Back in the saddle

A story of cold weather, lost drivers and a cast

I'm sorry, I really am trying to write a blog to bring you all up to date with the start of the new season, but it is so cold in the paddock right now that I'm struggling to bend my fingers enough to type. Which is bad enough, but made far, far worse by the fact that Alexa is back in her toasty warm hotel room, ordering room service and probably watching TV while the rest of us shiver uncontrollably at the back of the hospitality area.

I should probably go back a bit to explain. Excuse me while I blow on my hands to warm them up enough to continue.

For the last few days everyone I knew was completely jealous that I was about to head out to Istanbul: this lasted right up until the moment I checked the weather forecast online and found out that it was going to be cold and wet here, upon which they proceeded to laugh and point out that London was due for mid twenties temperature and lots of sun.

I honestly didn't think it would be too bad, even though I had to beg Marco to give me a fleece here a couple of years ago. I never seem to learn.

At least it wasn't raining when I arrived yesterday afternoon, but the drive across town in the middle of peak hour (which usually lasts from 4.30 to 23.00) for the long crawl to the launch venue more than made up for it. The taxi driver apologised throughout the trip, but at least I only have to deal with it once a year, rather than as a profession.

This year's launch was held at the Billionaire Istanbul, one of a string of venues owned by Flavio Briatore across Europe and located under a very exclusive hotel in Beshiktas, on the European side of the Bosphorous. Walking down to the bottom floor I finally found Alexa, her feet up on a cushion as she almost lay down on the sofa in front of the stage: she waved to me, but made no effort to get up and say hello.

To be fair, I should probably point out that she broke her ankle in a car accident a few of weeks ago: someone ploughed into her car as her husband Yvan couldn't get away and avoid the impact, and she's been in pretty much constant pain since then. She finally got out of the regular cast and into a lightweight travel one just before flying here, but it's an awfully long way from ideal.

I'm not completely sure which bit has upset her more: the pain, or the fact that she can't chase down a driver to give them a telling off when they need it. Luckily, the club was full of tall attractive Italian girls, who all work there: the drivers were all on their best behaviour as they tried to impress.

Well, those who made it were, anyway: Sam Bird didn't even get to the venue, and gave a pretty week excuse for his non-attendance. “I was supposed to follow the bus, but he was driving all over the place, on the hard shoulder and everything!” “You're a racing driver, and you couldn't keep up with a guy in a bus?” “He was mad, though! But I was with him until we got to the toll gate: he went through the bit on the side without paying, I had to scramble around for some money, and he was long gone by the time we got through...”

He wasn't alone: Fairuz Fauzy got stuck in traffic too, and arrived just as the show finished: I pointed this out and he just sighed and turned back around, looking to head back out again.

Luca Filippi was delighted to be there though: the next morning he noted "I really, really loved the party last night. It's too bad we had to work today, otherwise I would have stayed much longer!" The climate can't have helped with that, either: we arrived in the paddock with rain falling, and little we could do to stop the freezing wind blowing through the hospitality area, which was built for a summer racing series...

Everyone had heard about Alexa's injuries though, and went out of their way to make her feel a little better. ART were the first off the block, bringing a large blanket down and draping it over her gently so as to keep her warm (without bringing one for me, obviously), and even Karun Chandhok came down from the F1 paddock after his free practice to say hello.

“Where's the patient?” he smirked as he walked across the paddock. “Everyone has heard about the accident: I thought I'd come and see how she's doing.” He sat with her for a while getting up to fetch her a coffee and swapping gossip for a while.

Our free practice came and went, the conditions catching out the ART pair at turn nine as everyone worried about their wet weather tyre quota, but at least the rain stopped for qualifying, even if the temperatures struggled to get into double digits.

It was about this time that Alexa told me she had to go back to the hotel: she was clearly struggling with the pain, and Marco gave her a lift back as we carried on, and she was soon emailing me with details she needed reports for. Which is why I was trying to find out details of Davide Valsecchi's penalty.

I wanted to know why the Italian had stopped on track before rolling back down the hill, and I saw Gavin and Richard from iSport waiting in the queue for dinner. “So I didn't see what happened: did he stall, did he spin, or was it something else?” “I don't know: you'd have to ask AirAsia, he doesn't drive for us anymore.” “Oh, yeah...”

At least I got through the press conference without saying the wrong team names...

Which led me up to now, typing away furiously and trying to keep my fingers from seizing up. So what do you think, Alexa: is this enough? Can I please come back to the hotel now? I promise to fetch you coffee tomorrow...


on Friday 6 May 2011 - 20:33 by arosaupala

Welcome back!
We missed your blogging, although GP2 Asia entries were very fun to read, too :DD

on Friday 6 May 2011 - 20:44 by Donna

Ahh, new season, new blog :)

I hope Alexa makes a speedy recovery!

on Saturday 7 May 2011 - 15:40 by Iberian M.P.H.

Yeah, life is full of challenges. I suppose the proximity of the sea and all that can cause a few weather-related mishaps in Turkey; I'm sure we'd all gladly "shiver uncontrollably at the back of the hospitality area" if only we had a chance to be there. Feels like we'll have a decent GP2 season ahead and I'm betting on Grosjean to win it, just like the Asian series and the first race of the main championship. Thanks for the blog.

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