Rain, unexpectedly named cars and commando tactics: welcome to Barcelona! “Did you get woken up by the rain last night?” Barbara asked as we walked through the hotel's front door and tried to remember where we parked yesterday. I was halfway across the carpark before I noticed Alexa had stopped at the car right in front of the door. Doh. “It was amazingly loud: I couldn't get back to sleep.” “Did you get woken up by the rain last night?” Barbara asked as we walked through the hotel's front door and tried to remember where we parked yesterday. I was halfway across the carpark before I noticed Alexa had stopped at the car right in front of the door. Doh. “It was amazingly loud: I couldn't get back to sleep.” “I didn't notice a thing,” I replied, trying to pretend that I meant to walk past our car and look at the conditions. “Looks like it was pretty heavy.” “Just what I need,” Alexa sighed as she got behind the wheel, “A drive through the spray on the freeway before I've even had a coffee...”
It could have been worse: she could have been driving around the circuit with 30 guys in their first GP3 qualifying session. All we ended up with was dirty shoes from the muddy carpark, rather than a bent car and some very grumpy mechanics and a parts invoice. But it was a great session for everyone watching: 30 minutes of excitement as the pace increased every lap, and you never knew who was going to go off track next, or who was going to come out on top, until the last guy crossed the line for the last time.
A quick press conference followed, where I hoped desperately that I got their names right as I announced them (hey, it's the first time I've met a lot of the guys, and they're not all called Dean Smith: cut me some slack...) and we had to run over to ART for the first of our fan favourite teammate interviews.
Jules and Sam are great guys, and we had a lot of laughs: Jules was clearly nervous ahead of his first race from pole, but luckily Sam was completely supportive of his teammate, agreeing a number of times “yeah, I hope you don't stall today too – that would be terrible...” We also learned that Sam calls his car Mary: he wouldn't tell us why, but it explains why he gave his car a little pat as the mechanics pushed her back up the pitlane after free practice.
After that we were straight over to see Jerome and Ho-Pin at DAMS for another interview: the guys have known each other for years, and it was easy to see how relaxed they are around each other. Although sometimes that isn't such a good thing: I now know who drives commando, as well as a lot of other superstitions the guys have about racing (is there any other group of people as superstitious as racing drivers? I can't see how that could be possible), and unfortunately some things can't be unlearned.
We'll be sure to print their interview soon, so you can know them too!
Then it was time for a quick bite for lunch and the F1 qualifying, and on to the main event. It looks like Sam's attempt at a psych out of his teammate backfired: Jules didn't have the best start but Sam's was a lot worse, and when he got to the first corner he had to take evasive action and launch poor Mary over the kerbs, breaking her nose in the process.
An early stop for a new nose cone and a race full of qualifying laps later the Briton finished just over a second behind 8th place and the reverse pole: one more lap and he would almost certainly have had it. A point for quickest lap was scant recompense: he was almost inconsolable after the race, even though most people in the paddock were quick to come over and congratulate him on an amazing drive.
The rest of the grid better be careful: Sam and Mary look like a pretty racy couple.
Jerome was in the wars too: qualifying had been poor for the Belgian, but an amazing first half of the race got him up to fifth position before his stop, when a poorly affixed rear wheel brought his brilliant race to an early, heartbreaking end.
I'm starting to think that we may be bad luck. Feel free to leave a comment below and suggest who we should interview next.
But I don't want to take anything away from Charles Pic, who had a great drive to claim his first win in his first race in the series. Although it probably wasn't polite for Karun Chandhok to text Alexa as the shy, hairy little Frenchman celebrated to ask if this was the first time a girl had won a GP2 race. And next to him Giacomo Ricci looked like he was going to explode with joy at his good fortune, while Dani Clos had the look of a man who was in the middle of the best dream of his life, and didn't want to ever wake up.
Pic Ricci Clos: it's not a podium anyone in the world could have predicted before the race, but it would be equally impossible to find anyone who wasn't happy for the unexpected trio. GP2 always finds a new way to surprise you, and it's great to back in the middle of it all.