Sometimes motor racing is like being in the army. Okay, hear me out.
Ask anyone in the paddock and you'll find out there's a lot of "hurry up and wait", the need to be somewhere urgently, immediately, only to be left hanging around for ages before you're allowed to go in and do your job.
Today was a perfect example of this. GP3 qualifying was really early so it was a case of watch that, then find a scooter and quickly head over to their paddock across town to interview the top three for the website. Of course I had to find them first, which took longer than it should because they're not in our paddock, so you can't just go to the hospitality area and find them at the coffee machine.
So round them up, get them photographed and interviewed, then tear back because the GP2 race is about to start. Back upstairs to drop off the scooter and dictaphone, then straight back down the road to sit just outside Anthony Noghes for ages, because there was some problem in the Porsche race which meant everyone's timings were pushed back and we were going to start late again.
But it does mean you get to talk to everyone, as everyone is looking for a distraction from thinking about the next job they have, which is the feature race in Monaco, which even people who don't follow racing have heard of. This means pressure, and talking about something else means no pressure, so talking is what they do.
Johnny Cecotto was surrounded by so many friends and family, and as this was his best qualifying session so far there would be pressure on even if it wasn't the biggest race of the season. I kind of assumed he'd be stressed out and worrying - most racing drivers worry, it's how they deal with it that differentiates them - but he was smiling, laughing, looking like he didn't have a worry in the world. For a young guy about to head into a defining moment in his life so far, he was amazingly chilled out.
Davide Valsecchi was another driver not letting the size of the moment overwhelm him. It probably helped that he won here last year - there's nothing that relieves you from the stress of racing like winning a race - but I suspect the size of his lead in the championship helped too, as it's easier to think about how a few points would be nice, rather than worrying about how to engineer a win from further down the grid.
It probably didn't hurt that he had the Valsecchi Fan Club in full effect. These slightly strange gentlemen were soon entertaining everyone when they unrolled a giant banner (it might have been more useful affixed to a wall somewhere, but it's the thought that counts) and walked over to the Dams team with fluffy lions on their heads.
Yes, you read that right.
Davide couldn't help but laugh when he saw them, and was straight over to shake hands, sign autographs, and generally take advantage of a friendly crowd to talk about himself loudly and at length: the Italian almost looked disappointed when his team motioned that the gates were finally open, and it was time to head into the pitlane.
In the pitlane Stefano Coletti was mobbed like the local star that he is, and although he asked me why everything was running late he didn't seem even remotely bothered. Until, that is, Dani Clos came over and gave him a hug that didn't look like ending any time soon: clearly Dani misses our close knit community since he moved upstairs.
And then it was race time: time to get in the cars and go if you're a driver, time to wait for the end to see how it all worked out for everyone else. Even when the race was over and we'd all run out onto the track, we still had to wait for the top three to come back round, wait for the trophies and the anthem, wait for the champagne, the release.
Afterwards Caterina from Addax couldn't believe how long the wait had been: "I feel like it's the end of an exam," she laughed after a slow start to the season by her team's illustrious standards. "I feel like I can finally relax and breathe again, like the weight is off." And back in the paddock she was not alone: the ever-growing Venezuelan component had grown even further,with more people coming out of the woodwork, such as Pastor Maldonado's father dropping by to give his congratulations to Johnny in person.
Rosana, who handles the orders for parts in the paddock, was crying in the truck: "It's just really emotional: I know you will make fun of me, but it's so wonderful to see one of my people winning here, to hear the national anthem played for him and the flag go up, to see all the people out there who have come to see Johnny now. It's really emotional for me..."
And then we were supposed to wait to get the top three photo session done after lunch, but when Johnny asked if he could leave early because he had an important lunch with his sponsors and supporters, we had to hurry up Marcus and Giedo to accomodate. Marcus was upstairs at the coffee machine, of course, but Giedo was still in the truck in the middle of a debrief.
I stuck my head around the door and asked if I could borrow him for 2 minutes: the team were fine with that, and as we left we could hear Giedo's (Venezuelan) teammate Rodolfo Gonzalez clearly state "no problem, you can keep him, actually" as we walked down the stairs.
And now it's time to wait again, for the media party Stefano is hosting at his villa up the hill, so I thought I would pass the time by writing another blog: it's an efficient use of time, of course, but as the party is Stefano's it's quite likely that a lot of what happens won't be suitable for a family-friendly blog anyway...