Today, the Nurburgring is oh so very cold. It's not as though I wasn't warned – I came out of a meeting yesterday to a voicemail message from Alexa which noted that “it is freaking cold here” at least five times in about 30 seconds – but the cold still caught me by surprise when we walked past the building site outside and into the paddock.
This morning it felt as though the circuit had never hosted a summer.
“Man it's cold here,” Mark Glendenning noted at the coffee machine, showing the sort of insight that he is rightly famous for. “Isn't it supposed to be July now?” Mark is a fellow Australian who works for Autosport magazine: we've been mates since we worked together in another life, more years ago than we care to remember. “Yeah, but what I want to know is how I can get someone to drive me around the Nordschleife. You've done that, haven't you?” “Yeah, it's amazing, especially when it gets up through Karusel: go through there fast enough, and you may need some more underwear.” “I think we need to steal a driver to do a lap.” A quick scan of the room gave me the perfect victim: “Hey Filippi, we need you to drive us around the old circuit.” “Is it still open? I thought they closed it now.” “I think one of the German car companies rents the place for the weekend,” Mark suggested. “Damn, you don't have any links with them, do you?” “No, but I want to do it! Maybe I will just keep going at the end of race two!” “I don't think you want to do that: you'd do huge damage to the underside of your car. When Heidfeld did it in the F1 car last time they had to run it as high as physically possible.” “Ah, in that case maybe I'll just take Villa's car instead!”
The Nurburgring is a circuit the Italian loves, so you can see why he might want to stay on it for a bit longer, although given his luck here you can find an equal reason for wanting to get back to the pits and out of the way: after qualifying well he was nerfed out of the race at turn one last time by Sébastien Buemi, who came over to apologise only to get the talk to the hand treatment and the cutting, but not inaccurate, comment “you should go back to Formula 3”...
He's not the only one with bad luck here: the FMSI team were struggling after both cars were out in free practice, with Andi Zuber spinning at turn one and Luiz Razia having a big impact with the wall out of turn ten. Zuber tried to bluff his way through when I asked him what happened afterwards, but eventually he had to admit the truth.
“I've been doing one of those drifting courses in Germany this week, you know? I love doing that: it was so much fun. So anyway, I enjoyed it so much, and it's been in my head ever since, and when I was out there today I though 'I wonder if it's possible to drift a GP2 car?' So I thought I'll try it at turn one, the perfect place for it.
“It turns out, it's not...”
Razia was less fortunate than his teammate: although he got through the accident unharmed the same couldn't be said for his car, as the whole rear had to be replaced. His mechanics were immediately on the job, and they did an amazing job: working under incredibly tight time constraints and foregoing lunch they pushed hard to get the car rebuilt in time for qualifying, their arms and hands still a blur over the car as the rest of the field made their way out to the pitlane.
Eventually they finished, but as the session had already started they were unable to use the usual method to get on track, a small entrance gate just after the pit exit next to the medical facilities: needless to say race control were unable to allow them to pop out there on safety grounds. But cognisant of the hard work the boys had put in, an alternate route around the back of the F1 paddock was found, and the series organisers asked if it would be okay to allow them to make use of it, as it eventually worms around to the top end of the pitlane.
Happily they were given the okay, and a quick check to make sure the route was clear gave Luiz the chance to blast down the alley and make use of his mechanics handiwork. Andi made up for his previous blushes by pulling in sixth on the grid tomorrow, while Luiz will just be happy to line up on the grid for his first race here.
Meanwhile, Luca managed to blot his copybook on a very hot lap and spun to a halt at the chicane, throwing away a good grid position in the process. If I were the marshals here, I'd make sure there is something a little more than a few cones to block the way onto the old circuit tomorrow: given his grid position, the Italian may have his mind on other things than the race.