Timehop is great, isn't it?
Who doesn't like to be reminded of the stupid things they've done in the past, and that they tend to do much the same things over and over again, sometimes on an annual basis. And what Timehop reminded me of this morning is that I've been to Silverstone a lot of times now, and that every time the French really like to complain about the place. And also that I like to point this out, so it doesn't look like I'm the only one moaning about coming here.
And to be fair, they do mostly have a point. The Brits love to think they are the centre of the motorsport universe, and there is a fair argument to be made to that end, but that shouldn't give them licence to do things just slightly differently to everywhere else. Because that makes them the exception, not the rule. And it also makes them very annoying when you're trying to work to a schedule that works everywhere else, but gets snagged all day long on the differences here.
At least Didier didn't miss his flight this year, which made a nice change. He was late for his flight, sure, but the flight was late too, so that didn't work. In protest his body decided to have an allergic reaction (whether it's to Britain itself or just something growing on it has yet to be discovered), and he's been complaining on an Olympian level ever since. Even a France v Germany semi final wasn't enough to entice him out after work, although he did concede that he "heard they might have won" this morning over coffee in hospitality, where he did seem substantially less allergic than yesterday.
Sergey Sirotkin, on the other hand, didn't have that much time for conversation. "Hello," he volunteered as he waited for the first F1 practice to start. When asked how he was he enthused "okay" before peering around us to see the screen in exactly the same way my four year old son does when I'm in the way as he watches an episode of Swashbuckle. And we forgave him for the same reason we forgive Arthur: he's too nice and well-mannered (when the telly's not on) to make you upset. We'll catch him later, I said: maybe in the press conference.
Oh, I can see you're getting ahead of me.
But it was a day where the past and the future crossed over constantly. Giedo van der Garde and Davide Valsecchi were both in the paddock, laughing and joking with everyone as they caught up with their old teams and colleagues. "Yeah, doing a bit of business these days, with my father in law and others," Giedo stated when I asked him what he's been up to. "It keeps me busy, I guess. And a bit of racing, LMP1, which is fun." Not much time involved though, I guessed. "No, not compared to here!" he laughed, "but I'm enjoying it, so that's the good bit."
And on the screen Charles Leclerc was testing with Haas, on the flip side of the Dutchman's career, while Giuliano Alesi walked past in his Ferrari gear, about to head over to the big paddock. Giedo was here with Steijn Schothorst, mentoring him through the paddock and giving him the benefit of his experience, and it seemed odd to both of us that only a few years ago Giedo was the fresh faced young kid dreaming of the F1 life that would (if briefly) be in his future.
One thing that didn't flash back to previous years was the traffic: this year we're staying remarkably close to the circuit, and if it's hardly the height of luxury at least it didn't take long to get into the circuit. My Timehop feed today flashed up a series of tweets Alexa and I made while stuck in traffic, followed by a photo of Jolyon Palmer, Marcus Ericsson and their trainers running into the circuit: they had abandoned their car by the side of the road and legged it to (just) make free practice. This year everyone was here with hours to spare, which makes me nervous: I can't shake the feeling that the circuit is waiting until Sunday morning for the early sprint race before it strikes us, cobra-like, when it counts.
Silverstone still reminded us that ultimately we have no control over events when Pauline and I were heading to the pitlane for qualifying this afternoon, ensuring that all the buses left early and we had to beg a hospitality minibus driver to get us the approximately 50 mile distance from the old to the new pits, making it just in time for the cars to be released. On the way over I officially turned into an Old Silverstone Lag when I complained that things aren't the way they used to be, when everyone in the paddock knew each other and we all used to pile onto one of the teams' rigs as the dragged their equipment into the paddock.
Qualifying was pretty exciting, with the lead changing constantly and a couple of red flags to break it all up. Unfortunately for Sergey he didn't notice when one of the race officials waved him to the weighbridge: by the time I noticed the investigation comment on the screens and Marco walked across to ART Grand Prix to tell them it was too late, as they'd changed his tyres: even if they could push him all the way back up a (semi) live pitlane his car had been amended, so it wouldn't have been a legal measurement.
Cue much Russian swearing from red and white car containing possibly the most unlucky driver of the season...
After the session we were walking out towards the bus stop when the Rapax guys stopped and asked if we wanted to jump on, and they didn't need to ask twice: Pauline and I were soon hanging off the side of their tyre trolley and rolling the 100 or so miles back to our paddock. "I've never seen you smile this much," she laughed, while I just watched the track roll past to my right and smiled some more in the watery sunshine.
But the session lasted longer than expected for some: when Pierre Gasly arrived for the press conference he still wasn't sure whether he'd come out on top or not, because of the investigation into Norman Nato's quick lap. "Are you sure?" he asked when I advised the PREMA man that his countryman was on the top spot. "Go and look where he's sitting, if you don't believe me." We walked around the corner and there was Norman, grinning fit to burst in the middle seat waiting for us...
It was a nice birthday present for Norman, who seemed genuinely surprised that I knew what the day meant to him, and even more so when we presented him with a birthday cake after the press conference. The Racing Engineering squad and teammate Jordan King all turned up to embarrass him with an appalling version of Happy Birthday, and despite the best efforts of the Briton it was the first birthday cake in the history of GP2 Series to be presented to a driver and not end up on their (or someone else's) face.
Not only did it not devolve into a foodfight, but Pauline and the others raved about what a good cake it was, and how glad they were to be there have a piece. Which is when I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming: if the French can find a reason to be happy to be in Silverstone, then surely a pattern of behaviour is changing.
What that will do to my Timehop feed, only time will tell.