Fashion TV started the weekend off in surreal style by requesting an interview with Romain Grosjean, Sam Bird and Jules Bianchi to discuss the fashion of GP2.
Well, of course.
Jules was unable to make it, having a prior arrangement to spend that time with the stewards instead, but the other two were up for it and turned up on time, as requested. Unfortunately Fashion TV didn't have anyone available to do the interview, which meant Alexa had to step into the breach.
Which wouldn't be too bad, except that they wanted the footage to have a Monaco backdrop, which meant she had to limp up 3 flights of stairs on her crutches to get to the amphitheatre above our paddock, and then wedge herself into the corner to get things started.
“That's a lovely microphone,” Sam laughed as he saw the rhinestone encrusted fuzzy cover, reaching over to touch it and making the heavy object even harder for her to hold in place, before moving on to the topics of the day. “Yes, it's important to make sure your overalls fit well for the podium. And to make sure your hair looks okay after you take off your helmet, even though you put on a hat straight away...”
Unfortunately the Englishman wasn't entirely ready for an interview with Fashion TV (some people, of course, may suggest that no Englishman ever could be...), as he'd forgotten his sunglasses before Barcelona, and had to resort to buying a pair from a petrol station for £15. “You can't mention that!” Alexa admonished. “This is Fashion TV: you've got to say they were £500! What about your clothes now?” “This shirt was free, the shoes were cheap, but the trousers cost £100, I think.” “Okay, let's talk about those...”
If this was an unusual way to start a Monaco weekend, the traffic this morning into the Principality was unfortunately completely normal: we drove less than 5 miles in an hour and a half, as we crawled along with the peak hour traffic. Which put Alexa into a great mood when the security guards in the paddock, located as usual in the car park underneath the Prince's palace, refused to allow her to use the elevator to get up to the hospitality area. “But I've got a broken ankle! What do you want me to do?” “Well, you shouldn't come here with a broken ankle, should you...”
It turns out that French people like to yell at each other. You learn something every day.
And because of her injury, she obviously couldn't come up to the pitlane for free practice: I walked up with my friend Guy, who is here for the weekend and more excited than a bear in a fishmonger's shop, taking photos of everything that moves, and most other things besides.
It's a great opportunity to take in the cars, all lined up and waiting to be released. Walking past Luca Filippi's car I noticed that they'd taken the dot off the rear wing between the numbers: when I asked what had happened, chief engineer Andy Roche came over and sighed: “Yeah, well it didn't work, did it?”
Racing Engineering were much happier, pointing out a massive banner on the cliff overlooking the final turn at Anthony Noghes next to one for Fernando Alonso and cheering on Dani and Alvaro, while featuring their mascot Torrito. Team boss Alfonso de Orleans Borbon was delighted: “The fans bring it every year, and every year it gets a little bigger: next year we might be even bigger than Fernando!”
Kevin Mirocha came back with eyes like saucers: the German had never driven in Monaco before, and couldn't believe what he had found on track. “Everything they say about here is true!” he laughed after the session. “It's crazy: it's like driving down a tunnel! You can't go 100%, even if there is no traffic, or you will be in the wall, for sure!”
And then qualifying happened.
There's not a lot for me to say about the session at this stage: a lot of drivers are talking to the stewards, and until we hear what will come out of that there's nothing much I can add at this stage. I had to rush around to get quotes from the top three before they went back to the pitlane to see the stewards, and I didn't want to be accused of delaying them.
But it was interesting to see the different moods: Giedo was bubbly, ecstatic at his pole position despite nursing a very sore hand from his accident with Oliver Turvey, Jules was fine, even though he didn't have much to say, as usual, while Sam angrier than I've ever seen him, his face like thunder even though his answers were erudite and informative, as always. And when we finished he apologised for being upset!
Which was fine, even understandable: he'd only just got out of the car, he was having a drink and trying to cool down, so no problem at all. But what is a problem is everyone going nuts on circuit, forcing me to wait in the paddock now to see if there are any penalties to write about, rather than go out with Guy and have a lot of beers for my birthday.
Bloody racing drivers. They never think of anyone but themselves...