Come together

Did you hear traffic was bad today?

Silverstone is not the easiest place in the world to get to, being as it is in the Middle of Nowhere, Northamptonshire, but sometimes the process becomes a bit ridiculous.

Technical Director Didier Perrin had an ... interesting journey to the circuit. Arriving at the airport in Paris yesterday, he discovered that his Canadian passport, the one he prefers to travel on, was out of date. His French passport was at home, of course, so he had to storm back home to find it, time ticking against him the whole way.

If only he hadn't packed it away in one of the boxes in his house, somewhere, ready for his forthcoming move.

About the same time, the photo shoot for the Valencia winners was supposed to be getting under way. Esteban was there, ready and waiting and happy to do whatever Al had planned, but Luiz was nowhere to be seen. "The photoshoot for Luiz is now?" Debbie asked, stunned, when Alexa rang Arden to find the wayward Brazilian. "I'm so sorry, but he's not in the paddock. I think maybe he's going around the circuit? I'll give him a call, and send him to you..."

Eventually, after becoming sick of waiting and worrying that the scarce light was going to disappear into the rapidly approaching gloom, Esteban was taken out onto the circuit for a photoshoot, with Al working on the age old "a driver in the hand" adage.

They were only a few shots in when Esteban said "oh, here he comes" as Luiz trundled around the corner on his bike, smiling widely at his friends from paddock as he sailed by with his iPod firmly in place.

When Al started waving frantically at the Brazilian, Luiz just waved back and rolled away.

It was only when he walked over sheepishly 10 minutes later, after being sent across by his team, that he realised that Al's gesture hadn't been entirely as friendly as Luiz had originally assumed...

After finally finding his passport, Didier did a quick search online but soon realised that there were no flights left open for him to get to the circuit yesterday evening: a quick call to Silverstone later he was behind the wheel of his car and starting the long drive towards Northampton.

It was about this time that the regular dinner for all GP2 staff got under way, with Didier providing us with something to laugh about, er ... I mean, something to talk about. When I heard about the epic journey he was undertaking, I immediately texted Didier to invite him (only slightly facetiously) to break up the journey by sleeping at my place, conveniently located about halfway, in London.

Politeness itself, as ever, Didier thanked me for my kind offer but noted that he would take a nap on the ferry across (shunning the train for the longer nap time), and then push on to Northampton to meet us in the morning.

Getting ready to leave this morning for the GP3 free practice session, we learned that he had pulled over in a rest area to take another nap, but would shortly be at the hotel, where he would take a quick shower to freshen up, and join us for the end of the session. And then we left for the track. Google Maps advises that the distance from Northampton to Silverstone is 15 miles. We left the hotel fairly early, at 7.45. It took us 2 hours to get into the circuit, and we were the quick ones.

As we had a coffee before heading out to the (other) pitlane for free practice, Jolyon Palmer's father Jonathan came running in to hospitality. "Can I please borrow one of the GP2 scooters?" he blurted out. "It's just that Jolyon and Marcus are still stuck in traffic outside the circuit, and we really need to go and get them out..."

If you take a look on Twitter, you will see a photo of the iSport pair, along with Rodolfo Gonzalez and Fabio Onidi, running across the circuit to get to the paddock. The four made it in time, just, got to the pits where the teams had their overalls and helmets ready, so they could jump in and get out before the pitlane closed.

The rain continued to fall, the session rolled out despite 3 red flags for spins - I read that there was only 86 laps in the session between the 26 drivers - and we waited for ages for a bus to take us the couple of miles back to our paddock. If only there was a timetable somewhere for track sessions, so that the track operators could know when people might need transport.

Didier, meanwhile had been directed off the main route to the circuit, and was being forced down a collection of ever smaller country lanes. He was no closer to getting to the paddock, but he did get near enough to pick up the circuit radio to listen to the session, which was nice. Jolyon made his way back to hospitality for lunch, and we had a collective moan about the diabolical traffic all around us. "If Didier ever gets here, you should stay away from him," Alexa advised, "he hates everything British today."

"Don't worry," he laughed back, "today, I do too!"

The messages from Didier's car were getting increasingly worrying as time floated past on the streams forming in the paddock as the ground water rose. Before GP2 free practice there was a solid stream of florid abuse towards anyone responsible for the mess all around the circuit, which after the session turned into long, random strings of swear words. During lunch it turned into random animal noises, probably not helped by Alexa sending a string of photos of everyone's lunch plates.

Eventually it turned into quiet weeping, and we didn't know where to look anymore.

We picked up our computers and headed to the end of the paddock, where the circuit was supposed to have buses supplied to move us all down to the other paddock. Needless to say it wasn't there, and when I saw a bus in the distance outside the paddock and ran towards it waving my arms high in the air, it took off without a glance back.

I'm not 100% sure, but I think Luiz Razia may have been driving it.

Another bus came along just before we gave up all hope, but he wouldn't let us on because he was pointing in the wrong direction: we would need to wait for a bus to be pointed towards the pitlane before we could board. When will the next bus be going that way, I asked. Oh, I'll be turning around in a few minutes, he replied flatly.

Didier finally made it to the paddock as the cars rolled out for the start of qualifying. Naturally, he couldn't find a bus to get him to the pitlane for the session, as it had already started, and he sat and watched in silence in hospitality.

I only noticed the big brace on Stefano Coletti's left hand after the session, when we were back in the paddock and wondering how we would be able to get away. "Oh yeah, I broke my finger in that crash in Valencia," he replied matter of factly, pulling the brace off as he did. "Here, feel the finger: you can really feel the break."

Take my advice: if someone makes this offer to you, just say no.

How do you drive like that, I asked queasily, and he showed me the way he now has to hold the wheel, with his first finger pointing straight out. But the gap between the wheel and the tub is really small, I pointed out: surely that means you're hitting it all the time? "Oh yeah," he laughed out loud, "I screamed all through the sessions, every time my finger hit the chassis."

It was after dinner that I noticed Stefano's engineer talking to Didier. At first I thought no good could come from that, but then I realised that, as much as Didier would be moaning about his journey through hell to Silverstone, it's still marginally better than listening to blood curdling screams for 30 minutes at a go.

But only just.


on Monday 9 Jul 2012 - 17:27 by Donna

Had no issue getting in and out of the circuit on Saturday... although I did abandon an attempt to walk down the Hangar Straight before the start of the feature race as it was too flooded, and was in no way going to climb the banking!

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