14 days ago at this exact time I was worrying about airplanes, snow storms and luggage size (never enough for a lady). 72 hours later I could’ve done the pre-flight safety demonstration myself. Who’s to blame for the 6 times I watched it? Well, the lovely people at Infiniti GP, who decided I was rather good with words and I deserve a trip to witness the first outing of their 2014 challenger – the loud, rather feisty and seriously pretty RB10 (pretty, not handsome; it’s still a girl, Seb knows it).
So what did I learn from those three days of wandering around the loveliest places in Spain?
Not that I’m complaining, I left behind snow and blizzards, but being inside those stately unreliable cars was a tempting thought while we were pretending to be explorers in search of the best vantage point around the circuit. Plus, when there’s a beach involved I can tolerate anything short of tornadoes just to see the wonders of nature (feel free to read that as ‘take cheesy Facebook photos’).
I’ve never been so fresh after 9 hours of travel and a late night like on Tuesday morning when I was up and ready to go by 6:30. Of course I’ve done it before, I’m not that lazy, but it’s nothing like waking up in the middle of the night for the Asia races and falling asleep halfway through the coverage. Anyway, watching the sunrise on a bridge from a comfy Q70 (nothing to do with face cream, for that part of my followers) and muscling my way around feisty photographers to see the already notorious car, was definitely worth the early hour.
I was so numb from sleep that I didn’t care much about cracking the screen on my new tablet; although I think it was more like ‘numb from excitement’ because it still doesn’t bother me much. My level of mastery over the half-working screen is only rivalled by Seb’s fine line through Eau Rouge and our driver’s steering through the claustrophobic maze that is central Jerez. Am I rambling? I think I am. Next!
It might not have Monaco’s glitz and glamour or Spa’s notoriety but you can see quite a decent bit of the track from wherever you sit around the circuit. The grandstand between the Ayrton chicane and the Ferrari curve was particularly fun as you could see almost half the circuit (if you’re under 60 and not an avid online gamer that is). The crowds weren’t exactly going wild at 9am on a Tuesday morning but it got pretty crowded by midday.
As I understand, the roof of the main building, over the garages, is sadly closed during races (mainly Moto ones these days), but running around from one side to the other ensures you have about 90% of the track covered. Plus, do that for two hours and you won’t need your weekly gym session anymore.
Although I missed the paparazzi moments from up there (no, not the bathroom stalking type): when Kimi’s car stopped right behind a grandstand so no one could see him – in typical Kimi fashion – or when Lewis decided to take a shortcut to the parking lot by clearing the gravel out of his way with the help of his front wing. I somehow missed Seb’s laps as well, rare as gold dust those things.
…as long as they’re not tailgating you on the motorway. Yes, I like F1 trucks, not sure what that says about me. Anyway. Since we’re talking facilities, Mercedes and McLaren are playing some strange game of 50 shades of grey, and looking at their motorhomes is the ultimate level in Spot the Difference. Honda can’t come sooner.
It’s not like I expected drivers to be some sort of Gulliver figures being carried around the paddock on the shoulders of dwarfs, but most of the ones I saw were these small thin things that seemed rather shy. Even Daniel looked shorter than I expected; but I’m basically a dwarf so it might be some sort of cognitive bias against tall people. But Hulk is tall, not even Thor could deny that. My moment of glory was sitting on a high chair with Seb walking by and I was almost looking at him from above. Oh, bless his tiny little feet!
As for the arrogance bit, that’s an artistic license, the point was that sometimes you do expect the faces on your TV to be a little out of reach and disinterested, but somehow everybody I had to deal with came across as genuinely pleasant and good-natured. None more so than the lovely boss of Infiniti’s F1 affairs, Andreas Sigl, who I had the opportunity to interview. I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to the business side of F1 but his views were rather refreshing. I’ll post that conversation later this week so I need to save some praise for that occasion too.
…nice to the environment. As for noise, I’ve been assured that it will get louder when the teams get a bit braver; if not, earplugs vendors might go bankrupt and team merchandise will lose a best-seller. And somehow the engines (I’m sorry – power units) seem louder in my recordings than I remember them being in real life. But I found the sound itself to be rather deep and pleasant; it definitely won’t be quiet with 22 cars on track at the same time (make that 20, as history teaches us that a Caterham and a Marussia will inevitably crash into each other at some point during the first 5 laps).
Not that I bothered to ask for written proof, but the lady had team gear, a big fancy camera and was always around so she’s either an employee or a really high-end stalker. You can also spot Ted ‘Banana’ Kravitz, Craig ‘Fancy Accent’ Slater and Pete ’The Dude Ted Talks To’.
This is still a hypothesis waiting for scientific confirmation from the RB lab but I don’t think I’ve seen him with his teeth not on display all day; which is admirable and quite endearing, as my friend Alex will confirm.
…because the restrooms are the go-to hotspot for driver encounters. I know the photo has nothing to do with this but I didn’t really take photos of the toilets. Either way, I chose the ladylike and less fanatic way of showing my appreciation and just enjoyed the atmosphere. Although I might have paid a little too much attention to Pete the cameraman; gingers do stand out in a crowd. Plenty of other familiar faces that I can’t really admit to recognizing unless I also admit I’m partial to the occasional pirated stream. Ted Kravitz (no sandals or bananas in sight), Peter Windsor (those eyes!), Adam Cooper (nice to put a face to a Twitter avatar) or Kevin Eason might not make the headlines in the paddock (just writing them) but it was nice to see them around.
Pointy ears, rare mischievous smile and speaking a quiet language that I did not recognize; but the rest of the media humans seemed to be quite familiar with it, so there might be some degree of understanding within the Inner Circle. Not that I needed to hear him to realize he was saying something brainy and completely rational.
Not that I’m complaining, I love pigs in all shapes, sizes and cooking techniques. Traditional Spanish food is particularly tasty and flavoured, although I don’t think Gin&Tonic Ice-cream qualifies as Spanish cuisine.
And make sure it’s with Infiniti cause they sure know how to make you feel like royalty. No, we didn’t get a tiara, although our friend did think so when she spotted the fancy souvenir box. But few presents can get closer to diamonds than carbon fiber in a fancy setting. And then there’s Infiniti’s F1 Annual* – the winged fan’s Bible (but bigger, more precise, colourful and more people actually want to read it) that makes for excellent bedtime reading (forget that new book smell, this thing smells like success and expensive ink).
* Seriously guys, why isn’t that V-Man cartoon a monthly thing? Like an alternative race review or something?
My friend seems to finally be converted to my motorized beliefs although I did not expect that with all the handsome drivers, charming 30-something technicians and other strapping young men, the one person she’d develop a fascination for is Niki Lauda. I call it “the Ron Howard effect”.
But trying to be serious for a minute, we really are grateful to Alex, Tom and their cool boss, who were so lovely and patient with us. And thanks for not letting us get lost in Madrid! Also many thanks to our driver, whose name I still can’t spell, but he was a sweetheart and even confused me for a real journalist at first; I appreciated that.
How is Infiniti Red Bull Racing going to do this season? Well, they set themselves up for quite a challenge and started with a bit of a struggle. But what is more thought-provoking and exciting for Newey’s imagination than an obstacle? Every creative idea comes from an apparently unsolvable problem – the Wright brothers wouldn’t have given us the first airplane if there wasn’t a monumental challenge before them: to make humans move faster and conquer the sky. Red Bull rather conquered their piece of the sky and their polished mechanism is once again set in motion with or without minor setbacks. And I think that’s part of their secret (although not much of a secret anymore), they continue to fight and challenge themselves even when they’re so far ahead that it almost makes no difference for the end result. Because they aim for mastery more than achievements and trophies.
Let’s hope for a new and improved version of 2012; that should keep Bernie happy! Not to mention the team, the partners and most of all, the fans!
I’m sure there are many things I missed and can’t remember right now so I might be updating this as I go along. For some more photos of my big head covering various trucks, buildings and important corners of the track, check out my Facebook album. I hope you enjoyed the read! If not, bummer, I bet it took quite a while to get through it 🙂