A Day In The Life


Saturday, 29 October, Spa-Francorchamps

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, as a far better writer than me once noted about another day entirely. Alvaro claimed a brilliant win, the most popular win of the season and the first for Ocean Racing, but the accidents came too, to Trident mechanic Vasco Rossi and to newcomer Stefano Coletti at Durango. And although the subsequent reports were positive, the emotional rollercoaster of a day took its toll on everyone in the paddock.

The day started like any other Saturday, with a signing session over at Bridgestone, and we walked down the paddock and under the track with Jérôme d'Ambrosio, Giedo van der Garde and Michael Herck, while Vitaly Petrov joined us over there straight from the carpark. The session went as well as ever, but Alastair was buzzing because he wanted to put a long held plan into action.

After the session last year he and I rode in the car next to the Bridgestone tent that the local police put on to demonstrate what it feels like to roll your car: we knew it wasn't supposed to be enjoyable, but we giggled like schoolgirls through the whole thing last year and promised that next time we would get the drivers to have a go.

As soon as he saw it Vitaly was straight in, a rye smile on his face as he walked up the stairs to be strapped in while Jérôme wandered over to the nearby toilets (“I really need to go,” he claimed, glancing nervously at the car as he did, “does anyone have 50 cents for me?”), Giedo stepped back and claimed he didn't want to hurt his sore shoulder, and Michael stood behind him and didn't say a word.

When the Russian re-emerged laughing out loud Jérôme realised he had to have a go too (although it may have been Alexa walking over to take a turn that convinced him), while the other drivers disappeared back to the paddock. Alastair jumped into the other seat to get some action shots, and the pair were soon squealing with delight.

We had to rush back to the paddock to catch up with Karun and Alvaro for their teammates interview, and you'll see the results here soon. When you see the photo of the guys casually chatting to each other, conveniently standing in front of the team's logo, you might want to think about them having to stand on a couple of tyres so they could be high enough to be next to the logo. But they do that most days, apparently...

And then came the race.

Motor racing is dangerous – it says it right there on our passes – but sometimes pitlanes seem like the centre of the furnace, the heart of the heat, the spark waiting to catch fire. Everyone working there is a professional, but sometimes things can go rapidly wrong from a standing start.

With the pitlane open for installation laps the drivers were heading out on track, while the teams put everything together before heading onto the grid. Unfortunately for Ricardo Teixeira one of the rattle guns was in the way, and he was over it in a blink.

The gun wrapped itself immediately around his wheel, pulling the gantry and trolley over in a heartbeat, right where Vasco was squatting as he went about his tasks: Ricardo stopped immediately, but it was already too late.

The McLaren doctor was immediately on the scene, with the track doctors helping soon after, and everyone held their breath and hoped for the best as the ambulance arrived. With no way to help we went about their regular tasks, because there was nothing else that any of us could do.

The race arrived and found its shape while we tried to concentrate on what was happening in front of us, and we hoped to get it over as soon as we could. Which is why Stefano's crash knocked the wind out of everyone's sails once again: we thought we'd got through it all, only to be reminded once again that racing can change in the blink of an eye.

We slunk back to the paddock, hardly anyone talking despite Alvaro's win, and we waited for the news to be drip fed back to us there. Trident's news came first, the first break in the metaphorical black clouds over our heads: he's not in critical condition, they stated, he's had a MRI scan and he looks okay. He's in an induced coma, they added, but that's the usual treatment in cases like this.

Massa was put into an induced coma, someone else noted, and he seems fine now. A lot of people exhaled, at last.

Stefano is okay too, Durango soon told us. A compressed vertebrae, some bruising on his feet: he's shaken up and has a bit of pain, but there's nothing broken, nothing torn. The sun shone down, we dared to smile. It was the 100th GP2 race and we couldn't celebrate, but we began to hope, at least.

After the press conference, after dinner, after the work was done but we weren't ready to move away from each other, the football came on, the Milan derby, and the Italian contingent from F1 (Liuzzi, Fisichella, Kubica, Trulli) came down to watch it with us, to be here now.

Maybe it wasn't the greatest match, but it took our minds off things for a while, it let us be together and think about something else, it let us be normal again. We were two comrades down, two guys who would have enjoyed the match, but with some luck we'll have them back with us again soon.

And sometimes, that's all you can hope for.

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