The day started with a signing session for all of the drivers, and they were really looking forward to it.
But as ever Giedo looked on the bright side, and saw it as an opportunity to reach out to his fans.
Max saw it as a chance to make new friends too.
While Luca just wished he'd listened to his mama, and packed a jacket.
The marketing people at the track were really grateful though, and gave us some presents for all of the drivers: you guys can come to the truck to claim it after reading this.
We got back to the paddock to find out that the helicopter filming the F1 qualifying session came just a little closer than usual to the paddock.
And then it was time to head up to the pitlane for the race
There seemed to be a hidden message for Giedo on the grid.
While Fabio hoped no one would notice his turbine boosters.
And Luiz had a little message from his team: Drive it like you stole it...
But the race was going to be between 2 guys.
And only one could come out on top.
While the rest of the guys had to find their own way home.
And Luca prepared for the media.
At least the action is hot on track! I like the Nurburgring, but it's never the easiest place to work. We had possibly the best race I've ever seen here (the sprint race in 2005 when, after Gimmi Bruni's engine was “eaten by a crocodile” as Paolo Coloni famously put it, a five way battle saw a lead change at every corner: it was amazing, until I realised I had to write the race report), then the next time we came here there was snow on the edge of the roads, and the time after that it was blazing hot.
So obviously it's cold this weekend. At least it hasn't rained yet, he said hoping desperately that he hasn't just jinxed it.
A few of the drivers were put to work early as taxi drivers: the AirAsia duo of Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia had a pair of Caterhams provided to promote their link up with the fabled marque, and the pair were soon squabbling over which one would get to drive the one painted in their new green and gold colours and which one would have to make do in the plain blue car, before settling down to the real task at hand, namely scaring the hell out of a bunch of lucky contest winners.
And Jules Bianchi was soon out on track too, driving round in a Ferrari road car as part of his junior driver role for the F1 team. He did lap after lap before rewarding photographer Lorenzo Bellanca, the colleague of Alastair and Drew who take the brilliant photos in our gallery, with the last lap of the day.
“Loz” as he is nicknamed took a couple of snaps before sitting back to enjoy the ride: with the tyres struggling after so much work the car was sliding around a lot, much to Jules pleasure, spurring the Frenchman on to see how much he could scare the photographer in the one remaining lap.
Unfortunately the weather was no better today, with the few brave souls to risk leaving their truck for long were tucked up inside a bibendum of team jackets and fleeces each. The hospitality area was a bit of a ghost town, even during the F1 free practice sessions that usually draw everyone like a moth to the flame.
Free practice came and went in a blur, with most of the pitlane casting a rueful eye skywards in fear before getting on with their tasks for the session. Romain Grosjean kept up the pressure with a lap time well ahead of his rivals, but to be fair most of the teams were concentrating on a variety of race set ups (tomorrow's weather is the great unknown of the weekend, and everyone needed to test as many different set ups as possible) rather than looking for overall speed.
Luca Filippi was looking quick at his old new team of Coloni: the ever cheerful Italian had moved over from Super Nova after a deal between the teams ahead of the race, and he slotted in as though he'd never been away by claiming P4 in practice despite losing a lot of time in traffic.
He was hardly the only man to suffer from it, of course: pretty much everyone lost time somewhere over the practice and qualifying sessions, and it was probably always going to be that way given the twisting, technical nature of the circuit that folds around itself like a snake around its dinner. And it meant there was no end to the drivers complaining about traffic, despite them all being part of the problem as well.
(And it meant that there was a lot of talk about what could be done to avoid the problem in qualifying in the paddock, with one guy suggesting a mini F1-style session with half the field getting cut halfway through, and another recommending 2 periods with half the grid each. If you've got any thoughts, feel free to leave them below)
Filippi didn't seem to mind about the traffic too much though: he was on pole after timing his runs differently to his rivals and taking advantage of an almost clear track as everyone else pitted for fresh rubber, and it held until a couple of minutes from the end when Charles Pic stole the points from him.
The Italian jumped out of his car at the end of the session to greet his delighted countrymen on the Coloni pitwall, but also snuck back over afterwards to see his old Super Nova team (who he stills races with in another series) to let them know that he thought it would have gone exactly the same thing if he was still with them, too.
And then in the press conference he said he doesn't actually like the circuit that much, as it doesn't suit his driving style. Despite being on the front row for tomorrow's race. I can't wait to see what he's got for us in Monza.
After that it was time to slink back to hospitality and write everything up for us, huddled together at one table for warmth, and out the back to the paddock for the teams to set up their cars for tomorrow's race. Although it sounded as though the teams were firing up the cars a lot, far more than is usual, in fact: I'm sure that there must have been some valid excuse for it, even though it seemed excessive.
Because after all, they wouldn't just fire up the cars to keep warm, would they?
Sandra Bullock? Simon Baker? So Beautiful? A metallic element having four allotropic forms? A bachelor's degree in science? Small Business? Sound Blaster?
Today started with Alexa and I annoying a couple of motorbike cops: the day could probably only improve from there.
Maybe I should go back a bit. Driving in to the circuit (much earlier start, much less traffic than yesterday) I looked over to see Alexa waving at the car next to us. It was only when the occupant made one back and zipped in front of me that I realised it was Sam Bird.
He stayed there for a few miles before suddenly pulling back into the other lane and slowing quickly. “What's he doing?” Alexa quizzed, seemingly unable to understand why a driver would ever slow down, but a quick look in my mirrors showed the dayglo colours of the British constabulary.
Unfortunately Sam filled the only gap in the other lane: I figured the police wanted to get through, so I accelerated slightly just to get ahead of the guys in the left lane and let the boys in iridescent yellow go through. Which only prompted them to zoom ahead of me and wave their fingers at me before sitting on 39mph all the way to the track.
No good deed goes unpunished, clearly. I think they only failed to pull over and nag me because it would cause a big tailback in the traffic. We finally got into the paddock, and Alexa switched from complaining about the local police to moaning about her foot: she was proud of the fact that she was down to just one crutch at the start of the weekend, but it was already clear that she was overdoing it and had hurt her foot again. We got her upstairs to the office to put her foot up and I took my chance: I locked her into the office, but GP3's Amanda ruined it all by opening the door to ask a question, giving Alexa the chance to limp to freedom.
Not wanting to be responsible for the inevitable increase in foot pain I ran off (well, actually I walked: Alexa is really, really slow these days, so anything over a dawdle works like a fastest lap) before she blamed me.
We had a few interviews set up, and this week's teammate interview soon came around: it was Carlin today, and it's great fun to talk to Alvaro and Max about what they get up to. I found out that Alvaro is the Portuguese James Bond, Max found out that the Portuguese fans are very, very passionate about his teammate, Alvaro found out that Max is a complete golf junkie: the only thing we didn't find out was Max's ideal car, as it turned out to be an impossible choice for him to make.
I'm half expecting an email in the middle of the week from him asking if it's too late to tell us his choice for the interview...
At lunch I found myself in the queue just in front of Giedo van der Garde, who has been incredibly laid back all weekend considering the dramas he's suffered: it's almost as though each new problem has allowed him to relax a bit more, to take a little more pressure off his shoulders.
“It should be a good race,” he noted. “The quick guys are at the back, we've got nothing to lose, so I think you're going to have some fun watching it today. Wet or dry, I think it will be fun.” It was about this time that he noticed Sam sitting at one of the tables with his back to us, and that he was wearing a shirt with a giant SB on the back. “Hey, is that shirt from Sebastien Buemi? I didn't know you were a big fan of him...” Sam glowered a bit which made Giedo laugh, and he reached over to pull the Englishman's ear, which annoyed him even more: when he stomped off the Dutchman laughed out loud, happy that he had managed to annoy one of his rivals so easily.
And then the race came, preceded by yet another torrential downpour. I am so glad I brought my thick jacket this weekend.
But if Giedo has been unlucky this weekend, we should spare a few thoughts for Michael Herck, who seemed to combine a season's worth of bad luck into one race. He couldn't get off the line when the safety car led the rest of the field away, and had to be pushed into the pitlane to be restarted.
He then went to leave the pits only to find that the red lights were on, and was stuck there fuming until just before the safety car came back around, losing almost a complete lap. Coming in on lap ten to try and find a strategic advantage he left again on wets, and then came back two laps later to get slicks when it was clear that this was a better choice, just as Marcus Ericsson and Stefano Coletti made their well timed stops.
When the Romanian set the fastest lap next time by it was clearly a vindication, but unfortunately he soon had a message that he had picked up a penalty for speeding in the pitlane, undoing all his good work. He was soon back into the pits, but hadn't been told that it is a 10 second stop go penalty in Silverstone, given the time advantage in the pits, and so had to come back in once again to serve the penalty correctly. I've never seen anything like it before: it was as though he'd run over a black cat. I wanted to go and ask him about it, but I was worried I might make him trip down the stairs and knock himself out or something.
Then it was back to try and find a way to squeeze as much of the race as possible into a press release, and then catch the GP3 race: I missed the start because we don't have a TV in our office, and when I looked at the screen next door and saw them in the pits I thought I had an installation lap to come, and I missed the last lap because Al rang me to say that our drivers were in the press conference room waiting to be interviewed.
With all the delays to our race and the following GP3 event, we'd forgotten to push the time back a few minutes: I walked around to see all three drivers patiently sitting there, waiting for me to arrive, with Al and the journalists looking back at them. We've got our boys trained so well. I was so proud!
And it was great to see Marcus Ericsson back in the press conference after so long: he's a great guy who just lives for racing, and he was so happy to be back at the front again. He hung around to chat to me and a Swedish TV crew afterwards, and he couldn't stop smiling. “I'm so happy to be back in here again,” he laughed, “it's been way too long! I'm so happy to show what we can do: we're so fast here, but we still had to gamble to do it.”
“But I am going for a podium again tomorrow: I love all this, I want to be in the press conferences all the time!”
I'll be wishing him good luck as he goes for it. But Marcus, if you're reading this, you might want to wait until you get into the track before you put your foot down: you'll be risking some seriously wagged fingers if you don't.
It's always easy to tell when you're in Silverstone: it's generally cold and wet, and even if it's not the French contingent will be complaining either way. Raining? Complaints. Too sunny? Complaints. Too many people in the paddock? Complaints. Not enough people? You know the rest. And the thing is, it is ridiculously easy to complain about Silverstone – it is always the most difficult weekend to get through, from a work perspective – but the Brits hate it when the French moan about the place, mostly because they see it as their birthright to whinge about the place. Want to complain about a race? Go moan about Magny Cours.
Yeah, that's right.
So the traffic was awful this morning, as usual – actually, it was much worse than usual, but let's keep that between us. We were sitting on the main road to the circuit going nowhere when Al and Drew, our photographers, rang up to say they couldn't get into the office to get their cameras: how can we get in there? We're sitting in traffic: what do you want us to do? Cue two grumpy photographers.
We have the old pitlane this weekend, shared between the GP2 and GP3 teams, and our office is in the old Race Control building. When we finally arrived, just as another shower started, I assumed I'd see the pair sitting on the front steps looking depressed and half-drowned, but they were upstairs and working away as we walked in.
I wandered over to find out what had happened, and one of the guys who work here noted: “They got in without any help from us: you should give them a bonus, just for showing initiative!” But how did they get in? “He climbed through the window.” Oh well, they've probably done you a favour: now you can let security know about the problem. “Oh no, we like it that way, just in case we need to get in that way...” I take my computer back to the hotel every night, just in case you were wondering.
Silverstone always does things differently to every other race: it's part of their ... well, charm is probably the wrong word, but it's what they do. Normally we have silver Mercedes Benz people carriers to get us back and forth to the pitlane if we're not out the back (and we're definitely not here: it is about a half hour walk to get there). Here we have local buses.
I can't help but wonder if there is a little old lady standing at the bus stop in Towcester, staring down the road and getting absolutely livid. I know how she feels: after free practice I sat around for ages, waiting for the bus to turn up. I put the time to good use by writing the session report at the bus stop, but still. And when it finally turned up, I automatically reached for my Oyster card (bus ticket) before catching myself. I guess I should be happy that they're not charging me for the journey. Yet.
We got back to the paddock just in time for another huge downpour, and the inevitable moan from the French contingent: I wasn't so fussed as I was already in hospitality eating lunch, but Sam Bird was clearly more annoyed as he was looking out, weighing up whether to dash back for his briefing or to stay inside.
There wasn't any choice: if you're a driver, you go when your team want you. Heading out into the torrential downpour, he was polite enough to hold the door open behind him for a couple of marshals, who recognised him and wanted to congratulate him on topping the session. Standing there getting soaked, his dilemma was etched across his face: be rude and head back to the truck, or be polite and hold the door while getting wet for a couple of motor racing fans?
Of course he stayed, holding the door open. Because his mother brought him up well.
Then it was time for the teams to make the long, long trek back to the (other) pitlane for qualifying: the truckies and mechanics on the quad bikes towing everything round, the engineers jumping onto a bus to get out of the rain. I saw a spot and jumped onto the Arden convoy, hanging onto the pole holding the tyres in place as we went round.
It's one of my favourite things to do in the paddock: it's just fun hanging on as we wind our way slowly around to the pits, trundling past all the fans (Silverstone has way more fans than any other track, even on a sodden Friday afternoon) as they take photos of the procession. And we were held just outside the pits until the F1 session finished: as I walked in I overheard the security guy's radio crackle: “We've got a woman here asking to be let through. She's on crutches. What do I do?”
Alexa was soon hobbling up from the other end of the paddock, and sat next to me just before the rain started up again. It stopped for two laps, and then absolutely bucketed down. And that was qualifying over.
. “I don't really care,” Luca Filippi noted back in hospitality, “I'm really here to entertain the crowd anyway, so maybe it's better that I'm at the back: I can give them a real show from there!” It was a shame though, as he'd shown good speed in free practice, but he was hardly the only one to get screwed over by the weather. And he was thinking about the bigger picture, anyway.
“I've come up with the solution for here, and I am going to talk to Bernie about it. Have you seen that movie The Truman Show? I think we have to do something like that, and build a big roof over the whole circuit: Bernie is very rich, I'm sure it won't be a problem for him. And they could make it sunny here all the time!”
It sounded like a brilliant plan to me, but we were in the middle of the sixth storm of the day at the time. I'm sure the French would still find something wrong with the place though, even if The Filippi Show was brought to life. And maybe that's what the locals like about Silverstone: sure, it might be a rubbish weekend, but the French hate it way more than the rest of us.
And anything that winds up the French that much can't be all bad.