Nicolò Gaglian, Team Manager, Lazarus
We were doing pitstop practice for the first race: we train in the workshop every day, and it’s not so easy! The right time for a pitstop is about 5 seconds, and today was not too bad: we had a problem with the front jack, and now we will repair it for the race. The guys also train a lot, got to the gym 2 or 3 times a week to make sure they’re ready, and we put the biggest guys at the back! Sometimes a lot happens in the pits, and I’m on the lollypop: you have to look at all 4 tyres, front and rear jack, and to see if anyone is coming in the pitlane, so the more we practice the better we get.
Chris Pearce, Mechanic, Arden
We’re just setting up the cars, and doing all the final checks - ride heights, cambers, that sort of thing. It’s just a process of going round in circles, making sure you getting everything right. Naturally we’ve got quite a few changes from qualifying because the race is much longer: you’ve got to preserve the tyres, and you’ve got to change the car to suit. There are a lot of changes in the re-prep, and this is the final finishing off. Usually it takes about 40 minutes to an hour, but it depends however long you’ve got really: you work to the time you’ve got!
Andrew Ferguson, Technical Director, Status Grand Prix
Motorsport has its hierarchy with team managers, race engineers, mechanics and all that, but it’s important when there is some down time that everyone integrates at the same level so that there are no hard feelings about people being told what to do and so on. At the end of the day we all go back to the hotel, we all get on the same flights, we all work at the same factory, so it’s important that we all integrate as best we can. We have to: every season we spend more than 3 weeks on the road together! People can get niggly about things in a pressured environment like racing, so when there’s a bit of down time you have a little catch up, everyone makes each other coffee, maybe a beer or two at the end of the day, and it means that everyone can float on together a bit more happily.
Marco Galuppi, Technical Director, Rapax
In the briefing we are preparing for the race: right now we are watching last year’s races, looking at the different strategies, and we’re calculating what is the best strategy for today given the conditions. We also show the previous starts to the drivers so they are prepared for their start, and we’re working on the set up to make sure the car is prepared as well as we can for that. All the teams do similar things, and small details make a big difference, so we need to work on all the keys for the race - strategy, set up, driving style and tyre management - because all of these keys are so important to achieving a good result.
Luca Cecchetto, Mechanic, Trident
First we have to clean the tyres after qualifying and free practice, check the wear and rebalance the tyres, and if there are any problems with the compounds we go to see Pirelli. The rims must be balanced, and the most important part of the process is checking the tyre pressures. The pressures are one of the most important features of the car right now, because these tyres are very particular: if you get it wrong you can lose the race! And it’s important to get the pressures right because they are under the control of the FIA, and we have to stay within their parameters. It has to be very precise to pass their checks, but also flexible enough to deal with what happens in the race. So it’s not so easy!
Emilien Colombain, Trainer, Campos Racing
Before the race there is a lot to do, such as hydration: in a race like here in Abu Dhabi we have to really focus on this, because of the heat. We then do some special training in the morning to wake up the muscles and get the blood circulating, warming up the body for the day ahead, and when we get to the circuit we concentrate on exercises for the joints, particularly the wrists, which are under pressure because the steering is quite heavy. Closer to the race we have exercises to warm up the neck and some connective things with balls to wake up the vision and reaction times. Arthur’s already in good shape, of course - most of the physical and mental work is done already - so the race weekend is about warming up and getting the body ready for the stress of the race, and to test the system to make sure he is okay to go.
Andrew Brown, Truckie, Russian Time
It’s our job to make sure that everything the team needs is in the pitlane - spare tyres, starters, air bottles and so on - and it’s quite an important job because you’ve got to make sure that everything is there, and ready to go. The team has a lot of equipment here in the pits, but we’ve got a checklist of everything we need for the race, and that never changes: if we got up to the grid and had the wrong set of tyres it would be catastrophic! You have to have everything on the list, no ifs or buts: it has to be there. We have a few spares of things, like the guns, and they are serviced regularly to be sure they’ll work: we check everything again before the race to make sure they work, the bottles are full and everything is charged. If the boys need something and I haven’t got it, it’s bad news!
Alexander Rossi, Driver, Racing Engineering
We always watch the F1 qualifying before the race, and I’m quite interested in it today because obviously the car I was racing for the last five Grands Prix is in the hands of someone else, so I’m quite interested to see how he goes! Mostly we watch it for everyone’s entertainment more than anything else: we have a pretty good idea of the track conditions, but if we were at a track with a bit more variable weather we’d pay a bit more attention to it. It brings the team together for a few minutes, and I think everyone has a little wager on who’ll get pole, so it’s good for team bonding before the race.
Benn Huntingford, Chief Mechanic, Carlin
Before the race the cars come round to the pitlane and park up, and we do a few checks on tyre pressures, systems checks, plug in the laptops, go through the data and do a few final checks for reliability, then monitor the temperatures of the engine and the water to make sure that everything is where it needs to be, and make any adjustments we need to make after talking to the driver to see what his feeling is for the car. Then the cars leave, go round once and do a practice pitstop so the driver can get his eye in, and we go to the grid: over there we do the same set of checks, have another chat with the driver and possible change tyres depending on what the guys around us are doing. We’re double checking all the work that we’ve already done in the garage and that everything is where it should be for reliability, and any final adjustments needed because of the conditions or the people around us for strategy. And then it’s back to the pitlane to watch.
Narciso Ferreira, Mechanic, ART
To stand under the podium, the feeling is amazing: it is the sum of all the hard work we have done up that moment. It’s a feeling of pride in a job well done, because whether you’re a mechanic or an engineer everyone has a very specific task that must be done, and when you see your car win you realise that everyone has done that perfectly, and that is a feeling of personal joy as well as a combined feeling with the group of achievement. We love our job very much, we constantly give 100%, and through adversity it’s important to keep pushing and keeping working harder, because we have to respect our rivals’ abilities too. At the end of the day we win together or we lose together. In my career I’ve been very lucky to work with some drivers that have helped me realise it’s important to put things into perspective: I used to think that every little mistake was a huge misstep,but these drivers taught me that it is important to look at where we started, where we’re at, and what we want to accomplish. After that, what needs to happen, happens.
Francois Sicard, Team Manager, DAMS
The debrief is a key moment for us, because it is the first chance after the race to have a meeting between the drivers and the engineers to get the feedback on how the car felt for the drivers. Clearly the engineers have access to the data so we have the numbers, but what is important is to understand the feeling, where the drivers felt strong or weak, to find which way we have to work for tomorrow. This feeling is very important to us: the engineers sometimes follow all the analysis to push the set up one way, but when you talk to the driver they have a different view. It can never be about pure efficiency from the data: it has to be a combination for driveability, and each driver has a different style. It is important to talk so that we can better understand this.
Sander Dorsman, Team Manager, MP Motorsport
Normally when the cars go into parc ferme the drivers take out their data cards, so the engineers can start working, and they will have a complete debrief, while the mechanics start working on the one car we have today, because it was a DNF, just to get a little bit ahead. We also take the opportunity to have dinner, just to make sure that’s done while it’s a bit quiet, and when we get the other car back we clean everything, because we say when you clean something you’re checking it too, and then the engineer will download the car and start looking for anything unusual in the data. The mechanics will then open the gearbox, drain the fuel, and start to prepare the car for tomorrow: it depends what has happened to the car, but normally it will take 4 to 5 hours to prepare the car. It’s a lot of work, but a GP2 car needs a lot of love and attention to shine: hopefully we can be home before midnight!
Unusually for the paddock, most of the teams spent the week between Bahrain and Abu Dhabi together: there was little point in flying all the way back to Europe before turning around and coming back, so almost no one bothered. And who could blame them? The choice between a day on a plane, two days in the rain and then another day on the plane or spending all of them in the sun at Yas Marina isn’t really a meaningful decision.
A number of the drivers disappeared up to Dubai, the larger neighbour 40 minutes drive up the coast, while the teams enjoyed the all too rare opportunity to set up their pits at their leisure and giving the cars a real going over before the final weekend of the season to sort out any niggling issues.
Which is why it was such a surprise to see Alex Lynn in the pitlane with his nosecone removed and the team crowded around the car deep in discussion in free practice. Sometimes there is such a thing as too much time.
But I digress. With everyone hanging around anyway a signing session was held on Thursday, and only two drivers failed to show from the original eight (no names, but you could probably guess) leaving the Brit Pack of Oliver Rowland, Dean Stoneman, Alex Lynn, Jordan King and Mitch Evans (honorary member) along with Rio Haryanto to entertain the troops.
Alexa had been fretting all day that no fans would turn up without any on track entertainment, and upon arriving in the fan zone a quick peek into the room confirmed her worst fears: there was precisely no one in there. Don’t worry said the one of the smooth team of Brits who organise all the fan zone activities, once the MC starts talking, they will arrive.
And so it proved: the guys were treated to rousing applause as they filed out, and it was just as Dean and Jordan were trooping out at the end of the line that she remembered a signing session she was organising for the end of season party. Do me a favour guys, she whispered in her most coquettish manner, can you steal the pens when you come back?
But they’re really big, came the entirely accurate statement.
Don’t worry, shove them in your pockets, it’ll be fine, she assured.
Okay, Dean replied, I’ll do it as it as long as you remind me: what’s my car number again for the autographs?
Everything went off fine, with loads of requests for photos, autographs and quick chats from the (it must be said) largely English ex-pat crowd, and as they filed out our cunning duo cast sly glances around before whispering here you go and slipping the pens out behind them to Alexa in their best secret agent manners.
Mission Possible indeed, and the result was entirely to her liking. The only problems I can see is that a. Jordan dad’s runs a major supermarket chain and probably wouldn’t approve of the cunning crime and, probably more importantly, b. Alexa’s husband actually owns and operates a large stationary store back home.
And then it was time to deliver the bracelets.
Alexa had arranged for some rubber bracelets with motion sensitive lights in them to be made, to be used as the party invitations, and they had to be handed out to all the teams. Rapax were far and away the most interested, surrounding her and jostling each other as they peered into the box, which flashed with the movement as it opened. Oooh, que bello! came the excited reply, it flashes just like the VSC!
Yes it does she smirked, and it means you better all clap during the prize giving ceremony, because I will see if you don’t...
Back in the bus to the Fan Zone on Friday, the new breed were learning the ropes: Sean Gelael, Nicholas Latifi and Gustav Malja were joining Artem Markelov for the racing game/signing session, and on the way they were talking about their new cars, and how it compared to their previous steeds. The conversations was generally approving (oh man, when you hit the DRS it’s like a rocket, or another gear!), comparing throttle percentages and where they were flat or not (no way, even my teammate isn’t flat there!), even which screens on the display to use (oh, you didn’t try to use that at the start? You should...).
It was almost a disappointment to arrive at the Fan Zone: it’s always interesting to listen in as drivers talk about how they do what they do, especially the younger ones who haven’t learnt to hide things from their rivals yet, so happy are they to have arrived in the big show.
But no matter how young they are, there’s always someone younger: the fan champion was Alex from Dubai, all of 11 but looked far younger, as he was so small he had to sit on his dad’s lap to reach the pedals. There’s always someone younger in this game. Luckily they beat him royally: I was a bit worried I was going to have to flash my bracelet to distract him.
The things I do to make this place look good are, like this blog, almost endless.
It’s hard to put into words quite how steep the banking on the old oval track that cuts in and out of the circuit here in Monza is: walking up it at the steepest part is hard, walking down it is harder, and trying to traverse along the top of it is harder still, one foot lower than the other and at an angle which is trying to throw your body off balance (and down a steep incline) with every step, forcing you to hang onto the armco now installed at the top.
Or, to put it another way, I’ve skied down shallower slopes, albeit a little longer.
But the feeling of peace when you stand at the top of that famous ramp, next to the crumbling concrete structure slowly eroding on top of it, is amazing. You stand there, clinging to a barrier which wasn’t there back when they raced on this piece of tarmac to avoid falling, and you can’t help but think that those racers, all those years ago in their tiny, screaming cars, must have been certifiably insane to race on this.
And then you peer over the edge at the 30m drop, and the trees almost close enough to touch, and you know it.
But what better place to bring racing drivers, right? Especially ones who have won the last round of races in Spa, that other notoriously old-school hangover from the early days of racing, because who would better understand the dangers, and the appeal, of driving a circuit like this.
“You’re right, we should have gone there for the photo,” Alexa agreed much later, when I returned from the walk just before dusk. “I’ve never actually been out there before, but I don’t admit that to anyone. Is it far?” Too far to make a driver walk, I sighed; they moan about having to walk to the pitlane…
But the shoot was not without its compensations, at least. All of the driver shoots in Monza have been done either sitting next to a crumbling patch of armco behind our paddock or in a nearby tunnel, which has the advantage of looking very ominous and brooding in the background while the guys try to look moody and interesting in front of it.
Neither option appealed much to the guys, so Alexa looked around and, more in desperation than by design, suggested they could sit on a nearby park bench. Stoffel Vandoorne gave a look which didn’t do much to disguise his disapproval of the idea, but Alexander Rossi saw a couple of girls working at a nearby food stand and thought they’d be a great addition to the shoot.
“Okay, go and ask them then,” Alexa sighed.
“No way, you’re the Head of Communications, it must be your job to talk to them!” the American laughed, leaving her little option but to approach them and ask, in very broken Italian, if they had any interest in having a photo with a couple of racing drivers. To their credit they looked extremely dubious, but when their boss waved them away they followed Alexa over, and the guys set to work trying to make them laugh.
Which is why, given that it was his idea, it’s kind of ironic that Alexander looks so worried in the photo.
But he was delighted when Alexa managed to get a copy of the photo printed, as she asked him to sign it for them. Stoffel was even happier: “You’re going to give this to them? Great idea! And while you’re there, could you get their phone numbers?”
“What do you think I am? If you want to talk to them, why not write your number on there!”
Naturally that shut the conversation down cold, and it was only when she was carrying the photo over to the food booth that she realised that, perhaps, it may have been more sensible to get two copies made, given there are two of them. Nevertheless, they made an effort to look happy, while presumably wondering if they were supposed to rip it in two.
Next up was the new car launch for GP3, with former champions Daniil Kyvat, Mitch Evans and Alex Lynn on hand to pull the covers off and give admiring glances. “Daniil will be up the front,” Alexa announced to the trio, “and Alex, you’re the reigning champ so you should be too. Mitch, could you stand at the back and make sure they don’t break any of the aero parts with the cover?”
“Good idea,” Alex sniggered, “you can clean up behind us!”
The launch went off without a hitch, with Alexa and Leandra’s blood pressure nearly returning to normal within 3 hours. Sensing they might need a little space, I decided to take the walk over to the old banking. Which was a great idea.
What was a less great idea was deciding to walk back through the woods, because surely I only have to walk in the general direction of the paddock and I’d be back, right? And I did get back, only an hour or so later than I planned, and mercifully before the sun set completely.
Dear reader, I should give a little language advisory at this stage: if you are of a gentle disposition, perhaps you should skip ahead 3 paragraphs.
The next morning walking over to the pitlane with the Racing Engineering guys (with very little in the way of whinging, incredibly enough), Alexander was looking to have a little fun at teammate Jordan King’s expense. “Hey Alexa, look at his hair! He looks like a virgin, right?”
It should be noted that it was not the most flattering of styles, to put it mildly.
“Don’t you worry sweetie,” Alexa cooed, “I’m sure there are girls out there somewhere who like that sort of thing…”
“Yeah,” the American laughed, “and she’s great at getting girls, so you’ll be fine!”
And after yesterday’s rain, everyone was looking to take advantage of the glorious weather today: ahead of qualifying the drivers were spread out all around the paddock soaking up the sun, with Raffaele Marciello behind his pits with his trainer and a football, alternating being thrown high for a header and low to be kicked back, Jan Mardenborough playing keepie uppies with a little ball and gigantic headphones on in between push ups and short sprints, Marlon Stockinger skipping faster and slower behind his pit and Julian Leal turning some weights over and over in his hands for his trainer, simulating a heavy steering wheel, while Simon Trummer wandered around chatting to people from his old teams.
Alex Lynn was standing in front of the Trident truck when Alexa was walking around to grab a few shots for Instagram, admonishing him for standing in front of the wrong logo: “you did that in Budapest too, when I was trying to get your photo.” “I know,” he smirked, “I did it on purpose to try and reinvent the magic...”
Sitting here now, post penalties, it seems to have worked for him so far, if somewhat less so for poor Mitch. And if Alex does end up getting a win, I’m going to suggest a photo shoot out at the old banking before we leave: I reckon he’d love it, and Alexa really should see it on one of her visits here.
But if we do, I am bringing a compass with us: I’ve got a flight home on Sunday afternoon, and I’d quite like to be on it…
This morning started with a bang: literally, as we were all woken up by the crashing thunderstorm drenching the circuit and its environs well before my alarm was due to sound. The worst of it was over before breakfast, but the sky still looked ominous when we arrived at the track.
But some thing never change: it is always difficult to fight your way through the crowd outside the paddock, but this year Alexa and Didier had a cunning plan.
There was just time for a quick pitstop, and onto the day.
First up were interviews with the French media. Pierre was happy to hang around and wait for Laurie Delhostal to get the signal to start from Canal+.
Although Arthur didn’t seem too keen to answer when she asked how his season was going.
Robert was delighted that there were no Romanian journalists around today.
Before long it was time for the Fanzone: Lello was under a bit of scrutiny with his drive today, but his win silenced them.
Then it was time for a nutritious lunch before we headed out to the pitlane.
Race time always goes like a blur, but in Monza it all seems much quicker than anywhere else.
The press conference was fine, except that we didn’t have a photographer. The drivers were professional and engaged while we waited for him, as you would expect.
When Sam finally arrived, we got someone to grab a snap, just to prove he’d made it.
A few things things to write up, and finally we could go home. Cheers!
You haven’t really been to Silverstone until you’ve been stuck in traffic.
That’s exactly the sort of fatuous, snarky comment I hate: unfortunately you’ll always find some pompous, full of himself “racing type” throwing a comment like that around a lot in a place like Silverstone, in the process marking himself out as the voice of experience and you as some newbie, still wet behind the ears and who should be grateful to be around to hear his pearls of wisdom.
I had plenty of time to realise how much that sort of thing annoys me when I was stuck in traffic on the way to the circuit today.
On the bright side, it gave me a bit of time to weigh up the weekend gone, and to come. We’ve been lucky with the weather, remarkably so considering I forgot to bring my new rain jacket with me when I packed the other day (no jacket to a race meeting in England: what on earth was I thinking?). When we finally made it in yesterday, fighting manfully through the traffic (well, sitting in the back of the car and sighing while Didier swore in French a lot from the driver’s seat) we were treated to the most glorious weather I can remember here.
Walking down the old paddock, away from the lights and cameras at the other end of the circuit, the GP2 and GP3 teams were mixed together, the ones with a foot in both camp with two trucks sitting proudly side by side, the singletons interspersed in between, and everyone was out enjoying the weather, limbering up with a ball and a trainer like Arthur Pic or just rolling around on a fold up bike like the Arden drivers.
And there were kids everywhere. Most of the teams are British, so it stands to reason that they would bring their family to their home race, and having the entire paddock to ourselves for once meant there was plenty of room to roam. There were less of them around today, with the race meaning we’re at the business end of the weekend, but they were still here and there, picking up scraps of car parts for show and tell when they get back to the school to the envy of all their classmates.
You never know if you’ve gone on the wrong road when you’re stuck in traffic here, I thought to myself. Maybe the other roads are even worse.
After free practice Rio Haryanto was walking through hospitality, smiling at his own efforts to take the top spot, pink sports tape peeking out from under his t shirt on either side of the nape of his neck like the antennae on his engineer’s radio. He was certainly on a different frequency to the others, anyway, as Stoffel Vandoorne skulked around, waiting to eat and trying to ignore everyone.
“P3 today,” I smirked, “is this the start of the championship collapse?” He laughed out loud, but not with his eyes. He went one better in qualifying, but it didn’t improve his mood demonstrably.
“Who’s going to draw the short straw and photograph the start of the race from the top of the ferris wheel?” I asked Sam and Zack when we were back in our room in race control later: I was only joking, but they clearly hadn’t considered it, but were now. “It would kind of suck if you miscalculated and were at the bottom when they got going.”
“You could always ask them to stop you at the top for a minute” one replied.
“Money could possibly change hands” said the other, mysteriously.
I figured it would be a good place to see if the roads were finally clear, too.
Today was a little quieter in the paddock: old men walking around in Sgt Pepper or James Hunt t shirts, eyeing up the wooden undertrays the teams had leaning against the wall behind their pits and wondering if they could snap up a unique souvenir.
After the race there was a new atmosphere to the paddock - charged, electric - as the Rapax guys returned with the spoils. Their team manager Marco was hugging anyone who would let him, while Sergey Sirotkin stood around in hospitality, all zen cool and smiles as everyone came over to congratulate him on his first win. Until I mentioned that he was supposed to have brought his Pirelli cap with him for the press conference.
“Oh, I haven’t got that anymore,” he drawled, “I gave it away to … someone…”
Right on cue, Alexander Rossi turned up: before I said a word he coughed “I know, I haven’t got my hat: he was supposed to tell me”, pointing to his team manager Arnaud, who feigned shock at the betrayal. When I noted that Sergey had given his away he laughed “oh well, at least I can’t get in trouble from Alexa now.”
“You know Stoffel will bring his though: he’s a professional.”
“Yeah, but he’s probably got about 75 of them, so he should remember…”
I looked across at the ART truck just then to see Stoffel jump out and walk towards the pit. “Where is he going?” He re-emerged and started walking towards us, straightening his cap…
And then it was time for dinner, and to write it all up. From my window I can see across the Brooklands complex: Starsailor were playing, although it looks like they might have just finished.
Which is just as well: I wouldn’t know what to do if I had a clear run home.
The hotel’s front door, a wall of glass in a slim metal frame, silently glides open as we walk towards it and the temperature raises gradually, the first confirmation that today is another hot Barcelona day, and everyone’s sunglasses slide into place as though in a movie as we walk towards the car. It’s Friday and the waiting is over, the race weekend has begun.
You take shotgun I’m told and I do as I’m bid, and we’re soon heading towards the track, slicing through the usual Friday peak hour traffic, heading to the place that most of the rest of the freeway wishes it was going to instead of their workplace. And we’re soon there as Marco crests the rise, slices through security and glides down the hill towards the parking lot as the huge puffs of pollen common to the area floats down from the sky like fat snowflakes at the start of winter to meet us there.
We walk into the paddock and the teams are all hard at work, finishing the set ups and practicing pitstops and setting up their tool trolleys and tyre frames and talking, the mood still light as the mechanics joke with each other but keep working, the pace relaxed but constant as they get ready for the day ahead.
As we walk around we are greeted by a series of bonjours and good mornings and holas, by handshakes and head nods and smiles, by a quick joke or a sly ribbing or a can I just ask you about this, by a common cause as the circus sets itself up and waits for the stars of the show to arrive, by the sense of camaraderie regardless of dress code or allegiance.
More hellos at the coffee machine and then it’s back out into the paddock to chat with the others, to feel the warmth spread across our backs and seep into our bones, that perfect just-so heat without yet the sting in its tail, the warmth that says don’t worry about my big brother waiting for you later, just stop here with me for a while as we unwind and soak it in.
And then the drivers start to arrive, alone or in groups, and they separate and head to their trucks to hide away, to plot and plan for the sessions ahead, to dress and emerge fully formed after the teams have headed towards the pits, race suits halfway on and helmets casually carried in hand as they stroll after them, a quick pitstop for a safety pee and then off to work.
In free practice the heat has a small sting, a prickle of intent in it as we walk down the pitlane, the drivers pulling their suits up and on, the helmets down and the slide into their cars, the engineers tipping their heads towards their charges despite the radios, the last minute check of tyre pressures and track temperatures, the get ready and the release.
By the end of the session the heat is fully present, oppressive, and the drivers re-emerge and strip down quickly, a few practiced, fluid movements and it’s back to the paddock to regroup, re-examine, reconsider in the face of the new data: the prize is pole, is points, is bragging rights for getting it more right than all the other right answers up and down the pitlane. There can only be one, they think, and please today let it be me.
The F1 free practice sessions are on and the drivers emerge and gather in hospitality to sit together, to chat and laugh and pretend that they’re not watching, learning, thinking as their predecessors circulate, because none of them want to let the others see that they’re watching: there’s Mitch and Richie and Artem, there’s Alex and Pierre, and they all do it, let their eyes dart to the screen and back just as quick, the furtive glance they hope the others don’t notice.
Drivers are bigger racing geeks than fans. They have to be, considering what they have to put in to get to where they are.
And then it’s back to the pitlane, the heat a dragon’s blast across us all, but the urgency below is a match for the force from above. Out they all go again, one by one as they ramp up to the quick lap and go before red red, box box and the pent up frustration as they trickle back to the pits and are released once again minutes later, the path clear and the delayed gratification of a fast lap let loose as they push and push and push.
Soon enough they’re back, they’re out, they’re walking towards the shade. There’s Arthur, his hair flattened to his head with sweat and frustration at a small mistake which cost him dear. There’s Stoffel, another pole and not a hair out of place as he answers the photographers demands with a smile. And there’s Alex, a front row and a slightly rueful smile split evenly between happiness at what he’s achieved and puzzlement at what more he needs to do.
They’ve got their answers by the time of the press conference, after a cool down and a drink and a change of clothes, a discussion with the engineers and a breakdown of what they did and the result, and when it’s finished the sting has been plucked from the heat like a rose thorn, and they congregate in small groups in the bitumen piazza formed between the trucks and hospitality, and they’re trying to convince each other of their views as they laugh and smirk and tease, pushing each other with their words as I head back into the cabin, feeling the dull swipe of the low air conditioning as I close the door behind me to write about them.