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!”