We arrived in the paddock this morning to find Antonio Giovinazzi already installed at the fussball table and taking on all comers: he looked up as we walked by before saying "the blog is not fair! You said that Pauline beat me, but you forgot to say that I beat her too!"
"And good morning to you, too."
"Sorry, good morning! But come on, fair is fair..."
And to be fair, Antonio is probably now the best fussball player in the paddock, given how many people he has beaten today. Although, to be equally fair, so he should be considering the amount of time he's spent at the table this weekend. I'm not entirely sure that he didn't spend all last night practicing, just to prove a point...
Still, it was a better start to the day than Sergey Sirotkin had: the genial Russian emerged from the bathroom in his hotel room, thankfully wearing a towel, to find a housekeeper tidying up his room. "Oh," she noted disinterestedly, "you are still here. Will I clean up now, or come back later?" "Later!" he gasped as she casually strolled across the room, leaving him stunned as he watched the door close behind her.
And when he went downstairs to have breakfast, the same housekeeper was in his lift, with the pair struggling through a somewhat awkward silence until they arrived at the ground floor. Any further plans for a dinner date are unknown at this time.
We then headed over to Arden International for the teammate's team talk, which as usual was a lot of fun. "Just remember, it's supposed to be funny," I advised Jimmy and Nabil, "so feel free to say whatever you want. First question, describe your teammate with one word."
"Stupid," Jimmy deadpanned, and the pair fell about laughing. As usual, don't miss the article in The Insider, where you'll learn about Nabil's friends and their hairdressing abilities, the pros and cons of social media, and Jimmy's surprising use of trucks in his physical training regime.
From there it was straight around the paddock to round up the drivers for a signing session in the fan zone, with the guys chatting in the back of the van as we headed over. When talk turned to the fans, Alex Lynn took the lead: "I have a few fans who turn up everywhere: no idea how they do it really, but they always seem to know where I am."
"Really?" Mitch Evans queried. "They follow you that much?"
"Yeah, it is a little odd; I've got no idea why, really." And sure enough, when we arrived at the stage his fans were already installed at the front of the retaining fence with a giant, Union flag inspired Alex Lynn banner: the Essex man walked straight over and had a long chat, signing the banner and posing for selfies before eventually heading over to sign autographs for all the other fans. "Is that them?" I asked. "Yeah," he smirked, "it's pretty great, isn't it? We all do this for the fans, of course, and it's amazing that someone will go that far for us..."
He wasn't the only one to have fans here: Marvin Kirchhöfer was in high demand too. "It feels really good to be back in Hockenheim," he smiled afterwards. "I had pole here in 2014 in GP3 Series, so I really like the place! Germans love to come to the races: sure, it's not like Monza or something where there are so many fans, but there are still a lot here, and it's a cool feeling to race in front of them.
"I don't know if they really know who I am, but you saw how many people were here asking for an autograph or a photo. And some of them even had photos of me from Formula ADAC and Formula 3, which feels a long time ago! But it's nice to see how far we've come, and that people have been following all that way."
But not everyone had fans there. Famously (in the paddock, anyway) Alexa was never able to understand Mitch's accent, and earlier Pauline was trying to transcribe an interview with him with little luck, passing the headphones over to me to translate from New Zealander to Australian to Franglais on every other line. "You're out of luck again mate," I smirked at him as we waited by the side of the stage as I pointed towards Pauline, "she doesn't understand you either."
Incredulous, he looked over and asked "you don't understand me when we're talking?"
"What?" she blurted, either because of his harsh accent or that she simply didn't hear him I cannot confirm.
"That's ridiculous," he laughed, "how come they can't understand me?"
"It's tough to know really: either the problem rests with you, or every French person in the world. So it's probably them..."
And then the race came and washed everything away. Antonio had an amazing race from the back of the grid to get up to the top five before running out of tyres and falling back to P9, later moving up to the reverse pole when his teammate was disqualified from a fine third, while Mitch moved up too before retiring with a mechanical gremlin, and Marvin gave his fans something to cheer about before he too dropped back at the end on old tyres.
Sergey, on the other hand, had an amazing race: leading from the start before dropping as his tyres wore out, coming in just as the VSC signs came out and having the pitstop cancelled, making him think the whole race had fallen apart before setting a blistering pace and coming back, having to stop again but then with fresh tyres allowing him to slice through the field and grab the win against the odds.
He's not a particularly superstitious driver, as a previous teammate interview showed, but if you see a photo of Sergey in the paddock with a towel wrapped around him, now you'll know why.