I'm sorry if you came here yesterday looking for a new blog from Valencia: due to reasons beyond our control, I couldn't put one together. And the biggest reason was that, quite simply, nothing happened.
Let me explain. The track in Valencia is in the old port area of town, a quiet and very, very dusty part of the city, and the GP2 paddock is about as far away from the pitlane as its possible to be and still be at the track. It's the dustiest, driest part too, away from the water and built on compacted dirt and a loose layer of asphalt which is there just to stop the dust moving, and to increase the temperature.
So the drivers, quite sensibly, stay inside their air-conditioned trucks all weekend until they have to get into the cars, and the engineers stay in there with them. We don't have an air-conditioned truck, so we mostly sit in hospitality on the heat radiating asphalt, and dream of being in the trucks.
Maybe I could have just made up a few of those dreams into a blog, but you probably expect the stories you read here to be true. Plus, it's generally easier to make fun of things the drivers actually say or do rather than invent something that didn't happen: the course of least resistance is the term that comes to mind and, frankly, someone usually say something stupid without any help from me.
So, as exciting as it might have been to read about Carlin's search for a cloth Pirelli badge for Alvaro Parente's race suit yesterday (“that's the thing when you've got a driver like Alvaro – you always run the risk of being on the podium”) or Luca Filippi's cunning plan to race in GP2 forever (“I love racing in GP2, but I can't come back if I win the championship, so if I get close I will wave the other guys through so I don't get enough points”), a one paragraph blog probably isn't really good enough.
But it didn't stop me from feeling guilty about it. The problem was simple: no material = no blog. I needed to clear my head to think about it a bit more: in the paddock Alexa was quietly sitting down alone (she is still on crutches, in case you're wondering), deliberately not saying anything to me about the blog. But what she doesn't realise is that after all these years I can actually read her mind, and she was saying “what about the blog?” over and over very loudly inside her head.
So I walked the track.
There are hundreds of people working at a race circuit to put together the show everyone watches on TV, and a lot of them were packing up for the day as I circulated. When you walk the track you can see the camera positions on each corner (and Valencia has a lot of those), with furry microphones just peeping over the wall to pick up the noise. There were a couple of guys covering or collecting equipment as I started, but mostly they were done for the day.
There were guys repainting the kerbs where drivers had inconsiderately scraped their cars over the paintwork, and other guys were reattaching advertising hoardings damaged or destroyed by a crash. Not that I'm thinking of anyone in particular, Romain.
In the pitlane there were guys working away under the seats on the pitwall, and others cleaning every speck of dirt off the immaculately white garage floors while the cars were being weighed. There were others at either end of the pitlane marshalling the fans on the front straight, directing them to the areas they were allowed to enter, and denying them from the others.
There were also guys whizzing back and forth on scooters as they dropped bits and pieces from one end of the circuit to the other, and in between there were people running the track, either for charity (UBS pays an amount for every lap time entered on http://www.runthattrack.info/) or for fun.
I'm guessing they were as annoyed as I was to find out that the bridge was open for boats, so they had to go back the way they came. Thanks for letting me know, guys.
And when I came back to the paddock, there was still no blog. Alexa's brain was still saying “blog, blog, blog”, but the sound was scrambled by the last 2 hours solid of tagging and uploading photos for the website, so all I could hear was white noise, and a strange whistling sound. With nothing else to do I brought the car around to hospitality to collect her, dropped her back at the hotel so she could collapse into bed, and I went across the road with Amanda from GP3 to try and drown the guilt in beer.
Then Will arrived.
Will does a lot of work for FOM, including the GP2 commentary, and he stays with a lot of FOM guys at circuits around the world. And he told me about one of their camera guys, Milton, who is one of the kindest, wisest, funniest guys Will knows. Always quick with a joke or a laugh, Milton is one of the guys who makes Will's job in the paddock a little happier, a little better at each race. Will fills the same role for me, so I can relate.
Milton's not here this weekend: he's back in south London, having treatment for cancer. His family and girlfriend are with him, helping in any way they can: it's the second time in a year they've had to go through it, as his sister sadly lost her fight with cancer last year (just before I wrote that paragraph my email pinged, and I got a weekly update telling me that my wife is 32 weeks pregnant today, and that the little fellow is growing by half a kilo a week. It was all I could do to stop myself weeping out loud in the middle of hospitality).
Milton will be in Silverstone to catch up with his mates, and to judge the winner of the Mil-vember moustache growing contest they're having in his honour. Will won't win, as he's obviously still waiting for puberty to hit, but like everyone else he's got a donation page for Cancer Research UK in Milton's honour: the URL is http://www.justgiving.com/willthef1journo if you want to take a look. And Milton's blog page is http://kickingcancerinthenuts.blogspot.com/: he is funnier than any man has a right to be in his condition.
His current catchphrase is Think Strong, and he is the living embodiment of that. He's got bigger balls than me, that's for sure.
I've been writing this blog for about 6 years now, and one of the things I enjoy the most is talking about people, trying to work out a little bit about them, and what makes them tick. Mostly I write about drivers, because that's what racing fans want to know about, naturally, but I started the A Day In The Life column to give you an insight into some of the other characters in the paddock.
Because life in the paddock is a bit like a giant moveable family: we don't always get along with each other, but a lot of the time we do. Work loads are tough, and we can't always get through it alone: we all have someone we lean on in the paddock, just when we need a hand. I do, Alexa does, each and every driver does too. We all know it, even if we don't talk about it much.
I printed out his catchphrase: I'm not entirely sure why, but I did it anyway. A driver saw it and asked what it meant, I told him, and I took a photo. Then another driver saw that, asked and was answered, then another, and another. Sometimes, that's how things work in this place.
And then we go racing, because that's why we're here. We may not always know whose shoulders we're leaning on to do it, but they're all a part of the family.