It’s the waiting that does for you.
You wake up a couple of hours later than usual, but you feel tired, discombobulated, because you went to bed later so everything is just … a little off, like the ghost of a tune in your head that you just can’t name. You get up and dress, and you’re down for breakfast quicker than usual, disappointed that you didn’t manage to waste more time, that the clock will be longer than you wanted when you arrive at the track.
The hotel isn’t any help: it’s such a short walk to the paddock no matter how much you dawdle, and what is normally an advantage works against you when the timetable is as delayed as today. You walk in and say your hellos, you open the laptop and read your emails, but the piece of paper on the wall can’t be denied.
It says 18.40: Feature Race. It feels like a lifetime away.
You go downstairs to see who’s here, and the teams are just arriving too: they don’t need to be here this early either, but they come in just the same, because coming to the track is just what you do. You take a coffee at one of the teams, you swap small talk, they say I know, it’s crazy that we’re here so early, and you swap embarrassed smiles in acknowledgment of each other’s nameless, illogical need to be here.
More emails and correspondence, more things to fill the time, while the teams reconstruct their cars after dismantling them last night after they were returned from parc ferme, when they dropped the floor, pull apart the gearbox, made sure there were no surprises before closing up and going back to the hotel. They reverse it all this morning, no rush, clean as you go, take your time and stretch out the tasks, tinker until it’s time to screw it all back together, tighten by hand and make sure.
As the pitlane fills with GP3 cars and equipment their senior paddock mates look on with envy (they’re the lucky ones, not having to wait around all day, like us), and the race gives everyone left behind something to do, to fill the time, to stop them tinkering and re-tweaking strategies, to stop thinking and just absorb for a while.
The heat of the day is making its intentions clear. Everyone ignores it and stares at the screens, slinks into the shrinking shadows, waits out the clock.
The GP3 teams return, the drivers as well: quotes from the top three shows Dino to be happy to finish on a high but still conscious of correcting his grammar, Dean seems simultaneously delighted and furious, as though the win couldn’t make up for the disappointment of finding this car just too late in the season to push to the end, while Marvin smiles his face-wide smile, passing around the podium bottle of rose water to his family and team, declaring it’s really nice, it tastes like Sprite!
The GP2 teams go back to hurry up and wait, to lunching in groups upstairs in the catering area, to pitstop practice and strategising, to filling in the time somehow: it’s better when there’s no gaps really, one of the engineers acknowledges ruefully, otherwise we’re just second guessing ourselves all the time. It’s better not to have the time to think too much.
Eventually the drivers arrive, slinking in when they think no one is watching or counting the hours they sleep, every driver’s favourite (in)activity. There’s no point sleeping to lunchtime, another engineer notes, it doesn’t do any good. But there’s no point in them being here, in the dust: we keep them in the hotel, in the air conditioning, to swim, to use the gym, to not be round here.
And in the pitlane the golf carts standing guard in front of the pits, the fallen wall of tyres spread all around, the cars still up on the trestles in the back of the pits. As the lights come up and the sun starts the long, mazey wash to dusk everyone is standing around, talking, killing time: the young local guys are photographing each other doing handstands, Johnny Cecotto and his wife are leaning against each other, not moving, Conor Daly is sitting by himself in a golf cart, thumb and finger horns waggling to say hello, Jon Lancaster is leaning against the catch fence with his family, Evans wrestling with the mechanics and laughing, ART and DAMS are around their computers as usual, while old faces you’ve known for years wave hello, still here, chatting until an engine fires up, stating there’s the noise, I guess we’re starting and heading back into one pit or another.
F1 qualifying comes next, a distraction for which they’ve no longer got time as the teams build up to their time under lights. It doesn’t matter how much time you have, you always end up against it, whether it’s 3 hours or 12, don’t you? Piling the tyres on to the carts, the pace picking up, you can feel the atmosphere building as everyone goes about their jobs. No one is watching F1, just ten metres away: at least it’s not loud anymore, so we don’t need to wear ear protectors.
Everyone ready to go, the teams are either waiting by their golf carts or standing next to the cars with starters: the signal comes and they flick the switch, the cars roar awake and the drivers nonchalantly flip their visors and roll into the pitlane, a cruise around the circuit to the pits as the remainder of the teams run for the bus to meet them there.
It’s night time now, the strange green wash of the lights bleeding out blues to black as the teams descend on the cars for last minute tweaks, fingers busy to ignore the ticking clock before they’re rolling again, down the pitlane and into the tunnel as the teams run to meet them on the grid and more standing, waiting.
You chat without hearing what’s being said and then the cars are here, the colour without the noise as they roll through the throng, and everyone is doing lengths, checking tyres and being seen, the clock almost audible in our heads as we wait for the siren that tells us it’s time to go, to leave the track to the drivers, to let them breathe.
Sitting on the pitwall everything is done, and it’s when the nerves start to come, the fidgeting hands, the jumping feet, the inability to sit still. It’s now you think as all eyes are on the monitors, showing the cars, the helmets and visors, the lights going on, on, on, and off.
The waiting is over.
You need to understand, it’s all Alexa’s fault.
Large numbers of the paddock have been wandering around the place for the last two days wearing sunglasses with GP2 and GP3 logos on the lenses, as though that was something normal people do. At first it was strange, and then a little unnerving as more of them did it, before it became a reason to hide away in the offices upstairs and hope it all blows over. And when I mentioned it to her, she seemed bizarrely pleased about it.
“Oh yes, I have a pair for you too,” she smiled, as though that was a logical answer to my query. “They’re the pass into the end of year party: all the security guards know about it, and I thought it was easier than tickets, which everyone loses. And cool, too.”
“They’re not cool,” disagreed a passing Will Buxton, on his Dame Nellie Melba Farewell Tour around the paddock, “they’re actually really geeky.”
Alexa looked briefly shocked, probably at the thought of Will thinking something is too geeky even for him, but quickly regained her composure: “Actually you’re wrong, and the teams love them.” I didn’t have the heart to say that our teams liking something probably increases the geekiness of the item, but it’s certainly true that they love them: Rapax have even done a photoshoot wearing theirs.
Luckily no one was wearing them for the Pirelli Pitstop Challenge, a timed competition between all the drivers for changing a tyre. Each team got 2 goes each, with a time as a team rather than per individual and judged by their Pirelli boss Mario Isola and a few of our guys. A few takeaways from the afternoon:
- Stoffel Vandoorne was seriously quick (5.88: ART practiced during the week at the factory!) but Takuya Izawa preferred not to do it so as to avoid injury, so the Belgian’s time didn’t count. “But I’m the quickest!” he protested insistently. “Maybe, but next time you need to find a teammate so your time can count: your team has a bunch of guys in GP3, for a start…”
- Caterham practiced all afternoon, and Pierre Gasly was really getting into it, going faster all the time. Someone from another team asked if they could roll the tyres to the drivers, and when they were told no complained “but Caterham are doing it” before going on to whinge about Johnny Cecotto picking up the tyre from the middle (“you said that wasn’t allowed…”) and proving that my 3 year old son may have a future in the paddock.
- Nathanaël Berthon took Conor Daly aside for a talking to, as the American was being his normal chilled self, and that just would not do. “I’ve done this twice before, and I am quick!” the Frenchman insisted, “so you better be on it” before screwing up both times and having to sheepishly apologise to his highly amused teammate.
- “Did you practice, Jolyon?” “I saw this was going to happen, and I thought that maybe I should practice, but then I thought I’m happy enough with the big trophy…”
- Stefano Coletti hurt his finger in Macau, so Raffaele Marciello didn’t have a partner at Racing Engineering, but neither did Johnny Cecotto so they teamed up, with Stefano sitting in the car. During the event Lello told Johnny in Italian “if you put the wheel nut in the gun first, we can gain some time”, not realising Mario was standing right behind him, who laughed “it’s a shame the judge speaks Italian too…”
- Campos also trained ahead of the event, and Kimiya Sato was really quick, leading to some big expectations within the team. Arthur Pic struggled with the pressure and was slow on the first go before choking on the second go, much to the amusement of his engineer Emilio, who was laughing away inside the car. “I’ve written the time down,” Alexa smirked afterwards, “but there wasn’t much point because, honestly, you’re not going to win… Good effort though!”
I went for a run in the hope that it would prompt my brain to fire, to make it pull another blog from wherever in the universe they come from, to bring home another story from this circuit about which I’ve written more than any other.
Just out of the pits it came to me: asking fan-turned-journalist Renate Jungert earlier in the day what she’d like to see for the blog, she smiled and noted that she always liked the photo blogs, because it really lets the fans feel that they’re right there with us (note to Renate: I know this didn’t actually happen, but that’s because I forgot to ask you before you left the circuit, but I’m sure you totally would have said that, so I’m calling it poetic licence. You can say it tomorrow morning if that makes it better).
They had to have a little drive too, with Raffaele getting comfortable in the F1 Game Zone on his way to a double win (on the sims, at least):
I got down to the chicane, so peaceful now after so much action.
I thought of him again later, running round Parabolica in the dark: about what a weekend he’s had there. First in qualy, losing the car and beaching it in the gravel after sliding across the new carpark of asphalt laid next to the track there before the weekend opened, losing a possible strong grid position. And second during the race, when he overtook Julian Leal up the inside there, a move I’ve never seen anyone do before. Watching it on the pitwall, I swear I could hear his distinctive laugh, his swearing at the joy he felt in pulling off such an audacious move.
Back at the game zone, the fans were happy to meet their heroes, and the drivers seemed to enjoy it too.
It wasn’t long before it was time for the main event: this afternoon’s feature race.
Marco thought now was not the time to see his engineers Angry Bird score, considering the time:
And then, to work. During the race we noticed a solitary fan sitting on the old banking over the run up to Ascari. Lap after lap I saw him, wondering why no one else had thought to sit there. He was gone when I got there, but the view was still glorious, even in the approaching gloom.
After the race, most of the attention was on the top three, as always. But one team were waiting to hug their driver for a job well done.
“Great drive today,” I said, shaking his hand. “Just incredibly good.”
“Thanks,” he smiled, his face beaming with pride, “it couldn’t have gone better, could it?”
But there were other strong drives too, and brother Charles was on hand to congratulate the creator of one of them.
And time to eat, to write, to remember.
Ciao Monza. Grazie.
I love coming to Monza: I always have, I always will. I still think of it as my home race despite leaving Milan many years ago now, and I always feel at home here. I guess it’s the consistency of the place: the weather is always nice, the food is always good, we always have our annual football match here, and the crowd is always spectacularly bonkers.
Which is probably why I was so gutted about dinner with Will Buxton last night.
Okay, maybe I should rephrase that. I’m always delighted to catch up with Will, who’s been a close friend and colleague for almost as long as I’ve been involved in racing and since day one of GP2, and I was thrilled when he suggested we grab dinner last night after machete-ing a gap through the crowd at the pit entrance at the end of the day, but he really must have tried hard to find the worst restaurant in the country for the meal. Although I know he didn’t, because it’s less than 100 metres from his hotel.
In retrospect, it should have been easy to predict disappoint in a chain faux-Mexican restaurant inside a shopping centre.
Surprisingly Campos turned up as well, to celebrate their success in their first attendance at the long traditional football match between the teams (established 2011). ART were excited to arrive, being the reigning (and only) champions and keen to hang onto another trophy, but the three new teams for this year (Arden, Rapax and Campos) were all looking forward to putting on a strong performance, along with this year’s special guest team from SkyF1.
Arden started in blinding form, storming to an early lead in the championship with an easy victory over Trident due to a startling lack of form, and appearance, by the Italian squad. To be fair to them, the Trident guys told Alexa quite a while ago that they wouldn’t be able to turn up this year, but she forgot and put them on the list anyway. “Yes!” laughed Matteo Frolino, Arden’s Performance Engineer, when he heard the news. “Everyone is scared of us…”
Campos turned up late: whether this was due to getting lost on the way to the ground or some latent manana-ish cliched attitude is not known, but what is known is that they made up for lost time when they finally arrived by beating everyone they played on the way to victory in the tournament, prompting epic quantities of shrugging and pfft noises from the ART corner of the stand before they skulked off in a huff.
Although Campos celebrated by eating substantial quantities of deep fried … somethings at the restaurant Will and I were at, so ART can at least consider themselves the moral victors.
As for the other teams, GP2 had its usual ritual humiliation (“it’s not fair,” Marco sulked petulantly afterwards, by way of explanation for their customary drubbing: “we don’t get to train, and all the others get to play together all the time”) in the group of death (“we always get ART,” Marco huffed, “and they always kill us”), and MP eventually played after running around to draft in some players from the other teams, but were happy just to have a kickabout.
Rapax were also excited to play, and especially so when they did quite well, albeit not as well as they thought: they went home thinking they were second, but actually finished fourth. Team manager Marco Galuppi found out almost as soon as he’d machine-gunned his way through the crowd into the paddock this morning. “We’re going to appeal!” he laughed to Alexa, who smirked in reply “but Marco, you know that there are no appeals in GP2…”, while Campos team coordinator Javier Bono had one simple question: “is it on the website that we are the champions yet?”
I guess this blog means the answer is yes, Javier.
Unfortunately the weather was a bit rubbish today - hot, but overcast with a splash of rain later in the day - but no one was more disappointed by it than the gelato man, who mysteriously appeared in the hospitality unit to the delight of everyone, with most people asking if he was going to be at all rounds now (the answer, predictably but unfortunately, is no).
Rumours that he was installed as a part of the celebrations around hospitality boss Christian Staurenghi’s 300th grand prix go so far unconfirmed, but the champagne, cake and family and friends were certainly a part of the party.
Kevin Ceccon was making solid use of the gelato venditore, popping over every couple of hours for another scoop, but Mitch Evans wasn’t going near him, due to a sore neck which plagued him all morning as he waited for the physio to arrive before qualifying: “it’s the too-hard beds everyone seems to love over here: I would rather sleep in one like a marshmallow!” He did admit he will reward himself with an ice cream on Sunday, but only if he gets a win this weekend.
That’s assuming there’s any left by then. We’re watching you, Kevin.
So plenty of surprises for this year’s Monza event. Still, I thought to myself as I called in a drone strike so we could break through the crowd to escape the paddock this evening, it’s nice that some things don’t change, no matter how trying they may be.
It was while we were having our regular daily coffee at Pirelli that the idea came to us: “We should do another photo blog: they’re always popular.”
“True, but we should do something a little different, just to keep it interesting.”
“Definitely. I know, why don’t we do a photobombing blog? We’ve never done that.”
“Good idea. But will it work?”
“Let’s have a practice now, and see.”
“Excellent! We can do some over at the fanzone when the guys are doing the competition: it’s time to go anyway.” After herding cats we got the drivers together and into the minibuses, and they were soon standing in front of the fans, being interviewed before getting embarrassed by the teenage kid whose job it is to regularly beat racing drivers on the racing sims.
On the way back it occurred to me that the guys might be wondering what we’re doing: “Just in case you see Alexa and I taking some weird photos, you should know that we’re doing a series of fake accidental photobombs for the blog today, so don’t worry.”
“Fake accidental photobombs?” Johnny Cecotto asked quizzically. “Well, that’s certainly different…”
“When are you going to start?” Jolyon queried.
“We already have: look at this.” I pulled out my camera to show off our handiwork so far.
“Heh, I didn’t even notice her!” he laughed.
“Well, it’s that incredible focus you guys put into driving, at least until you and Lello crashed and the game kicked you out with terminal damage, anyway…”
Having seen the raw material, the guys agreed that we were onto a winner, at least until we got back to the paddock and Alexa was lying in wait at the gates.
“Whoa!” gasped Mitch in surprise as she emerged. “Hashtag creep!” he exclaimed as he slunk off to his truck as she giggled in his wake. And it was now time for lunch, a perfect opportunity for more ‘bombs.
The tricky ‘bombs were always going to be on the grid, especially since we actually have to do some work there. But given that they are fake accidental photobombs, it turned out to be easier than we thought to work and take shots at the same time. Because to do this job, you’ve got to be able to multitask, as a minimum requirement.
But back on the pitwall with 30 seconds to spare, we suddenly wondered: what happens if it doesn’t work? We might actually have to write a real blog!
We needn’t have worried: it turns out that photobombs are just another form of communication, and we have a track record of being the best communications team in motorsport: if you have any doubts, we’d be happy to run up a press release to that effect, complete with quotes from ourselves.
It left us with the blog largely done, but we still needed the cherry on the top, the final shot to round it all out. But what would it be? In retrospect, there was only ever going to be one option:
I was in a meeting in the office when the text message came: “Guess who missed his flight and has to drive across again?!” It left me scrabbling to make up an excuse for giggling, because the truth was just going to take too long to explain.
But missing his flight to Silverstone is a tradition for Didier, and Silverstone is nothing if not a traditional circuit. You could argue that none of the traditions actually improve the experience of coming here, or even make much sense, but there is no argument that they cling to their traditions here like a drowning man to the last piece of flotsam in the sea.
So we made the traditional early start to get ahead of the traditional traffic, with me traditionally nervous about sitting in the back as a French woman drives on the wrong side of the road, and the traditional lack of signs leading to the traditional long route to the circuit, and the traditional whinging by the European contingent.
“Why? Every year we come here, and they have to do things differently to every other circuit. It’s infuriating!”
“Maybe it’s because they think they are the traditional heart of motorsport, so they do things their own way.”
“But it’s the only race that does this!”
“It’s probably just that they feel that everybody else is doing it wrong…”
At least Stefano Coletti can be relied on to make us laugh, to feel that we’re home again. During an interview for the Insider Alexa asked him about his hobbies, and he prevaricated before she reminded him he likes to read: “Yeah that’s right, but I like novels, I don’t like reading magazines about cars.”
“I remember you told me you read 50 Shades last year: was it any good?”
“Yeah, it was … pretty interesting actually.”
“Can I quote that in The Insider?”
A quick think about the audience potentially including F1 types: “No!”
“What about in the blog?”
“Oh yeah, that’s okay…"
So there you have it. The GP2 Paddock blog: breaking all the big stories.
Alexa was contacted by a fan at the track whose friend was about to have her birthday, and is a massive fan of Mitch Evans. “Is there any way I could get a signed photo of Mitch for her? Dedicated to Maddie?” A quick scamper across the paddock to the RT RUSSIAN TIME truck earned a suitably signed card, only to be greeted on her return by an urgent email declaring “I’m so sorry, I meant Chloe! I am with my friend Maddie now, and I was looking at her when I wrote the email, and got mixed up…”
So if anyone out there is a Mitch fan and also called Maddie, drop us a line on the Twitter or Facebook feeds, and we’ll pop it in the post…
Sitting down for lunch, Felipe Nasr was feeling pretty confident: he’s spent a lot of time at the circuit, and figured his experience would be useful when it counts. But he was almost more interested in the World Cup match against Colombia tonight. I had to ask: “Julian is Colombian: it must be pretty tense in the Carlin truck this week?”
“I hung Brazilian flags everywhere to try and wind him up: the truck is full of them!”
“Did it work?”
“No, you know how laid back he is! And when I was out, he just stuck Colombian flags in the middle of them all! But we’re going to watch the game together, so we’ll see how he is then.”
“You should put a bet on the result: maybe the loser has to carry the other’s flag on their car tomorrow.”
“That’s a good idea, but I think I’m just going to stick a Brazilian flag on his car anyway, and see what happens!”
The France v Germany game was always going to get a bit of needle in the paddock, considering the number of people from either country here, and Daniel Abt got his thoughts in early: after Alexa tweeted the Hilmer driver to ask if he was looking forward to it, he replied “I hope you still like me after the game! Already feeling sorry for my mates at ART!”
He plonked himself down in the centre of the hospitality area as the national anthems were being exchanged, with a number of French team members sitting around the edge of the area trying to maintain a view of the screen and avoid his eye, although to his credit Nathanaël Berthon at least went over to sit right next to his rival. For the first half, anyway. It wasn’t a great match, but the Germans did enough to get through, much to Daniel’s evident delight as everyone else made their excuses and slunk away into the paddock as the long-threatened rain started to fall.
So a ruthless, efficient Germany denying a flair opponent for a win that doesn’t delight anyone, but which equally they can’t find an argument to deny the win was earned. Luckily there’s no tradition of that sort in motorsport…
No one saw that coming. To be fair, it's one of the most unexpected results we've had, especially if you take out races with variable weather, but I doubt there was anyone who would have put money on Johnny Cecotto in a Trident winning the feature race in Barcelona. And that includes the Venezuelan himself.
In Bahrain we asked Johnny to talk about the circuit for the this week’s preview: he's got a lot of experience, we thought, and it was probably his turn anyway. And while Johnny was his usual garrulous self, smiling throughout and being nothing if not entertaining. "But I don't really like the circuit," he admitted. "It's very tricky to get a set up right, because there are all the fast sections but the third section is very tight and with a lot of corners, so it's difficult to find a compromise that works. But mostly, it’s that I’ve never had good results there!", he said laughing.
He and the team worked hard nevertheless, looking for the perfect balance between the two demands, but it wasn't looking great: walking back from the pitlane yesterday with the Venezuelan, the sting of the extraordinary temperatures finally dropping away but with him still radiating heat from his exertions, and he just couldn't put a brave face on it: P16 was way off where he wanted to be.
"Of course I'll try hard tomorrow, sure," he wavered, "but it's hard to see much chance for anything. Maybe not even in the points..."
Jolyon Palmer was probably his polar opposite: he was clearly satisfied with his weekend so far, and if he'd naturally have rather been on the other front row spot, he carried the air of a man who had little to worry about in the race, even if it was his teammate who had pipped him to pole. Racing drivers always think they can beat their teammates, and the Briton's demeanour told everyone around that he had another win targeted for the next day.
His confidence was still on display this morning when we took him and a number of drivers to the F1 Game Zone to put on a demonstration for the fans: it's something that every driver moans about doing until they get there, when their competitive instincts kick in. "I always do badly at these things," Julian Leal complained good naturedly, "but it's not my fault: they always put me in a Caterham or a Marussia!"
"Yeah," Jolyon agreed, "if they put me in a Caterham today, I walk!"
Cue comedy pretend walk out when the Briton's screen shone green...
He then compounded his problems by having a terrible qualifying lap, lining up last on the grid. Alexa walked over just before the start of the race, and noted: "Sergio Canamasas is in the other Caterham, so you'd better try to beat him!"
It's always interesting to see a driver in this situation, because you don't usually get an opportunity to see exactly what they do at work, their hands, feet, face, even if they profess to not really care about it while they're there. When the lights went out Jolyon made a perfect start, running up the outside on the left to take a few cars before a flash of green came across the screen: "No! Sergio's run me off!"
After that things got really serious: after bouncing off the wall he came screaming back on track, bouncing in his chair in an effort to generate more speed, and proceeded to overtake everyone, albeit after slightly tapping someone on the way, and was in the lead until the last lap when Facu Regalia tapped him into a spin and undid all his hard work.
And the winner: Kimiya Sato. Mostly because he was the only one not to pick up a penalty.
On the way out, it was time for the debriefs: "Sergio, I can't believe you put Jolyon into the wall at the start..."
"It wasn't my fault: someone hit me!"
"Yeah yeah, save it for the stewards. Julian, you had a Red Bull: what's your excuse?"
"I know, but the pedal was a bit loose, so I had to keep stretching further to brake!"
"Sure, and did you have a rock in your shoe too?..."
After that there was only time to grab a quick bit of lunch and get all the last minute preparations out of the way, and head out to the pitlane. And then that race happened.
All eyes were on the screens watching the time gap between Palmer and Cecotto: when it finally became clear that Johnny was going to pull off a huge upset, Alexa tweeted Sabina Rosa, the Trident head of communications "are you still breathing?", only to receive a reply "shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!"
When it was finally over, the Italians could release all that tension they'd been compounding through the race: some of the team were in tears under the podium, while Sabina couldn't stop hugging everybody around them. Giacomo Ricci, who joined the team this year as team manager, couldn't stop punching the air in the direction of the podium, with relief and delight fighting each other across his face for control.
"Which race feels better: this one, or your win in Budapest?"
"Budapest, of course, because I was in the car! But this result..." he tailed off, laughing, still unable to formulate his emotions into words.
And then there was Johnny himself, standing on the top step of the podium and beaming beatifically at his team from on high, looking incredibly young and leaning forward at impossible angles, as though trying to be on the podium and down with his team simultaneously. Clutching his heart during the anthem, his face was creased with joy at achieving the seemingly impossible, at doing more than he ever thought possible, at winning in Barcelona.
Sometimes the best laid schemes of mice and men often amount to naught, or so the saying goes. Anyone who has tried to organise a group of racing drivers, or anyone else involved in racing, can vouch for that from bitter personal experience. And yet, the basis of racing is plan and so on we tilt, every race, trying to defy nature and arrange activities for them.
If you're reading this, you've probably heard of Run That Track, an organisation which raises money for good causes via sponsorship from UBS, who donate $100 to Make A Wish Foundation per lap for everyone registered who runs the circuit. To be fair, the clue is in the name.
For some reason, Alexa thought she would arrange for all the drivers, as well as their teams and media, to do a group run on Thursday evening in Barcelona, possibly thinking that they've done so many laps here that there is no way they could get lost: it would probably be bad to lose a driver before the weekend starts, although I assume it would give our website a hell of a bump in traffic.
So she thought that organising a mass run for everyone in the paddock would be a. a good idea and b. actually possible, and has been ringing and emailing everyone involved over the last few weeks to make it happen. And on the day, everything naturally ran as smooth as silk.
Of course I jest: this is GP2, we don't do easy.
Rounding up that many people is like herding cats. For example: Tio Ellinas arrived at the circuit for the start of his first weekend in GP2, proud as punch and smiling at everyone, until Alexa walked over to MP to round up their squad. "Tio, are you coming over to the pitlane to join us?" she asked innocently, and he just laughed and pointed at his shirt, which proclaimed RUNNING SUCKS.
That'll be a no, then.
But 100 or so brave souls trudged over to the pitlane, looking for all the world as though they were heading over to the headmaster for punishment, only to find that the pitlane and the circuit were blocked at both ends by some temporary fencing: the circuit opens the pitlane to fans on Thursday night, but unfortunately they block off either to end to stop them walking too far.
"Guess we can head back then," someone giggled, earning himself a stern look from Alexa before she pulled out her phone to yell at someone while everyone milled around, with some of them even making an effort to get ready for a run.
Mitch Evans and Stoffel Vandoorne were two of the latter, and both looked keen to go despite their efforts last Sunday: Wings for Life hosted a simultaneous run for charity in 35 countries (making us so very, very glad that we didn't have to organise that...), with Mitch as a Red Bull backed driver planning for it well in advance and putting in 30km, while Stoffel got a call on Sunday morning, grabbed his shoes and put in a quick 20km before getting on with his day.
Pirelli racing manager Mario Isola was one of those who would probably have been happy to see the run called off: he had previously noted that he was going to do a run on Sunday to see the circuit ahead of the F1 race, before noting that his legs could probably take it and said he'd join his team on Thursday. After a call to the circuit manager someone was dispatched to open the gates, and Alexa asked Mario if he was going to stretch ahead of the run: "it won't make a difference," he sighed, "it will probably take me an hour and a half anyway, stretch or no stretch..."
As soon as the gates started to open, Alexa saw her chance: "There's a gap! Go!" Racing drivers can't resist, and the horde was off.
There were 2 different approaches at work: Mitch declared ahead of the event that he wanted to win, and he did: a spectacular time of 15 minutes and fifty seconds assured that. And then there was a different view: the ART GP3 drivers used it as an opportunity to catch up on their gossip, bimbling around together and chatting happily before coming home 37 minutes later, declaring it to have been a lovely bonding time for them.
Unfortunately for Alexandra Schieren, the Pirelil head of communications and one of the few women to run, she fell over midway through the lap and hurt her knee, but battled on bravely and still managed to finish, amusingly ahead of her boss, prompting Mario to ask if her lap time still counted.
At least Jolyon Palmer turned up to the run on time: he was late for the race winners photoshoot, and this after saying in Bahrain that he doesn't really enjoy them because he worries that he looks a bit daft in them. I'm sure there are other drivers who would tolerate that for the comfort of having won the last race, but I digress.
With Alexa worrying that he wasn't going to turn up at all, the likeable Englishman finally turned up, and was all apologies for putting everyone out. "What have you got for us this time?" he smirked, and was happy with the concept: a relay race with Stoffel and a steering wheel as the baton.
He smiled when he saw the results, much to the delight of Alexa, who asked what he wanted to do if he was in the shot in Monaco: "I think we should sit around and blow bubbles," he smirked. "Anything with minimal effort from me would be fine..."
Happily he was early for the press conference today, with teammate Stéphane Richelmi and Stefano Coletti right behind. Stéphane was on pole, obviously, but was mock outraged at Alexa because she had initially mentioned Stefano in the top spot on Twitter. "I know!" she sighed. "All your fans have been bombarding me! It wasn't deliberate, it was just the autofill put his user name instead of yours!"
"It's okay," he laughed, "I know he's your favourite..."
Everyone managed to sit in the right seats, and the press conference went off without a hitch. But if you notice bubbles in the photos for tomorrow's press conference, you'll know why: sometimes, plans just don't go the way you plan.