Nothing ever quite runs the way you expect it in Monaco: that's both the excitement of the place, and it's curse. Drivers are never where they're supposed to be, things don't happen at the same time or in the same way, and the routines you develop over the years just don't work here like they do everywhere else.
Take photography, for example: Alastair always goes out ahead of any session or race to photograph the drivers and teams, to get some atmospheric shots of the boys that get used in magazines and online alongside articles about them to illustrate the subject.
You may have wondered, like I used to, why the drivers always seem to staring off into the middle distance in photos, seemingly scanning the horizon for something vitally important to their well being. The reason for this is that, generally, they goof around when they first arrive in GP2 until Al shows them a few shots of them smiling, and they then realise that they look much better with the serious, intent pose you see most of the time.
I can't imagine it's a surprise to you that racing drivers tend to be posers...
But I digress. With the teams lined up out the front of our car park paddock, Al went off in search of a few drivers to shoot, expecting them to be sitting at the bottom of the cliff looming over town and waiting to be let into the pitlane, as usual. But when he got to the end of the road there was no one in sight, and he rushed up and down the street trying to find some clues.
It was only when he was heading back to the paddock to ask the teams where their drivers were hiding that he noticed a race suit heading into the building that separates the road from the F1 paddock: following downstairs, he ended up in the famous Stars and Bars restaurant, overlook the paddock, with most of the grid leaning against the bar and watching one of the many televisions around the walls, killing time until their show began.
Giedo was one of the few drivers not to be at the bar: he was relaxing upstairs in the hospitality area with some friends, and when he saw Alexa he called over for a chat. “So am I going to sign your cast today? It's about time.” The pair had discussed it in Barcelona: it's in Addax colours, and Alexa promised to bring in her gold pen for him to sign it in Monaco.
And then the floodgates opened, and we all washed into the pitlane. It's tougher to cover the race here than anywhere else, as the F1 teams have their pitwall upstairs in their pits, so unless you have an invitation to go up you have no access to live timing. I followed free practice from the pits but qualifying is all about timing, and had to be done back in the paddock.
I figured that the feature race should be calmer than the sprint race – there's more to lose, so generally the guys are calmer in the first race, whereas on Sunday they can afford to risk more to get some points – and so I thought it would be better to go to the pitlane today, and stay up in the paddock tomorrow, with our screens.
I know. I should have known better, really.
But the elements were determined to ruin my plans anyway. Standing in the pits, watching the measured calm before the storm from the wall overlooking the exit from the swimming pool, I had my spot lined up and my computer ready to go, when suddenly rain started to fall. Knowing that my computer couldn't last through a storm in the open air, I had no choice but to run all the way back to the paddock before the race got under way.
Only for the rain to stop when I got back. Of course.
But it did give me a chance to hear Karun Chandhok and Will Buxton's commentary for the first time: I know the pair very well, and I've been curious to hear their race call all year. I knew that Will was quite hungover, and it was clear that Karun was laughing at him throughout, but he probably just got away with it.
Karun, however, was clearly firing on all cylinders: along with commentating on what was a quite eventful race, Alexa noticed that he was also tweeting in between comments. She tweeted him back and got him to say a word of her choice, which was couscous.
+30 seconds: “Yes, Davide is making a big effort on his fitness this year: he's exercising a lot, and has replaced pasta with couscous...”
“You are a god!” she wrote back. “I know” came the immediate reply.
And then it was all over, with different drivers having very different feelings about the race. Didier Perrin spotted Romain Grosjean on the way back from the pits, and went over to congratulate him on an amazing drive from last on the grid to fourth at the chequered flag. “Well, that was good!” he smiled as they shook hands: Romain laughed and corrected him “no, that was VERY good!”
Giedo was less enthusiastic, as you might imagine, having been taken out of a certain point scoring opportunity when Jules Bianchi failed to stop at the chicane: when he saw Alexa he quipped “I knew I shouldn't have signed your cast: you brought me bad luck, and gave all your energy to Bianchi, not to me!”
iSport's marketing manager Christo insisted on changing his team's accommodation plans for the rest of the season: after learning that Valsecchi was staying at our hotel (and in the room next to logistics manager Philippe), he stated that his drivers would be staying wherever we stay for the rest of the season.
Well, it can't hurt.
And back in the paddock we were informed about Oliver Turvey's time penalty: the Englishman had failed to come in to serve a drive through penalty for a jump start, and had 30 seconds added to his time to correct the result.
Normally a failure to comply with a penalty within a few laps would bring out the black flags automatically, so he was lucky that it happened in Monaco: given the positioning of the F1 timing and message screens, the stewards had no way of knowing if an electronic message would reach the team, and instead had to print up a note and send a runner out to find the team, with the clock running down in the meantime.
It's another example of how Monaco just doesn't run like anywhere else.