As the season grinds ever more relentlessly on, the favourites for the title gradually become clearer: it has been the same ever since the first season of GP2, and this year is no different. But as the favourites become clearer so too do the demands on their time ramp up, and they get more and more requests for interviews and photo shoots as their profiles grow in the big paddock up the hill.
Which is why Alastair wasn't too surprised to get the request for some shots of Nico Hülkenberg in his racesuit, and he arranged to meet the driver up the hill from our paddock at Eau Rouge on Thursday afternoon to take advantage of the light. Setting up for the shoot he was joined by a few colleagues from LAT including Glenn Dunbar, who used to shoot GP2 before disappearing forever. Or going to F1, which is much the same thing, from our perspective.
Glenn was taking the opportunity to bore Al senseless, I mean, to share his ideas for the shoot, and to demonstrate his thoughts he was standing up on the tyre barrier, with his chest out and head raised high in a regal pose. So high was his head that he didn't notice Nico walking over until he was right next to the snapper, with the driver looking up and laughing at the scene in front of him. “Mmm, nice titties” the German smirked before placing his helmet on the ground a little further up as the other photographers fell about in hysterics.
Nico was soon up in Glenn's position, and the shoot was going fine until Alexa suggested he should puff his chest up a bit to show off his sponsors' logos a little better, but Nico complained that he was unable to puff himself up any further. “Hah!” Glenn blurted out, vindicated at last, “I bet you wish you had some nice titties now...”
We had no time for such conversations the next morning as everyone made their way up to the pitlane for the free practice session: luckily the rain spluttered to a close as we arrived, but there were soon bigger concerns than the weather. “So what's going on there, then?” asked iSport boss Paul Jackson as we walked towards our spot on the pitwall. “What do you mean?” I asked, and he simply pointed to the empty spot behind me which should have been filled by two Coloni cars.
It was hard to find out exactly what was going on with so many different stories floating around, but it turned out that the police had been instructed to impound the Coloni cars and truck, and they decided to wait until immediately before the session: by the time we arrived back in the paddock there was a truck sized hole in the paddock (which was soon partially filled by the iSport wagon and their tyres) and a couple of depressed looking drivers, still in their race suits, sitting in hospitality.
“I'm really disappointed actually,” Luiz Razia noted despondently after the session. “I have actually raced here before, so I know the circuit: this could have been my big chance to show what I can do...” There wasn't a single person in the paddock who didn't sympathise with the Brazilian and teammate Andi Zuber, who were the innocent victims of the whole thing.
Unsurprisingly they were gone by the time we held the press conference after qualifying: as usual Nico was the first one to arrive, and amused himself by pulling faces at Alastair as we waited for Lucas to arrive from Renault, who eventually rushed in, still in their uniform. He spent the first part of the conference, as I asked Alvaro about his great performance to claim his first pole position, behind the backdrop getting changed back before re-emerging to applause from the audience.
They weren't the only ones who weren't there, as Edo Mortara had left the circuit early: the poor guy was looking awful as he left, and was hoping that an early night would cure his mystery illness, leaving Arden's PR person Deborah Lyall behind to explain what happened. “I'm feeling a bit bad about it actually,” she confessed sheepishly, “because I was away last week and Sergio got two podiums, and now I'm worried that I might be a bad luck magnet! I even offered not to come here, just in case it brought them a bit more luck!”
So if the curse of Arden strikes again and Edo is too unwell to come to the track tomorrow, or Sergio has any bad luck in the race, then I think we all know who will really be to blame...