I woke up this morning to learn that the twitterverse was ablaze with desire for a battle blog (cheers Callum). Or something. "Yes!" cheered Alexa, far too excitedly for the time of morning. "It is on! Bring it!" So I fetched her a coffee before realising that wasn't what she meant, before asking what she was talking about (have I mentioned that I don't really do twitter before?). Afterwards my enthusiasm went through the roof, and I looked in vain for a croissant.
So here we go. Wait, so this means I have to share my blog?
Come on David. You have three kids now and you know the first thing you have to teach them is “learn how to share”. Be a good daddy and set an example. Thank you.
Now that that’s clarified, I have to say that I’m proud to be setting a precedent in blog history (although, admittedly, I have not googled “blog battle” to check whether we were making blog history per sey). But that’s the thing with staying for long hours at a race track: the strangest ideas pop in your head and you just run along with them. So whilst David was looking for his croissant, I sat behind his computer and typed these few lines and kaboom! Blog shared!
My kids are great at sharing: at least that's what I say when they try to steal my glasses ten times a day...
But, unlikely as it may seem, there's a chance that people are reading this to find out about the stuff that happens in the paddock. We got off to a great start with the GP3 press conference, when the back drop kept peeling off and falling to the floor, narrowly missing the drivers as they went. When we changed back to the GP2 backdrop, Alexa made me use some tape to hold them in place: personally I think it's a shame, as press conferences would be more entertaining with an element of jeopardy.
"So Sam, you were lucky to avoid the crash at the start, but how did you feel when the backdrop just fell on your head now?"
Well that would be if and only if Sam actually ended up in todays’ press conference (oh, he did…), but I don’t want you to think that I’m moaning… Speaking of which, Marcus Ericsson was in a foul mood when we met him to go to the F1 Game Zone at lunch time. Faithful readers of the blog know that we have been taking a selection of drivers each Saturday to the vending zone to meet with the public. Marcus arrived five minutes ahead of time and complained that we were late. “Should I teach you how to tell time?” I joked, but the Swede just shrugged and kept on sulking until Vittorio Ghirelli, Julian Leal, Stefano Coletti and Nat Berthon joined us.
When we got at the venue, Marcus’ spirits were barely lifted after he saw a group of bear-chested fans cheering for him only. The drivers jumped on the stage and the host began interviewing them, starting with local hero Vittorio who of course answered in Italian. When Stefano’s turn came, he was all too happy to remind the crowd that he’s also fluent in Italian. Then Julian who lives close to Monza also spoke in Italian to the crowd. The host turned to Nat and asked him a question in French. The Trident driver looked at me “Do I answer in French?” A small group of French fans eagerly encouraged him to do so and so came Marcus’ turn to answer a couple of questions…to which he started to answer in Swedish to his fans’ utmost pleasure. “What?” he laughed. “The other ones were allowed to answer in their mother tongue!”
You forgot to mention how much they were moaning.
Marcus: "Do we have to walk there?"
Julian: "Yeah, come on, it’s really hot!"
DC: "Sure, and you have to walk thru the fans. What a nightmare."
Marcus: "Yeah, that's right!"
DC: "Don't worry Marcus, Julian is here, and he's way more famous than you."
DC: "The guy standing next to you..."
Julian wasn't the only guy a driver didn't recognise today: Al and I went over to Trident as a huge crowd formed around their garage, because they had a big star turning up. Nathanael was dragged in next to me by Sabina, their PR representative.
"Who is this guy we're seeing?" he asked.
"Jovanotti. He's a huge musician in Italy. I used to listen to him all the time when I lived here."
"I've never heard of him."
"Dude, his name is on your car!"
Drivers were not the only stars at the F1 Game Zone though: I walked past a petite redhead who asked for an autograph. Eager to help her, I asked her whose she wanted. “Yours” she said. I had to make her repeat. Twice.
“But why me? I’m nobody!”
“I just love your blog. You’re so funny!”
My mom will be so proud….
I waved at David and told him to come and meet Renata just so he could also enjoy a moment of glory. After all, as this blog post proves, this is a team effort! Then our (only?) fan asked me to call Al to get his autograph too. That’s twice this weekend. The man is getting a serious fanbase!
“You signed an autograph?” Stefano asked David on the way back to the paddock. “Is it because she is a smurf fan?” he laughed. David turned to me looking bewildered and that’s when I saw that the top of his face was indeed blue. He had bought a hat the day before at the track: “Look”, he said. “It was only five euros. That’s so cheap!” he proudly added.
I guess quality comes at a price…
Which must be why I get paid the big bucks to write the blog!(You wish!)
You all saw the race, so you don't need me to tell you how exciting it was: the tension in the pitlane was palpable, particularly on the Racing Engineering and Russian Time pitwalls, so when Fabio finally crossed the line the men in red exploded with joy while the guys in blue shook hands and thought about what could have been. We all hung off the barriers at the end of the pitlane to congratulate the guys, but for some reason they send the top three around the corner here, and eventually we realised they weren't coming over so we drifted back to stand under the podium.
It's such a great podium here: I don't know why the other circuits don't build something similar. It's just amazing for everyone to have them standing overhead, leaning over the circuit they just dominated.
Alfonso had his customary cigar out and was ready to go, and leaned in laughing while we waited for the guys to come out. "Fabio's engineer has to run the circuit in Singapore now!" he chuckled, pointing to the robust chap in front of us. "He made a bet with Fabio that, if he won here, he'd would run the whole track in Singapore. And he hasn't run more than 50m in years!"
Unfortunately I won't be there to witness it - I have to miss Singapore, although I'll be back for the big finale in Abu Dhabi - but I'm sure Alexa will run the circuit too, just to document it for your entertainment. We're all about going the extra mile (or 3.148 miles, in fact) here at the GP2 Paddock Blog...
Then it was back to the hospitality area, more work and a bit of dinner, while the press conference backdrop packed itself away for us. Marcus was moping around at the coffee machine when I went to grab one, bemoaning what could have been ("a stone got inside the rim, and tore the tyre apart from the inside. You don't mind these things when you're nowhere, but when you're on for a certain podium... it stings") before drifting off to a fan club dinner.
Outside right now, in the dark, the teams are pumping terrible music and setting up the cars for tomorrow morning. There's five races left in the season, and they all want to score in them. While inside it's 9.15, a little lighter, and we're finished the blog way ahead of usual.
And if that's not worth a cheeky beer, I don't know what is. So excuse us while we head out.
I admit it, I was completely on Stefano Coletti’s mother’s side of the argument. Maybe it’s the new additions in the Cameron household (2 girls to add to the existing boy, for those keeping count) that have made me side with the parent of a racing driver, maybe it’s my advanced years, or maybe, just maybe, it’s that Stefano just got it wrong.
Perhaps I should roll back a bit.
So, I’m back in the paddock for the first time this year, and in Monza to boot: who wouldn’t be happy? I turned up despite the airline’s best efforts to keep me in London, grabbed a taxi to the circuit and a coffee in hospitality, then did the rounds to say hello to everyone. You forget, just a little, how much of a family the paddock is when you’re away for a while.
Alexa had just got back from the Spa winners photoshoot, minus James Calado who was, perhaps understandably, a little busy ahead of his first Friday free practice session with Force India. That said, Sam Bird was there early, and he’s the Mercedes third driver. Maybe he’s better, or simply more experienced, at juggling the two roles.
But he was genuinely excited about doing the shoot at the famous Fangio statue, an idea he’d put forward in Belgium. You’ll see the joy in his eyes when the photos are released, and the way that he was careful not to defer to Fangio, even though in statue form. “Well, he’s simply legendary…”
Somehow, time got away from us - it always does - and we didn’t end up going for dinner until 8.30 or so. By the time we got to the venue, a fantastic, family run restaurant nearby, Stefano, his parents and team were already eating at the next table over, and he couldn’t help but bring us into the conversation/argument. “So I’ve got my next tattoo planned. I’ve got a photo of it on my phone: do you want to look?” Who says no to that?
You may be aware that, after his home win earlier this year, he got a tattoo on his right foot which says “This foot won Monaco”. To be honest, I think it’s pretty funny (“but why is it in English?” “because it sounds stupid in French!”), although not as funny as the ‘tattoo’ he got earlier in the day.
“I fell asleep in the back of the truck after exercise, and my engineer has always teased me about my tattoo. So when I was asleep, he wrote “Push” on the top of my foot…”
Alexa looked at his phone, screwed her nose up and said “no, definitely no!” Marco also pulled a face, leaving Stefano looking crestfallen, quietly noting that his mother hates it too (as she nodded vigorously behind him). When I got a glimpse of the design, two chequered flags crossed above the famous Steve McQueen quote (“life is racing, the rest is just waiting”).
“I’m with you mother on this one: just imagine what that will look like when you’re old…”
“Who cares what I look like when I’m old? It looks cool now!”
“Well no, it doesn’t. And also, there’s your dad: imagine him with that tattoo.”
With that, my work was done.
This morning Marcus Ericsson came around as we were going through emails to say hello, and we told him about a new competition planned: I won’t go into the details now, but basically it involves getting fans to vote for the best helmet design. “I am totally going to win that one,” he laughed, “my fans vote for me in everything!” Sure, but there are more Indonesians than Swedes. “That’s right: please don’t tell Rio about the contest!”
Just then, Al walked in looking slightly confused. “Someone just asked for my autograph,” he stated flatly. “I had no idea what was happening, so I just kept walking: she grabbed my arm and stuck the GP2 book in front of me, and it was actually one of my photos on the page there.”
So what did you do? “What could I do? I signed it. It was pretty weird. And she was pretty too: I should have put my phone number on there!”
Rosana, all faux outrage, chimed in: “What? But you’re a future … married … to be!”
“Yeah,” I noted, “if only there was a simply word for that, something easy to remember, such as engaged...”
But honestly, the real outrage was that they went to a photographer for the autograph. Where was the love for the real stars of the show, the geniuses who wrote the thing? Kids of today, they’ve got no respect. Bah humbug.
Still, at least they all turned up for the press conference, which is still stuck behind the pizza oven in a side section of the hospitality area, to keep us warm in the cold Italian climate. “Which seat is P2 again?” Fabio Leimer asked, for about the 20th time ever, despite it never changing (and being the same as the podium). But the real star of the show was Luca Filippi, now working for Sky Italia between racing gigs and watching the show from the other side of the table.
“Any questions from the floor?” I asked, as always, when it was finished. “Come on Luca, I’ve always wanted to get a driver to ask a question: it must be your turn.” Cheekily he asked a question about discussions with the race stewards and their rivals after an incident, and smiled as Fabio replied “well, we better not name any names…"
Unfortunately my batteries died well before that, so I didn’t get to record any of it. But I’ve replaced them now and, if Stefano gets himself onto the podium tomorrow, the first thing I’m doing before the press conference is to fetch his mother.