25 June 2010 // 21:47
By David Cameron - 7 comments
The more I think about it, the more I think we weren't supposed to come to Valencia. Initially it was almost impossible to get a flight here: one airline on strike, another with no return leg on Sunday, until Marco finally found a flight from the wrong airport and told me I'd have to make do. And then when I finally got to the airport yesterday there were no planes.
I wasn't alone in that respect: unknown to me everyone else was struggling to get here too, because the French air traffic controllers were on strike. No reason was given at the airport, but the best excuse was given by one of the passengers, who figured that they had gone out in protest at the antics of their football team.
I've heard crazier excuses for a strike, so maybe it was true.
But it was causing no end of problems. Alexa organised a photo shoot with the six race winners so far this year for earlier today, and had to make do with only five (Charles Pic ended up driving from the south of France, but was stuck in traffic around Barcelona by the time he was supposed to be suited and booted in the pitlane).
Jerome d'Ambrosio had a plane problem too: he arrived early at the circuit, but his race suit was with Dams' communication boss Claire, who was stuck at the airport in Paris and unable to help. Until, that is, she came up with the brilliant idea of calling Renault and asking if they could lend the Belgian one of Robert Kubica's suits for the shoot.
“You can photoshop it afterwards, right?” Jerome dubiously asked Alastair as he was setting up the shot. “Sure, no problem,” came the reply. “But can you just push up behind Sergio there. And maybe roll your sleeves up a little. And the belt, just in case...”
And being stuck at the airport for a few hours meant I couldn't see the Italy match: frustratingly I could hear the reactions from the guys watching at the bar back in the terminal, but I wasn't allowed to walk back into the main area. It turns out that the Italians are not very popular in the UK: who'd have guessed?
They were much more popular in the paddock though, as all the Italian teams who had made it to Valencia were watching the game in the hospitality area with Marco, Christian and the catering crew. But the result didn't go to plan: the crowd shrunk with every goal, until Marco was left throwing (plastic) glasses around and swearing to himself after the final whistle before stomping off in a huff to annoy Alexa about the French team.
The Italian numbers were down too, as many of them were also stuck without flights due to the strike. Journalist Roberto Chinchero was in Milan and organised a convoy of GP2 personnel, including Davide Valsecchi and, bizarrely, Heikki Kovalainen. The group all headed for the coast, with the iSport driver tearing off into the distance in his Cayman, but being constantly overtaken by Roberto as Davide had to stop every 250 kilometres or so to fill the tank...
12 hours on the road, but they made it in time for free practice. Which made his third position look even more impressive that it had originally seemed.
Certainly more so that Sam Bird, who had a torrid time in the session, finishing early when he found the wall a few minutes in and prompting a red flag period while the marshals cleaned up after him. The Briton looked a little sheepish back in the paddock, when I noticed a large cut on his head. I asked him if it was from the crash, but he sighed and said no.
“I was on holiday with my girlfriend, and there was a great pool at the place where we were staying. I was swimming a lot, to keep up the fitness, but I was getting a bit bored with it, to be honest. So I started doing the worm, you know, going up and down with my head and body to get through the water. It's quite good for the neck muscles, actually.
“So anyway, I started really getting into it, really going for it, flying through the water. And I wasn't really paying attention to where the edge of the pool was...”
Back on track and Sergio Perez was picking up where he left off, topping the practice session and continuing the strong form which saw him invited to meet the Mexican president between races. Sergio has become really popular back home, and his father was delighted to show us a number of photos of his son with the politician.
But one photo had us intrigued, where the pair of them both had their phones out at the same time. “That's my favourite!” Checo's Dad laughed, “right at that moment Sergio went on Twitter and said 'I am with the President', and the President went on Twitter and said 'I am with the victor of Monaco'!”
Alistair spotted the giant sombrero the team had draped over the flag on the front of their quad bike (most of the teams have flags hanging off the back at the moment, showing their support for the remaining teams in the world cup) and made Sergio wear it for a quick shot after practice: after qualifying his father came over to find us, and laughed that the shot was already on the front page of the main Mexican news website.
It's a small world, but I guess if the Mexican President tweets then I shouldn't be surprised about anything. Now if only we can persuade the French to put their strikes online instead, so that the rest of us can get on with our lives...