, so today there were a lot of guys who didn't qualify well, notably Lucas di Grassi, Kamui Kobayashi and Jerome d'Ambrosio: any guess at the favourite excuse today?
Which is why it was so refreshing to talk to Kamui after qualifying today: as we were queuing for dinner I asked what had happened in qualifying, and then mentally flinched for the expected reply. To his credit he just looked sheepish and said: “Actually, I just don't know...”