The Saturdays


Thank God for coffee!

Saturday is the work day in the paddock, the day where you get your head down and get through. Throw in some weather, you don't know what's going to happen to the timetable. We were in early for the GP3 qualifying (set at that time to clean the track for F1, seemingly), and there's nothing to be done but down another espresso and plough on.

Qualy down, press conference to watch Mitch Evans put a shine on his day despite losing pole by less than a tenth, then strip and re-assemble the press conference room for the GP2 race: better to do it now than run out of time. Back in for a coffee, and Marcus Ericsson's fan club organiser has a bunch of questions to ask. It's why we're here.

Cue Marcus himself, his fist clutching a bunch of passes tightly as though protecting them from yet unseen ninjas. His fan club hired a couch to bring a horde of them over (the Finns come to Hungary, because they seemingly speak the same language: the Swedes come to Germany), and he's been running around all weekend after them. I thought it was supposed to be the other way round, but then I don't have my own fan club.

"Don't forget the signing session, sweetie," Alexa reminded the slightly manic driver (has he had more coffee than us? It seems unlikely, but theoretically possible) as he was running back towards the door. "What! When?" he spurted, panicked, and was not soothed by the response. "But I've got to go back to the fan club, and see the team, and..." Telling him to bring them along was greeted but a suitably horrified look. Everyone needs some space.

At least yesterday's rain held off, with just one small grey cloud in an otherwise pure azure sky. Obviously, it was over our paddock. But we donned our sunglasses, cat-herded the drivers into a fleet of paddock vans, and drove over to the big stage in the fan zone for them to be stared at, and have a random assortment of goods thrust under their noses to sign.

Which is when the rain came.

The rain was so heavy that everyone - drivers, workers, fans - all had to squeeze into the back couple of metres of stage space and wait it out. The girl running the show couldn't understand what was happening - all round us the sky was still blue and clear, and yet we had a biblical level storm flooding the stage. "It's just GP2," I noted, "we bring our own weather with us."

Eventually it slowed enough that we could peel ourselves off each other and stretch out slightly. Luiz Razia kept trying to hide from Alexa, hoping if she can't see him, he won't have to do anything until it was time to go. She ruined his plan by getting the German announcer to interview him, while Davide Valsecchi sat in the corner looking miserable, because he's Italian and it was clearly time for lunch.

Get the drivers back to the paddock, repeat the process with the GP3 drivers, except with blazing sun instead of rain. Go figure. Gulp down a bite of lunch, watch a bit of F1 qualy, head out to the pitlane. More of the same, but with added rain. I'd spoken to Johnny Cecotto while we were waiting out the storm on stage and he was pinning all his hopes on changeable conditions: "I'm P17, it's all the chance I have." When it rained and then stopped just ahead of the race, I swear I could see his smile through his helmet.

It worked out perfectly for him, with Stephane Richelmi following suit: I spoke to an engineer afterwards who admitted yeah, he'd considered it, but a race is always a toss up between gambling for a big win and claiming the smaller results you know can come if you are conservative. Racers are defined by wins. Race teams are judged by their results. Sometimes it's Hobson's choice.

Even more rain, a GP3 race behind the safety car, time to write a report in the meantime. Then the GP2 podium drivers split between wanting the press conference to start on time, and wanting to watch the last 2 minutes of the rain-delayed GP3 race. Richelmi won. In, talk, change back drop, talk, look at watch, and it's 8.00 somehow.

Quick bite, and back to work.

Saturday is the work day in the paddock, and we're still going. So are all of the teams, of course, and this week we've got Carlin next to us. It turns out that they like AC/DC to help with the workload: Alexa, not so much. It could be worse: in Silverstone, Jenzer were playing Kylie Minogue all weekend. Say what you will about her singing ability, Can't Get You Out Of My Head is aptly named.

And now it's back in my head. Bugger.

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