“Are you going to write a blog this weekend?” asked Marcus Ericsson as he entered our office to pick up his season pass. “Of course. If I find some interesting stories to tell... Do you have something for me?” The Swede smiled: “No. But make sure you talk about me!” he said as Penny Whitaker from FOM handed him his pass. His look as he collected it was pretty similar to almost all of the men in the paddock, a look of utter disbelief colouring his face. For the eighth season, the official pass is pink. And sparkly. And very Barbie-like! Of course, every girl, all seven of them working in the paddock, find it extremely cool whereas the men are afraid it threatens their virility.
We arrived in Sepang earlier this week and were greeted to hot temperatures and high humidity. It feels like summer in the middle of the month of March which matches the sunny feeling in our hearts as we are about to embark upon a new and exciting year of GP2. Our season opens far away from Europe and we set up camp on a parking lot next to the pitlane entrance. No Europe means no catering as we are usually attended too by the awesome Christian Staurenghi. No Europe also means no trucks and our teams are working under a huge tent, firmly closed in order to keep some welcome fresh air, provided by the air conditioning.
This Thursday was all about track walks, pit stop practices and pictures. “Alexa I am so sorry...” said Alessandro Baldo, Venezuela GP Lazarus Team Manager. “Fabrizio is late for the photoshoot because he is lost on the highway coming to the circuit!” These things happen I hear... I sent Nigel Melker, Jon Lancaster, Giancarlo Serenelli and Josef Kral to the F1 paddock to have their picture taken while I ran to the Lotus GP garage to find James Calado pretty relaxed and lovingly cleaning his helmet. “You’re late!” I told him. He looked at me bewildered before he finally remembered that he too had to smile pretty for the camera. These things happen as well.
I found Stefano Coletti in the catering area, showing off his tan: “I’ve spent the last few days training in Kenya. It’s such a beautiful place there. It’s amazing. And the weather was perfect to prepare myself for here.” Just as he finished that sentence, heavy rain started to fall and I saw poor Alastair running with his camera and two helmets to find shelter. “Are we still having the class picture today?” asked Stefano. “Yes”. “But what if it rains?”. “We will do like Alastair: run and take cover!”
There is a first time for everything and after four years of GP2, I decided to organise a photo with all twenty-six drivers standing on the start/finish line. I remember in 2006 at Valencia for the opening round of the second season, then press officer Will Buxton, stressing out and running everywhere to get this picture done. Back then, I thought it was pretty funny. Today, I was just as stressed as he was. I’ve spent the last two days reminding every driver of this photoshoot: “It’s at 3:30. Remember 3:30: at the start/finish line. Please, be on time”. I must have sounded like a broken record. Or a crazy lady. Or just plain annoying.
I walked all the way up the F1 pitlane just before 3:30 with my big board stuck under my arm. Like a crazy lady. I found Marco Codello on the start/finish line installing the chairs. “Do we do two lines or three lines?” Fritz Van Eldik – a well-respected F1 photographers who saw me and my board, saw an opportunity to turn this session into a photo call, suggested we’d do three. “Ok”, said Marco “26 divided by three. How much is it?” My mind turned blank, surely due from stress, but after some highly scientific calculations, we were just about ready as I saw a sea of GP2 drivers walking towards us and on time. Nagging works! Almost... I started to place them all, some sat, some standing, some in the back standing on the chairs, team by team, calling them by numbers in front of an attendance consisting of photographers, team managers, PRs, and hoping I would not miss anyone. “Arden are not here” said Nigel quietly as I realised that indeed I was missing numbers 22 and 23. I called Deborah Lyall: “We’re here! We’re here! So sorry!” she replied as I could hear her practically running. “When they get here, you need to applaud them” Marco told the rest of the field who were patiently waiting in the heat. Luiz Razia and Simon Trummer eventually made it. Cue to a round of applause. The Arden duo stood in the middle of their competition. Smile. Click. Done. Now on to racing!