It was too much to expect that I could come back and not write a blog, but that doesn't mean I didn't try to get out of it. “Come on,” I whined, “it's way too hot to write: let's just go back to the hotel and have a beer instead.”
“No!” Alexa proclaimed, giving me her best evil stare. “You'll write the blog before you leave, even if it kills you. And I don't want to hear that your pig flu has come back.”
“I didn't have the pig flu,” I protested meekly.
“Whatever. Start writing!” The change from arriving in the paddock to tonight was huge: like night and day, you might even say...
“Hey, how are you feeling?” Christian asked as I walked into the hospitality area in the morning, the third person to ask that question since I walked through the gates. Everyone had been told that I had swine flu (or just read Alexa's blog from Budapest, and assumed), and the story stuck, no matter what I said. At least Karun was the only one to actively pull away and cover his mouth...
But the biggest story in the paddock was the heat: there was no escaping the brick wall-esque inevitability of the debilitating conditions: everyone sat around panting like dogs, trying not to move or exert ourselves in any way as the conditions slowly, methodically crushed us. Although, inevitably, it couldn't last, and we soon had to cross the desert to get to the pitlane, which seemed approximately 24.5km away by the time we got there.
Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon looked worse than all of us when we finally arrived. “How are you feeling?” he asked, before continuing, “I haven't had any sleep at all. I've got my boat here, a little sailing boat, but they moored Vijay's Indian Empress next to me. Have you seen it?”
“How could I miss it? It's huge.”
“Exactly, and it's a 24 hour party boat. And the hull of my boat is so thin, it was like I had a DJ playing in my room all night. You should come over tonight, by the way...”
And if it was hot in the morning session, qualifying was even worse: we arrived on the pitwall to a track temperature of 50º, and that was before the engines were started. Every one of the drivers was dripping with sweat after the session, no matter how fit they are, but Andi Zuber seemed to be suffering more than most.
“Oh man, it was so hot in the car today!” he exhaled between gulps of his drink afterwards.
“You were working hard today,” I agreed. “It looked like you were fighting the car all the way round the track.”
“Did you see the on-board? Man, the whole time I was just...” and he crossed and re-crossed his hands out in front of him. “And then there was the red flag: I hated that red flag! Just sitting there as the car got hotter and hotter: by the end I was just screaming come on, clean the track, clean the track already! I'll get a broom if you need some help!”
After qualifying we thought we'd try something different with the top three guys: as our paddock is so far away from the F1 paddock we don't get many journalists dropping in from there, so we went for a walk with Nico, Vitaly and Lucas, doing the interviews as we went, until we found a backdrop that Alastair was happy with for the photos.
Unfortunately that location turned out to be in the middle of a road that suddenly became very popular: a few cars and trucks managed to drive around the three guys, who were all oblivious to what was going on behind them as they tried to out-pose each other, until we had to yell out as a bus was bearing down on them, with the trio getting out of the way just in time. “That was a bit close,” Nico stated as he walked over. “Yeah,” I agreed, “and the strange thing is the driver looked just like Pastor...”
We all made it back eventually, safe and sound, even though Nico had to pull Mark from Autosport out of the path of a bus as we walked back (“Pastor's not giving up...”) and slumped down in hospitality as the heat was starting to bleed out of the day. It was about that time that Romain Grosjean walked in, to be greeted by some good natured banter (“Are you lost?” “You don't live in this paddock anymore...”) from everyone there.
“I had to come back,” he noted as we sat down at one of the tables, “The food is the best here, and Christian always knows what I like to eat.” As if on cue, Christian walked over with a tray of lobster and prawns and put it down in front of the newest F1 driver.
Which has never happened to me before: maybe I need to start writing the F1 blog. I bet their air conditioning is better, too...