Every driver has a different routine, a different habit or superstition, ahead of their time on track: some of them admit to it, some of them don't, but if you're given access to the pitlane and you look closely enough, you'll see them go through it, even though many of them are unaware of it.
A day like today, with margins so close at a track they know so well, you need to look below the surface to see what's going on. No one wanted to give away anything to anyone.
Romain Grosjean always walks into the pitlane with his engineer with that upright, almost-but-not-quite ungainly lope as his companion shuffles to keep up, but they don't talk about much: the session is already planned, so there's no point covering old ground. He strolls on, head high as he looks around, at the enormous grandstand, at the Formula One pits, back at the grandstand, until they arrive at their pitwall.
Down at Trident things are happening faster: Stefano Coletti looks up the pitlane, waiting for his car and then, seeing it, head straight across to the spot his mechanics are pointed towards. He lifts his knees fast, violently, one after the other, a quick burst of movement to get himself ready for the session, while teammate Rodolfo Gonzalez, his car rolled to a halt in front of him, kneels down towards it, crossing himself as he stretches up and into the car, a fluid motion with no wasted movement as his mechanics swarm around him.
Everyone looks up in this pitlane at some stage: you can't help it because the grandstand is so huge, looming over us like a football stadium. They might all test here regularly, but you can tell why they enjoy driving here, local knowledge notwithstanding: they're on display here, in front of a crowd more obviously than any other circuit.
Everyone is waiting, waiting, waiting, keen but relaxed about the session. There's no hurrying, no urgency yet, as it's free practice, not qualy. It's important but not vital, so there's just an eagerness to begin the weekend, get things moving again.
But the strategies are starting already: Arden don't go out until the end, a very slow lap for Josef Kral, the team clearly saving tyres ahead of a potential difficult race for tyre wear tomorrow. He's cagey about it afterwards, not wanting to give much away, but shyly acknowledges that they were surprised no one else followed suit, given the data logs for the circuit.
In between the sessions it's quiet in the hospitality area, as usual for here: most of the drivers choose to stay in their trucks until lunch, apart from Luca Filippi and Marcus Ericsson watching the F1 session, chatting throughout, and Coletti wandering around in a new t-shirt with “I ♥ St. Stefano” emblazoned across it.
Qualifying sees more strategic moves, with all of the grid bar Ocean Racing heading out straight away to take advantage of the F1 rubber on track: Fabio Leimer's problems hold everyone up for a lap, deferring the fast one, but next time by the order shakes out and Jules Bianchi is on top by a tenth.
The Ocean guys head out just as their rivals come back in, hoping that the clear track will offset the less than ideal rubber on track, with most of the guys sitting in the pitlane waiting to see what happens next. Stefano is one of the few to go out halfway through the session, running a tenth over what he did earlier, with Dani Clos and Marcus Ericsson improving enough to prompt a few others to come out.
When Sam and Giedo come out then Jules has to follow suit, just to cover, but none of them see much point in being there. “I could have gone a bit faster, but the changes we made didn't quite work,” Stefano says when he came back to the pits. The top three all disagree in the press conference, claiming there was nothing more to expect, but they were forced into going out just avoid getting pipped by someone finding something extra on the second set.
We've seen F1 qualy strategies change, with Q3 turning into one run and a saved set of tyres: is this the start of a similar move in GP2? It will depend on the circuit, but they're all clearly thinking about new strategies.
The press conference is all about baiting the guys to see what they will say: Sam can't help but have a go at psyching out Jules ahead of the race tomorrow (“I'll wave to him from behind, just before the lights go off, and say 'hello Jules' ... last year he had a little bit of the colly wobbles, didn't you mate?”), but is far more cagey about his own strategy (I ask about running race set up in free practice he won't admit it, stating instead “I think the work that we did this morning was important and good, so we'll have to wait and see tomorrow what it turns out to be...”), while Giedo just laughs at Sam's inability to say the word 'analyse' (“I thought you were English!”).
And then they go back to their trucks once again, to pour over the data again, to see if there is anything they've missed at this most over-analysed of circuits. And there's nothing left for the rest of us to do but try and piece together the clues from today to apply to the race tomorrow.
And there are plenty of clues there, just below the surface of a seemingly quiet day, even if they are doing what they can to hide them from us. Tomorrow is going to be an interesting race in Barcelona, for once.