The heat in Istanbul always catches everybody out: I don't know why, as it's always hot here (apart from 2 years ago when the race was a month earlier than usual, and we all had to rush out to buy jumpers against the freezing conditions, of course), but we always seem to forget about it until we arrive here. Which is probably why my jacket got so many comments.
“How can you wear a jacket in this heat?” Gaetan, one of the ART engineers asked me as we were waiting to get into the pitlane ahead of free practice this morning, the midday sun overhead blazing down on us all. “It's actually quite easy to wear it,” I noted. “Firstly it's linen, which is very cooling. Secondly, and most importantly, our office is behind the pizza oven: it's actually much cooler out here than back in there...”
But the biggest story of the weekend was about to break open in front of me, pushing all thought of heat based japery aside. “My friend, I have some wonderful news!” Paolo Coloni beamed, coming across the road to give me a hug. “I have just heard from my girlfriend, who has been to see the doctor: we are gonna have a racing driver!”
The forthcoming son already has some strong competition, even though he doesn't know it yet: Paolo's young half-brother is already angling for the lead drive. “I am gonna write a press release when he is born: Coloni line up filled for 2030, Kevin Coloni Montoya and Marlon Joshua Coloni sign for the season. Formula One teams are invited to talk to us, but be warned, we have already had some discussions for them both!”
Free practice came and went, a heat hazed blur of noise and colour as always. Sam Bird has brought his father along for the weekend, the first time he'd come to the paddock, with his son making the introductions as I was in the middle of writing something. “Hello,” I sighed, distractedly. “Please don't call Mr Prime Minister: I've been getting that a lot.” “Oh, I wouldn't think about it,” he replied, taken aback. “I would only call you by your name...”
Sam has been getting a lot of attention this weekend for a variety of reasons: there is an online petition doing the rounds to request the Circuit de Catalunya's owners rename turn five as the Sam Bird Corner in honour of his performance there a few weeks ago, as well as someone pointing out that the Briton has his own podcast (“it's downloadable from iTunes” he noted somewhat redundantly when I asked him about it), making it a PR win of a weekend without turning a wheel in anger.
And yet, when I asked him if he had anything for the blog at dinner he noted: “Oh I don't think so: I've had a very boring weekend really...” He'll need to try harder next time if he wants to get some free publicity, clearly.
The heat had, if anything, exacerbated for qualifying, and we were all trying to find any shade we could in the blast furnace that is the pitlane. One mechanic, for a team which should probably remain nameless, was entertaining his fellow team members by pulling out some random cards for his driver's pitboard. The one that got the most laughs was PYFFO: I have no idea what it means, but feel free to leave your suggestions below...
We had asked for a fan to at least stir the hot air a little in the office yesterday, and it finally arrived just as the press conference was about to start: Oliver Turvey walked in to find the drivers' table completely covered in random pieces of metal, with Ludovic from the kitchen sweating over them as he tried to piece it all together. “Oh,” Oliver smirked, “I thought we were supposed to come here now: have we come at a bad time?”
It was a fun press conference though, with the edge of the heat falling away slightly as the guys arrived to talk to us all. Davide was clearly excited about being back in the press conference: he talked so much that I had to interrupt him to ask some questions, and subsequently he felt compelled to interrupt Pastor and Oliver to answer for them, or to ask some questions of his own, much to the amusement of the assembled journalists.
With the sun finally dropping below the horizon it was time to have dinner, with hospitality manager Christian presenting Mark from Autosport and me a few beers, a little present for our birthdays: Will Buxton soon came down to join us, and Paolo couldn't stop himself coming over to join the festivities. It didn't take long for Paolo to be thinking about business though.
“Will, your new baby, she is a girl, no? I think my boy Marlon Joshua should marry her! We need to think about the arrangements already!”
“I will tell her what Marco told me when she was born: don't let her go out with an Italian boy! Besides, I think my wife would have something to say about it!”
“No, it will be fine: you can tell her that I promised you a scooter!”
So if anyone is looking for a drive with Coloni in about 2055, you should probably talk to Paolo soon: it always pays to think ahead in this business.