It’s always such a great joy to come to Budapest. I find this city so very beautiful with its architecture and dolce vita. There is life everywhere you turn, a perfect balance between old tramways from the fifties and trendy bars. It takes about thirty minutes to go from city centre to the track, and once you arrive at Hungaroring, you can really feel that the locals are happy to have the F1 circus stop by. The main gate is always flooded by fans waiting to get a glimpse of their racing heroes, holding support signs for everyone to read. This year was particularly colourful with four local girls proudly holding a “We are horny” sign to proclaim their support to Red Bull Racing. Plus, the organisation is outstanding, starting with numerous shuttle buses from the support event parking to our paddock, and when you are on crutches that’s a mega plus!
However, there is one thing I do not usually appreciate about this place: the heat. It always feels like we are sitting in an oven and although hospitality manager Christian Staurenghi has upgraded our awning with air conditioning, you can still feel the sweat dripping from places you didn’t know you could sweat from. But this year, with the summer taking its sweet time to join in on the fun, we were not greeted by stupidly hot temperatures, much to our paddock’s chagrin.
“After such a miserable weather in Nurburg, I was really hoping for a bit of heat here,” Loic David, Dams team manager told me.
As I was putting up the press conference backdrop – or more accurately I was watching GP3 Series press officer Amanda Hunt mastering in the art of backdrop building as I was on sticker duties (one of the only reasons why I love having a broken ankle) – I received a phone call from Super Nova Team coordinator Patrick Moore: “I know you are incapacitated, but we are at Pirelli and no one is here”. I looked at my watch and realised that it was time to rush to a photo shoot with our drivers at our tyre supplier’s awning. I grabbed our photographer Alastair on the way, and as we arrived at the spot, most drivers were patiently waiting for us.
“What is this for?” asked Kevin Mirocha.
“Pirelli would like a picture with each of you with a tyre. They have something planned for Monza.”
I manoeuvred Christian Vietoris in front of Alastair’s camera after Thomas Couyotopoulo from Racing Engineering proudly mentioned that they had arrived first. When it was his turn, I told Luca Filippi “Be creative” and sure enough he ended up lying face down on top of a stack of tyres, pretending to fly. While the others were waiting for their turn, the conversation was fuelled by questions regarding the weather, naturally.
“Basically, they say it’s going to rain tomorrow morning and be dry in the afternoon. So whatever you do during practice will not be useful for quali” commented Sam Bird. When I asked the Brit why he named his iSport car “Kylie’s dirty little sister” he replied: “You know that Vettel’s car is called Kylie. So there you go. I liked calling my car Mary last year, but I cannot call them all Mary!”
That’s when I saw Sam’s 2010 teammate Jules Bianchi looking for me: “Sorry Alexa, but no one told me that I had to come for a photo shoot. Am I late?”
“I already have your picture with a Pirelli tyre. But thanks for stopping by anyway!”
The young Frenchman laughed a bit and left but not before I could compliment him on his new haircut.
The photo shoot ended just as GP3 drivers arrived. It was their turn to flash their best smile to the Series’ photographer Drew. Amanda came up to me, all proud: “See? My drivers are just as on time as yours”. Bless them!
It was an early start of the day today as GP3 Series first free practice kicked off at 8:45am. Time flies at the track and I barely had the chance to properly coffee myself up before all the GP2 teams were ready to depart for the pitlane. I was making my way through the trolleys when Andy Roche from Super Nova took pity on me and offered me a lift on their comfy quad.
”Did you hear there was going to be thunderstorms at 4pm today?” he asked me.
“Really? It’s going to be a fun quali!”
“More like a lottery you mean.”
In order to get to the pitlane, the trolleys have to drive through the last part of the track and into the pitlane entrance. The free practice session was a rather quiet one (quieter than GP3’s which saw a car barrel-roll) with Romain Grosjean leading the way. At the chequered flag, I hopped as quickly as possible back to Super Nova’s quad and enjoyed a ride home. To get back to the paddock, all trolleys take the pitlane exit, through turn 1 as we are located behind turn 2. As we started our procession, spectators in the grandstand clapped and waved at us. So we waved back. I felt a bit like the Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding day!
When it was eventually time for qualifying, I decided that Super Nova’s trolley was a bit too far and lazily stopped by Arden’s where I was offered a seat on their cool box (hoping it would not crumble under my weight). That’s where Deborah Lyall found me. “You stole my spot!” she laughed. “And by the way, it’s Jolyon Palmer, not Johnny. You made a mistake in your press release.” Yes, I tend to do that apparently...
The sun was still out for the session despite Andy’s weather predictions. It was eventful and a closely fought battle for pole, one that Luiz Razia won in the very last minutes. It looked as though Luca Filippi might spoil the Brazilian’s day: on his last attempt, the Italian clocked in a perfect first sector, but any chance he had to take pole was ruined when Adam Carroll spun at the chicane and prompted a yellow flag. The Caterham Team AirAsia pitwall cheered to celebrate their first ever pole and it was time to hitchhike again. It was Paul Jackson at iSport who felt bad for me and left me his seat. It turned out to be a very good trolley choice: their powerful quad overtook Carlin at the end of the pitlane exit and then Rapax on the outside of Turn 1! Unfortunately, we hit traffic before Turn 2 and entered the paddock in seventh...
I had organised the press conference at 5:30pm which gives me enough time to write my report, publish it and send it. One driver who would not miss it for the world was poleman Razia who was sitting pretty in the hospitality thirty minutes before it started. We walked over to our press conference room where an elated Marcus Ericsson and Luca Filippi already were. As everyone sat down and I got myself ready to ask the drivers questions, Luca fired one at me:
“Where is David? Did you fire him?”
“He is on pregnant wife duty.”
“But I thought it was not coming until another three weeks.”
“He just wants to take good care of his wife and make sure he is not going to miss anything”
“Ah! So you are alone this weekend?”
“Yes, so be nice to me”
An unnecessary request since I am truly convinced that I am working in the nicest paddock ever.