Sunday, 24 October 2010

Nailing my colours to the mast

I meant to post this ages ago, but finally I've got around to it...

There are still (just about!) 5 drivers in with a chance of winning the F1 championship.

Here's my order of preference:

1. Jenson Button (always and forever)
2. Mark Webber
3. Fernando Alonso (I just don't get the way he's F1's villain these days. He's not my favourite, but I don't dislike him)
4. Sebastian Vettel (I don't dislike him, I just don't want Mark to be beaten by his team mate)
5. Lewis Hamilton

So, if I'm grumpy or happy during/after a race, it's mostly because of the mix of how these 5 are doing in terms of the order above.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Life ain't the pits in the pits... (PART 2)

Marshalling tales continued...


For the Renault World Series the next weekend, I was there for Saturday and Sunday. And I was put..... in the paddock again. Right. You'll remember the rigmarole I went through last time, I was determined to find it this time.

As I walked into the Paddock Bar to sign on, I stood to look at the 2 queues of marshals and decide which one I wanted to be in. A lady was watching me do so, and so she started talking to me to help me pick which queue to join. Her name was Sue, and it turned out that she was the lady in charge of the paddock. HOORAY! So she told me exactly where I should find everyone. And the answer is...... Brooklands. The assembly area is right in front of the Brooklands Suite. So Mr Sign On's instructions the week before of "well, you know where the paddock is" with vague waving in completely the opposite direction of Brooklands was pretty much as wrong as you can get.

So I went to the assembly area at Brooklands (if a race doesn't start out of the pitlane, the cars will come along to the assembly area and we'll put them in order before they head off to the grid). But it turned out it was a VERY quiet day in assembly that day. There was about a 5 hour gap of nothingness in the middle. We enjoyed a bit of sitting in the almost sunshine and watching the cars go by, chatting and getting to know everyone and having a good laugh. And I had a potter about to explore the 'Renault Village' thing they'd set up for the crowds to investigate. But then when I got back to assembly there were still hours to go before we had any cars turn up again.

But then we got word that the pits were very short on people, and so would some of us like to go and help on startline?

Hell yeah! I'd heard of startline, but wasn't exactly sure what it involved, and it sounded a bit terrifying, so I definitely wanted to have a go!  So a group of us headed over, and we had to hang numbers out over the pitwall so that the drivers know which grid to line up in, and then we had to be ready there with our yellow flags in case anyone stalled.  (And in my second race, someone stalled right in front of me so I had to wave my flag like crazy!!)  Watching the grid starts from the pitwall is just amazing too. Love it!

And then the Chief Pits guy came over. Did anyone have any experience with pitstops? Everyone else said no. I said "ermm.... weeelll..... I was doing pitstops at Le Mans last weekend......."  He looked at me. And he said "Right. Lou. I know you're only a trainee - but you're in!" He gave me a few sheets of paper and a pen, a brief breifing, and sent me off the pitwall towards the garages he'd assigned to me. I had 2 cars, had to watch the stops and check 'yes' or 'no' for a few things, and that was that. It was fun, and now that I had an idea of what I was doing, being pushed in the deep end was ace. I clearly did an OK job, as Chief Pits then asked if he could steal me for the rest of the day, to keep doing startline and pitstops. Absolutely. I'd rather do that than sit doing nothing (as there was still nothing going on at assembly till the last session).

I also spent some time with the guy that started/ended all the races. He was like the Charlie Whiting of the day, I guess. But that was cool, coz it meant I got to watch a race start from up in the starting gantry (which is right below what used to be the footbridge over the straight, so it's the best view in the house). So that was a bit special too.

At the end of the day, Chief Pits guy asked if they could steal me the next day too. I knew the assembly guys would tease me for ditching them, but as I knew it was going to be fairly dead there on Sunday again, and the pits were short on folks so they needed me, it wasn't a hard decision to make. (Plus, the assembly guys spent a lot of time in the pits helping out with startline anyway!). I went back to the assembly paddock for the final session, to see what they did for it, and to break the bad news that I was ditching them...!!

Oh, and that Saturday night was my first night camping at Silverstone. It was great fun. My friend Chris was marshalling on the bank all weekend too, and he has a tent, so we had a good camping session (reliving the heydays of Spa!). One of the best things was sneaking into the grandstand opposite the pits at about 10pm and watching how some of the teams were still working away. Another good thing was rolling out of bed about 10 mins before having to sign-on, rather than getting up at 5:30am in order to drive back to Silverstone!

On Sunday, there were quite a few trainees turned up at the pits - some on their very first day, they'd only turned up because a friend had told them how short on people we were. So Chief Pits guy put everyone in pairs for the pitstops because no one had done them before. Except for me, I got put by myself. Because apparently I'm now experienced at these things..!!!  Which is fun :)

Startline all went well on Sunday. But I had a bit of drama with one of my pitstops - my car was released alongside another car that was already going down the pitlane!  So I had to write an incident report, and then I was summoned to talk to the stewards!!!!!!!

It was rather exciting being summoned to the stewards. I went and sat up in Race Control for a bit, waiting for them, and someone made me a cup of tea, and Sue from the assembly paddock had been stolen to do the race control phones (talking to all the marshals who were reporting all the different incidents going out on track), so I got to have a chat with her. And then I spoke to a British steward and told him what I saw. He went off and told a French Renault steward what I saw. The French stewards then thought for a long time about whether they wanted to talk to me directly or not. In the end, they decided not. So I went back down to the pitlane, only to have Sue run after me about 15 seconds later, saying that actually they DID want to talk to me. 

So they were a bit sheepish when I went in, having kept me waiting and then sent me packing, only to ask me back again! There were three of them in the steward's inquiry - I think two French Renault ones, and then a British guy too. I just told them exactly what they saw, they said "OK, thank you!" and that was about it.

It was all very exciting though - influencing a steward's inquiry!!!! I don't get to do THAT every day!!!!

So, yeah, I'm absolutely loving it. I do want to go back and spend a bit more time on the bank as a track marshal.... but so far, the pits have been awesome.

Life ain't the pits in the pits...

Hiya, I've been very slack with this all lately - I've been meaning to tell you about my marshalling adventures for ages. I've now done 2 days as a track marshal (at Bridge for the Silverstone Classic) and 3 days in the pits. Well, two and a half days in the pits, and half a day in assembly... I shall explain.

I'm just going to skim across the track marshalling days - it was fun, I loved it, but not many stories to tell. But the pits... ahhhh, the pits!


I only marshalled on the Sunday for this weekend. My friend Chris (from 'Team Belgium' when we went to Spa) was also there that day, doing his first day as a track marshal. We signed on, and - as expected - I was assigned to the paddock. I asked the sign-on guy where I should go to meet the rest of my paddock marshals. His response was, "well, you know where the paddock is, right?".  We were standing in the Paddock Bar at the time, which is (as the name might suggest) pretty much in the paddock, and so yes, I knew where the paddock was. He gestured vaguely towards the end of the paddock where Scrutineering is.  "Well, just go there, look out for the guy with the radio, he's the one in charge".

Right. Incredibly unhelpful, that.

So I pottered around the paddock, and I asked a few passing marshals if they knew where I should go. They didn't,   but they all tried to be helpful by suggesting places to go. One of them suggested I go to the office for the pits marshals, as they might be able to point me in the right direction. So I popped in, and they were mid-briefing (from a French Le Mans guy, and someone was then translating it) but one of the guys took me under his wing and was going to help me find the paddock marshals until he decided that actually it'd be much better if they stole me for the pits instead.

I'd been told that the paddock was going to be pretty quiet and so I might want to go out to a post around the track in the afternoon. So being stolen for the pits, where they were short of people and it was going to be busy, sounded like a good idea. So I allowed myself to be stolen. And had no idea what I was letting myself in for.

It was a 6 (ish) hour race, with lots of pitstops going on, so we were all assigned certain cars where we had to watch the pitstops and then talk to the fuel engineer and write down how much fuel they put in at each stop. Then we signed it and the engineer signed it, and the bit of paper went off to the LMS officials, in case there were any sort of disputes.

Everyone was in pairs, and I was teamed up with the lady that was Chief Pits. This pleased me, as I had NO idea what I was doing and I thought it was good that I was with the lady that knew EXACTLY what I was doing. But, to start with, not so much. 

Because she was Chief Pits, she had to make sure everyone else knew what they were doing too. So during the practice session and the Radical race before the LMS one started, she spent the entire time walking up and down the pitlane sorting things out and checking everyone else. Which is fine, because that's her job, and when she walked by me she'd smile and say something reassuring like "I haven't forgotten you!".... but, on the other hand, I felt like I'd absolutely just been lobbed into the deep end. I didn't have a clue what I was meant to do, or where I was meant to stand, or what I was meant to be looking out for. So I just tried to stand out of the way and look as if I knew what I was doing. But I couldn't help but think "What the hell am I doing here???" I wasn't a happy bunny. I felt totally out of my depth and lonely.

But before the LMS race started, Chief Pits lady turned up. Phew! She explained what we had to do during the pitstops, and reassured me it'd all be fine (as I was kind of doing my rabbit-in-the-headlights impersonation). 

We got to watch the start of the race from the pitwall... and WOW. That was properly incredible. The noise and the speed and the rush of air as they went by (rolling start) was just AMAZING. I had to actually hold onto my hat as it was about to blow off! It's worth marshalling just for experiences like that alone. (No one else gets to stand on the pitwall for the start of the races, just the marshals.)

I did the first few pitstops together with the Chief Pits lady (who was lovely). All went well and was very straightforward once you knew what you were doing. And the three engineer guys I had to talk to about the fuel level were all ace. There was Chris, Rich and Very Beautiful French Man (I don't know what his name was). We had four cars to watch, so Chief Pits lady and I split it so we had 2 cars each. 

But then during the race, she'd hear things over the radio that she had to go and investigate at the other end of the pits, and so she'd give me the books for her 2 cars and leave me on my own again. But by this time, I was perfectly happy on my own and thrived on having all 4 cars to watch. She'd come back after being away for 10 mins and I'd be like "yep, we had 3 pitstops in that time, but they all went fine!".

I don't know how many pitstops we had in total... 20.... 30...? There were lots, especially because Very Beautiful French Man's car was breaking more and more as the race went on, so it kept having to come in. But even when they had an issue with the fuel rig and the pit stop all went wrong and took forever and they couldn't get much fuel into it, the Very Beautiful French Man was still utterly lovely to me as I tiptoed up to him with my book to write down just how little fuel had managed to go in. I was a bit worried he'd be in a bad mood and snap at me, but instead he gave me a VERY French shrug and a grin and we did our bit of maths to figure out the fuel. (Maths!!! I didn't know I'd have to do MATHS!!! The terror.)

But anyway, yeah, it was great. I absolutely LOVED it all. It was brilliant being so close to the action (being very close to being run over by awesome Le Mans cars for 5 hours long) and feeling like you're actually contributing to it all by taking the official records and getting to talk to the engineers. And I got to potter along to the podium at the end and be part of the celebrations. And I adore just getting to swan around wherever I want at Silverstone. It feels like home.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Two quick thoughts....

1. As I mentioned in an earlier post on here, when I was little I told someone that when I grew up I wanted to be a "pitlane blonde" (you'll have to read it for that comment to make any sense)  

Well, admittedly I'm not really blonde, but in my own little way, this weekend was kinda it wasn't it? So, there's another of my dreams come true:
To top off a great day, I got given a free hat! Can't complain.

2. Formula One-wise, I grew up supporting Johnny Herbert. I supported Ricardo Zonta too. I've supported Jenson through some tough years. Same for Mark Webber. I support Timo and Bruno and 'Bob' (ALG). As such, I'm used to celebrating the minor victories - finishing ahead of your teammate, getting some points, maybe the occasional joyous day of getting a podium. A rare win thrown in just to make the world sparkle.

And yet right now I find myself in a truly bizarre - and yet wonderful - predicament. My favourite F1 driver is the REIGNING WORLD CHAMPION. (Yes, it's totally worth shouting it in capitals. I would shout it out loud in the street all day if I didn't worry about getting arrested for disturbing the public peace). 

And my favourite GP2 driver is the BRAND NEW GP2 CHAMPION. 

This is AWESOME. I think I'm just going to sit and soak it up while I can.  Because after a lifetime of supporting the underdogs, I still can't quite get used to this. :-)

Saturday, 11 September 2010

An emotional rollercoaster and a half...!

Here's a day in the life of a slightly over-emotional GP2 fan....

*Before the race starts*

Yay! Sam Bird is on the front row! I've followed his career for years (since he kicked Jenson's butt in a timed lap at a charity karting event I was at in '05) and he's steaming towards F1. He's had a fairly torrid season in GP2 this year, he's been mighty quick but it's been coupled with the poorest luck. However, he's still made that work for him in a way, there's a petition to rename a corner in Turkey "Sam Bird Corner" because he overtook there so many times (it's an "impossible to overtake there" corner), he's repeatedly fought his way up the field in a way that will definitely catch a few eyes on the F1 paddock, and he's not done anything hugely stupid. Good to see him back at the sharp end of the grid.

Boo. Pastor (my favourite, as you know) had a bad quali session and ended up 8th, his lowest qualifying this year. This is the penultimate race weekend of the season, and as long as Sergio Perez doesn't take 7 points out of his lead, he could tie up the championship here at Monza, and we won't have to wait NINE WEEKS until Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately, Pastor has been frequently caught out this season when he's been in traffic, so 8th is not a good place to be. It is what we shall refer to from now on as "The Danger Zone". (OK, so we might not actually refer to it as this, it depends how I feel).

Phew! Perez only qualified 7th. Pastor can keep him in his sights.

*The race begins*

Yay! Sam Bird has a blistering start and takes the lead at the first corner.

Phew! Perez has an aggressive start and immediately pulls across the track and pushes Pastor out to his right. But Pastor is brave and holds on, gets 3/4 of a length ahead of Perez, and moves back across the track to take his line, Perez can do nothing but let him take the place. (Remember Perez needs every point he can get, so he's not going to nerf Pastor out the race.)

Uh oh... It's pleasing that Pastor's up to 7th and is now sitting ahead of Perez, but he's still in The Danger Zone (hey look, it's stuck!) - and so there's no time to relax.

*A few laps later*

Yay! Sammy is awesome. He's in the lead, and he's rocking it. This is the position he was born to be in.

What the...? What.....???? NOOOOOOOOOooooooooo....!!! (I think that's the most accurate way of describing it, without using un-family-friendly words) The SexySexySafetyCar had just come in, and I'd watched Pastor go into the first corner calmly ahead of Perez. The camera cuts away, and thens cut back to an onboard shot of car 15 traipsing over the gravel. Pastor. Something's clearly gone wrong. And I mean VERY wrong. This is why we call it The Danger Zone.

As far as I can tell from the replays, Pastor had gone into the corner at a non-ridiculous pace and in a non-stupid way. There were lots of cars around. The car in front of him, Romain Grosjean (who incidently took him out of a previous race, so I'm calling shenanigans) suddenly slowed down and almost came to a complete stop. There was no time for Pastor to react, and nowhere for him to have gone if he had done (there was a car immediately on his right, and although there was no one to his left, he was too far right to have ever got to that gap). Well, there was ONE way to go... and that was up.  So up he went. He had a little fly over Grosjean, then had a bounce across the gravel trap. He got back to the pits and changed the front of his car, but it clearly was more fundamentally broken than just needing a new nose.  Boo. :(

So now Perez was 8th (he'd dropped a spot in the melee) and Pastor was right at the back and clearly not going to last long. This wasn't what I would call good. 8th is a terrible position for Perez to be in, as it means he'll start tomorrow on pole. Let's just hang on and hope Perez somehow doesn't get any points.

*A lap or two later*

Stop breathing. There's a white car in the wall. There is a white car. In the wall.

Heart stops beating until it's confirmed. It's Perez. The white car in the wall is Perez's white car. He's out of the race.

(At this point you must picture me making some kind of inhuman squeaking sound, jumping to my feet, and bursting into tears. As I said at the start, slightly over-emotional.)

The problem is, and I'm sure I've said this before - I LIKE Perez. I have no reason not to. He is smiley and seems very nice from what little I've seen of him. And he's a very good driver. And so I felt terribly bad for being so pleased that he was out of the race, and he'd had quite a big shunt and was clearly feeling a bit sore as he got out the car, so I really hope he's absolutely OK and I in no way wished him any harm. I didn't want to him to CRASH out of the race. I just wanted him to BE out of it.

Glee/Disappointment So at this point, we (the commentators, me, the Rapax team) reckon the championship is Pastor's now. And whilst this is what I've been waiting years for, it was bitter-sweet, because that really wasn't the way I wanted him to win the title - he pitted twice after his accident (interestingly at the second pitstop, one of the pitcrew was clearly signalling that he shouldn't be let out yet, that something needed sorting first, but he was still let out - luckily it wasn't anything too dangerous, as nothing fell off the car or plunged him off the track). But then the car clearly wasn't working, so they brought him in and retired him. Not really the finish of a champion. But big hugs all round for the Rapax team as Pastor got out the car.

Wheeeeeeeeeeee! And Sammy won, by a good 8 seconds or so. BRILLIANT. I am ever so, ever so pleased for him.

Confusion hits But actually.... Pastor's championship title isn't definite yet. After much online searching (it's a reeaally bad day for the GP2 website to die!)  and discussion and tweetifying, we all figure out that actually, if Perez wins all 3 remaining races, with a clean sweep of fastest laps and pole position across the board - he will win the Championship. Because for some slightly inexplicable reason, sprint race wins are deemed equal in championship terms as feature race wins. For the feature race, the winner probably qualifies somewhere up front, they manage the pitstop window to perfection, and they race a long race to the win. In the sprint race, the winner finished in a mediocre spot the day before (8th place gets the pole), and they just put their foot down and zoom to the end. In fact, sometimes Perez could be deemed as having fought slightly less hard at the end of a feature race, in order to secure a better starting position for the feature race.  So should a sprint win REALLY count the same as a feature race, when it comes to "most winningest"?? Hmmmm.

I know that winning a sprint race is still a good thing, I'm not saying it's easy or should be worthless, but...  If it comes down to deciding a championship on who's the "most winningest" (I swear that's not a word...!) then shouldn't features count slightly differently to sprints? Feel free to join the debate.

Anyway, so now the Championship rolls on to tomorrow. The odds of Perez winning and getting fastest lap are slim (as he'll be starting towards the back). But it's possible. So I'll be marshalling at Silverstone, but I'll have my fingers hugely crossed for Pastor still.

And not only fingers crossed for Perez not getting all the points on the board. But fingers crossed for Pastor having a decent race. There's this whole "Maldonado can't drive in traffic" thing, which I'd like him to be able to lay to rest at least a little bit by the end of the season. As it is actually a load of codswallop.

I've just, as I type this, investigated all his sprint race results this year. And it proves my point well. In 8 sprint races, he's had two accidents. One where he made contact with Grosjean and it was deemed by commentators at the time as 50/50 (so he wasn't driving wildly, it was just unfortunate) and the other was that whole black flag nonsense that I've talked about at length before, after he and Perez made contact (so apparently Perez can't drive in traffic either?... oh no wait, he's the Sprint King). Otherwise his only non-finish was due to a mechanical gremlin at the start of the sprint race at Spa. His sprint results have otherwise been: (start position/finish position) 3rd/3rd, 7th/11th, 8th/6th, 8th/4th and 8th/4th. So he's hardly a liability. Two incidents in sprint races, and he's branded by some as incapable of driving in traffic without causing an accident. This isn't 2008 anymore. He's changed. But the naysayers had even tricked me into thinking he couldn't really do sprint races. He CAN do sprint races. *cough*just not the last three*cough*.

I hope he kicks butt tomorrow. The pressure is pretty much off now. He can just DRIVE.

I hope.

He'll be way down the order though, surrounded by people who drive like he used to sometimes drive. This position on the grid isn't just in The Danger Zone... this is, um, I dunno, The Grid Position of Doom ?? Or 'potentially-but-hopefully-not doom' anyway. But that's less catchy.

Is this blog long enough yet? Oh yes, I think so. Maybe I should start planning these out, rather than just typing as the words fall out of my head and ending up with the longest bits of nonsense ever. Oh well, sorry! x

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The marshals at Spa

My friend Chris and I have both recently joined the Silverstone Marshals Team, so we took great interest in watching what the marshals at Spa got up to:

Smoking on Post
One of the first things we noticed was that the majority of the marshals were smoking on post, during the races. That has got to be a bad idea, surely?? I couldn't really get my head around that. A lot of them would have an umbrella in one hand, and a fag in the other. I know you've got a few seconds after a crash to let things settle before you run out to the rescue, but this still doesn't seem like the optimum marshalling stance to me.

Red flags
OK, for this one I'm not saying that this was the marshals being rubbish, as I assume it must have been down to the way the Spa-Francorchamps circuit is designed, but the number of red flags was ridiculous. 

In the support series, if someone went off the track then it would be red flagged almost without exception whilst they busied themselves with removing the car. The biblical rain played its hand of course, but it seemed strange that most crashes just immediately got the red flag treatment. (There were 7 or 8 red flags on Friday - admittedly the weather was horrible, but still). There were fewer red flags on Saturday and Sunday, because they'd bring the safety car out during races instead. (And we saw the safety car so many times that for a little while the 5 of us even stopped shouting "SEXYSEXYSAFETYCAR!!!" every single time we saw it).

I'm not really sure what they'd do to fix the situation though, as I assume the main problem was the combination of getting the recovery vehicles to the stricken cars and the repeatedly torrential rain meaning that the young guns struggled to keep the cars on the track.

The funniest track action came courtesy of a marshal during one of the support series sessions. One guy crashed his car backwards into the tyre barrier, clearly injuring his rear wing in the process. You could see that the wing was broken at one side. 

Along comes a marshal, clambering over the tyre barrier behind the car. The tyres are quite high, so when it came to jumping down from them, the marshal put a hand on the rear wing of the car to steady him as he jumped down.

However, the wing was (obviously) broken, and wasn't strong enough to hold the weight of a grown man. As he leant on it, the entire wing just snapped off the back of the car!! I imagine the team wasn't best pleased about this..! (but gosh it made me laugh).

When I've been at Silverstone, the guys have always told me that drivers can get a bit funny about you touching their car because they worry about you breaking them by putting pressure on the wrong bit.  If ever I get near a car when I'm on post, I will now always think of the image of that marshal collapsing onto the gravel with bits of rear wing falling around him...!! I'll try my best to never re-enact his comedy moment.

Best seats in the house
Being a track marshal at Spa looks like a BRILLIANT idea. They have the most absolutely stunning views of the track, and without any of those pesky fences in the way. There were several posts where we would point at them and be like "imagine being THERE!". Once we've got some marshalling experience under our belts we'll have to consider trying to get a place out there, that'd be awesome. Even if I will feel like the odd one out by not smoking on post.....! ;-)

My next day marshalling is a week today (Sunday 12th) at Silverstone for the Le Mans Series. It's been ages since my last go, so I just can't wait! I'm going to start off in the paddock, which will be cool to experience... I'll probably come back here to tell you all about it.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Spa - GP(naught-point-)2

So, as I mentioned - I went to the Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. It was utterly amazing. I genuinely gasped the first time I saw Eau Rouge looming up in the background, and we stayed to watch the start of the F1 FP1 from the F1 Village so that we could watch the cars go up Eau Rouge, and it was incredible. My friends and I just looked at each other with ridiculous grins on our faces every single time a car went up that amazing hill...

A photo will never do it justice. Especially not this photo.

Anyway, I'll talk more generally about the trip and about Spa later. But first things first - let's talk about GP2. The GP2 was ace.

Of course, it didn't start so well. The cars were only out for a few minutes of the practice session on rainy rainy Friday before someone crashed and the rain was so heavy that the red flag came out and stayed out. We watched the time just tick away until the session ended without the track being open again. Such a pity.

A little while later, it was time for qualifying. Race Control decided to go for the world record of number of red flags shown in one session. There were at least 4 red flags. It should have been a 30 min session, but there were so many breaks that it lasted at least twice that long. In fact, one break was so long we walked all the way from Pouhon back to Eau Rouge (via the F1 lorries and the blimp) before the green light came back on in the pitlane. It was tense but good, and Pastor ended up third which was acceptable.

Pastor on the big screen, Eau Rouge at our side.

Saturday dawned (with the occasional spot of sunshine), and poor Herck had his pole position taken away from him for yellow flag related naughtiness. This put Pastor onto the front row, which is where I like him to be. The race wasn't exactly straight forward for Pastor on Saturday, in fact it was his toughest race of the season. He put in a very solid performance from the start and JUST managed to leap ahead of Jermone d'Ambrosio at the pitstop. It was heart-stopping stuff, but he came out his box mere centimetres ahead of d'Ambrosio who'd pitted at the same time. (Alternative rubbish blog titles: "DAMN, Brosio!" or "Ooh ahh, it's d'Ambrosia")

Pastor wasn't quite in the lead though- Alvaro Parente was out front, but he still had to pit, after which Pastor would be P1. But before he could pull away from d'Ambrosio, something went a bit wrong with Pastor's car. We've not found out what went wrong, but his way of describing it in the press conference was that something in it was 'rubbing' and so he started to lose time and d'Ambrosio caught and passed him again.

Interestingly, Pastor says that he let Jerome through without fighting him so that he didn't lose time battling. It was a long-term strategy for the race - letting d'Ambrosio through, sacrificing 2 points and hoping that the trace of smoke spotted coming out of the rival car earlier in the race would turn into something bigger.  This was judged to be a the lesser of two evils when the other alternative was to fight the attacking moves from d'Ambrosio, stress the car out with the defensive driving, get caught up by the rest of the field, and probably get passed for the win (and more?) eventually anyway due to the lack of pace from the broken car.

I admit my initial reaction to this was - "WHAT?!". Pastor is a racer and a fighter and he does not give things up easily. This is what caused him to crash out of so many races in previous years - his inability to let go once he'd sniffed the chance of something. Admittedly he's tamed this wild streak immensely, but it still seems so un-natural to give away a win. (It sounds like the team told him he should, as Perez was out of the points at the time so it wasn't sacrificing too many championship points to his main rival).

But when I think about it, that one decision gave him the chance to win the race. If he'd lost any time fighting d'Ambrosio for that position, then they'd have lost time to Parente and Parente would have been able to simply leapfrog into the lead after his last-minute pitstop. And the smoke that Pastor had seen come from d'Ambrosio's car earlier in the race DID turn into something bigger - at one point, Jerome's car gave up the ghost and drifted to a halt. Pastor had his place back. And he was still a good 7 or 8 seconds ahead of Romain Grosjean, who was now third.

For a moment, everything was serene. Then with only 3 laps to go, Parente (who had started 19th and absolutely drove his socks off) came in to pit. Just as a few little spots of rain started to fall. He rejoined the track just in front of Grosjean - about 7 seconds down on Pastor. But Pastor's car was struggling round (the Eurosport commentators kindly referred to him as "a dead duck", but I don't think they realised his car was broken) and Parente was on the right tyres - tyres that are known to perform at their best for around about the first three laps. And he had three laps to go. He absolutely FLEW. He took three seconds out of Pastor's lead in the first lap. I swear my heart stopped beating.

When they started the last lap, Parente was a second or so behind Pastor, but he was driving like Billio. (I assume Billio drives quickly). When they came past us at Pouhon, Parente was only just a corner behind. I swear I stopped breathing. I peaked out at the track and the TV screens between my fingers for the rest of the lap - I couldn't bear to watch, but didn't want to miss it.

As they disappeared out of view, Parente was visibly catching Pastor - but Pastor was driving inch perfectly in the spitting rain, not over-driving, not panicking, just calmly putting his car in all the right places and getting it to the finish line as fast as he could. I resigned myself to the fact that Parente would overtake him, Pastor was powerless to it. Oh well. Second place wasn't bad, I guess. Let's try not to be too miserable when it happens. Don't let it ruin the weekend.

But Pastor kept going, kept holding on. He went deep into the Bus Stop and Parente got half a look, but Pastor still had it under control and managed to cross the line 0.2 seconds ahead of the other car. Wow. (Yeah, see, the blog title almost makes sense now..)

But it brings me back to a previous point - if Pastor had lost time by fighting with d'Ambrosio, then he would have been gobbled up by Parente with ease. So somehow, letting Jerome past ended up gaining him places. Funny how things work out in the end.

Pastor coming out of Pouhon
I must take a moment to say that both d'Ambrosio and Parente drove incredible races. Jerome was terribly unlucky that his car died on him, and Parente was immense to almost win after starting back in 19th. He played the game ever so well by waiting till the last minute to pit, and if he'd won then he'd have deserved it and even I would have (grudgingly!) admitted that. But Pastor drove incredibly well, and incredibly maturely, and if his car hadn't been slowed down a bit by the rubbing then he would have romped away into the distance.

Of course, whilst Pastor was racing for his life (well, for his title), all wasn't well with my other GP2 favourite, the unfortunate Sam Bird. Sam is an incredibly talented driver (I always tell people about how he was quicker than Jenson at a charity karting event a few years ago) but he's just having horrendous Johnny Herbert/Mark Webber luck this season. He can't catch a break. He's good at Spa and was looking forward to it - but he got taken out at the first corner of the feature race. I was a bit heartbroken for him. The sprint race wasn't much better. Roll on Monza... we've just got to keep the faith that one day he'll start getting the results that he deserves.

Also, we'd gone to all the effort of making him a sign and he only got to drive past it about three times...! Not that he'd have seen it at all, but it's the principle of the thing.

The world's most unimpressive sign - but I did draw it in the dark...
Incidentally, lots of people who left straight after the F1 quali and didn't stay for the GP2 walked past us to get out, and they would stop to read the sign. And they'd sort of smile, and then look confused, and then look blank and walk off. I felt like shouting after them all "Just you wait two years - then you'll know who the hell Sam Bird is!" But they were probably foreign so wouldn't have understood. ("Le oiseau? Je ne comprende pas!")

(And let's not talk of Sunday's sprint race. Pastor's car didn't last a whole lap, Sam had a miserable race and Johnny Cecotto (my second favourite Venezuelan) lasted five laps. And, to add insult to injury, Perez (second in the championship battle) won, so closed the gap up to Pastor again. I like to pretend Sunday's race didn't happen...! Thankfully, Saturday's race was awesome enough to make up for it.)

My pointless Pastor banner enjoys one of the best views on the circuit

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Spa 2010


I'll tell you all about it when I get back I'm sure.

What a lovely way to celebrate the end of a very, very long F1 summer holiday.... by getting to see the cars in the metal.

Go go go Jenson, Mark, Timo, Bruno and Bob.  Not to mention the almighty Pastor Maldonado. And Sam Bird. And Jack Harvey. And Adrian Quaife-Hobbes (Quaifey). And James Jakes. And Oli Oakes. And everyone else I'm going to be cheering like a crazy person over the weekend.

Can't. Wait.

...Eau Rouge!

Apparently I can't type in sentences anymore. So I'll sign off.

I'll be back in a week or so.


Friday, 13 August 2010

Zonta: He's always been the (GT) one for me...

I went to see the GT1 race at Silverstone a couple of months back, when it was the first race weekend at the new track there. I was very excited to see the first race held on the new section (and we sat at the top of the grandstand on the inside of Maggotts and had THE best view of half of the track, I would highly recommend it to everybody).

Since then, I've watched the odd bit of the GT1 series online, as all the races are shown live on

I watched it online the other weekend, and found something absolutely glorious. Not only was Ricardo Zonta driving in GT1.... Ricardo Zonta was WINNING GT1.

But even I was surprised by the fact that I simply burst into tears as he grinned from ear to ear as his co-driver took the chequered flag.

Top spot - R. Zonta. Look at that!
When I thought about it, it's not so surprising that I got uber-emotional. I just AM emotional about motor racing. (I tend to well up every time someone says the phrase "Jenson Button, Formula One World Champion".  Hell, even just typing it gave me a bit of a shiver. Good times.)

Also, and apologies for being such a girl, but Ricardo Zonta was my first ever F1 crush. I remember he was 23 at the time. He's now 34, which puts the whole timeline into a bit of perspective and makes me feel a bit old.

The funny thing is that only 3 or 4 days before I watched him win this GT1 race, I'd been sitting here thinking about him. I'd gone to his website for the first time in ages. (Over the years my occasional trips to his site have taught me such invaluable Portugese as "carregando" [loading] and "em breve" [coming soon]) and I had a look at the latest news to see what he was up to. A big part of me hoped he'd have a race at Silverstone so that I could marshal his race. (And end up living happily ever after with him, naturally. That's how it works, right?)  But I was disappointed because it only said he was doing American races, and that's no good for marshalling, living happily ever after, or even watching him race on TV.

And so to find him in the GT1 race came COMPLETELY out of the blue for me (apparently they hadn't got round to carregando up his most recent news yet. Hopefully it's em breve).

The fact that he won it just absolutely made my weekend. I couldn't stop smiling all day. I've always joked that he was a good guy to support in F1, because if he made it to lap 10 then it felt like a victory. But really, it was fairly heartbreaking supporting him in F1, and then he's been hard to properly follow since (although I do remember getting up at stupid o'clock to watch him in the World Renault Series one year). So after all this time, to be able to watch him on the top step of the podium.... hell, that was better than seeing him get to lap 11 in a woeful BAR.

Tonnes better.

Look at that happy face (even though he appears to be being eaten by a man in a hat)

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Pastor in F1 in 2011?

I just stumbled across an article about Pastor Maldonado on one of my least favourite F1 websites, Planet-F1.

In order to not have to tell people to look at that website to read the article, I've found the same thing elsewhere - on the lovely GP Update, a website where I used to live during my teenage years, back when it was and had a chat room for us to play in.

Anyway, before I get too nostalgic, back to the article. It basically just says that Nicolas Todt is Pastor's manager, and so he's pushing to get him into F1 next year. Sauber is currently being rumoured.

I hadn't realised that Todt was Pastor's manager. I've never been much of a fan of the Todt family to be honest (mostly because of the Schumacher/Brawn/Bryne/Todt Team of Doom). But I can't help but think that right now, Pastor should be in good hands with NickyT on his case. He knows what he's doing and so will hopefully be able to get Pastor a drive (especially if Pastor does his bit and keeps bringing home the results).

It will be terrifying having Pastor in F1, because I will be so worried at all times about what kind of impression he's making. But it'll be very exciting. I can't wait. Fingers hugely crossed.

Friday, 6 August 2010

When I grow up I want to be...

When I was about ten, my best friend's dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I told him I wanted to be, and I quote, a "pitlane blonde".

He was just a tad surprised, and my mother was mortified.

Now, please, let me clarify....!

I didn't mean that my life's desire was to be scantily clad whilst holding an umbrella. I didn't mean that at all.

All I saw with my innocent little eyes, was that there were ladies that got to spend all their time in the F1 pitlane/paddock/grid.  They got to be around beautiful amazing racing cars, in amongst the exciting racing and all the people that make racing happen. I wanted that.

I still want that.

What I ACTUALLY meant, back when I was ten, was "I want to work in motorsport".  But my response had been warped by the fact that the only women I'd really seen in F1 were the ones holding flags or car numbers. (Other than Louise Goodman... when did she start?)

All these years later, I still want to work in motorsport.  More than ever.  And luckily, now I know a bit more about what opportunities there are out there, I've got my sights set on something real.

Give me a few months. Maybe a year or so.  I'll get there.

And I'll make sure to come back and quote this blog when I do.

PS - Don't get me started on my rant about the grid girls (and other fairly undressed girls scattered around all car-related events). It's not so much the 'oh, objectifying women, how disgusting' thing, as I'm not very good at angry feminism, and the girls have made their own choice to do it... it's the fact that (some) men are just so *stupid*. A lot of these women aren't actually beautiful - admittedly some are, but a lot of them simply aren't that good looking, they're just wearing skimpy clothes. But guys fall over themselves to have their photos taken with them (and - worst of all! - have their primary-school-age sons have photos taken with them!!!) as if they're the most stunning women on earth (and even then, that'd be weird).  I just... hmm.... It creeps me out massively. [/mini-rant]

PPS - In other women-in-motorsport news, it's nice that Lee McKenzie will get to host the Japanese GP and become the first woman to host an F1 show. I think she'll be really good actually, and it'll be fun to see her keep DC and EJ in check.  I look forward to it.  (Although I'll miss Jake. I've adored him since his CBBC days, but more on that another day. I need to make myself a cup of tea now.)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

F1 Looky Likey #1

Bear in mind I only have two F1 looky likeys up my sleeve, and this is the best of the two. So enjoy it while you can.....

That bloke from Family Guy

Michael Schumacher

PS - When I first made this observation, my friend Buzz had a bit of time on his hands and decided to take it a step further. I might as well go all out and share this too:

The Flying Chin

This is what Joe Saward has to say about Michael Schumacher, in his latest blog:
Readers of this blog will know that I am not really a big fan of Schumacher. One cannot question his talent and it is impossible to argue about the statistics of his career, but no-one can force me to like the way he goes about his racing. I thought his manoeuvre on Damon Hill in Adelaide in 1994 was despicable. I was delighted when a similar move on Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez in 1997 failed. I thought his celebrated “parking” job in qualifying at Monaco a few years back was utterly underhand and not worthy of a great champion. In addition I have my doubts about the use of traction-control in 1994. The FIA could never prove it was used, but that does not mean it was not. This is all water under the bridge, but these are the things that create the impressions that people have of a driver. They will be taken into account when it comes to the history books being written, when the sycophants have disappeared and everything is being judged at face value.
It's like I wrote it myself.

Joe later goes on to mention how Schumacher never let his team mates have a fair chance. This is another thing that winds me up. I've heard people very close to Johnny Herbert talk about what it was like when Johnny was team mates with Schumacher. And it's just not cricket (or, indeed, sporting in any way at all).

And don't get me started on how much it riles me that having Schumacher back on the grid means that there is one less space in F1 for a youngster who's desperate to start/continue his F1 career and win his own world championship or seven....

Anyway, I didn't really want to start ranting about him. I just wanted to flag that Joe Saward basically stole the thoughts right out of my brain.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Post-script... (and letting go)

In follow-up to yesterday's little rant about how there's absolutely no media communication at all about what happened with this whole black flag malarky - I just read the GP2 Insider magazine.

I love the GP2 Insider, it's short and sweet and teaches me often useless snippets of knowledge about GP2 drivers. (Vladimir Arabadzhiev likes playing football! File that one away for future dinner party conversation...)

I know it's only 6 pages long and is covering 2 race weekends... but this edition doesn't even mention that Pastor got black flagged!

So yep, it still seems that I'm pretty much on my own in the realm of 'people who give a damn about this issue'. Oh well. I'll just have to let it go. Instead I'm going to refocus on the fact that he's broken the GP2 records by winning 5 feature races in a row. Clever Pastor. :-)

Click to read the GP2 Insider and find out about Vladimir's other hobbies...

Monday, 2 August 2010


Picture this. The man that’s second in the championship spins. The guy that’s leading the championship can’t quite avoid the spun car, tags it, and royally messes up his front wing. He manages to keep going, but he’s losing a second or two per lap... yet he doesn’t pit. After a few laps, he’s shown the black-and-orange flag. He’s still losing time, but he still doesn’t pit. Eventually he comes into the pits, but it’s too late – he’s been black flagged.

Imagine if the championship leader in F1 got black flagged. Imagine the media melee.

But not in GP2. This is what happened to Pastor Maldonado, GP2’s championship leader, in Race 2 at Hungary this weekend. And I want to know what the hell was going on.

I’ve hunted around for all the info I can. I’ve commented on the GP2 website (but my comment has never appeared?!). I’ve tweeted relevant insiders to see if they can tell me (but been ignored). The only thing I can find is half a sentence in the race summary on :

The Venezuelan was soon shown the black and orange flag for his broken front wing, which rapidly turned into a straight black version when he failed to return to the pits
I need MORE than this!

Before he got black-and-oranged, Pastor was losing close to 2 seconds a lap. I know a pitstop would have put him to the back of the grid, but at least he’d have had a fixed car and he could have done a Sam Bird and had a fun 20 minutes overtaking a few cars. But instead he kept going.

And then he got the black-and-orange flag, so he HAD to come into the pits. Fine. He clearly needed to anyway, he couldn’t keep going with the wing getting worse and with him losing so much time. OK.

But he still didn’t pit. I don’t understand. Here’s the scenarios I’ve got in my head:
  1. Major communication failure. He somehow didn’t realise he had to pit.
  2. Major stupidity. He thought he could get away without pitting.
  3. Major conservatism. He/the team decided it’d be better to call it a day without risking bashing up any other bits of the car. Perez and Clos were out of the points, so the championship lead would stay intact. Now, who fancies some brunch?

I'm not happy with any of these. They don't make sense. Surely communication couldn’t break down THAT badly? And wouldn’t he at the very least know his car was broken and slow? Or did he think it was the newly introduced and little-advertised Let's Drive Through Treacle race? 

And would he really have not pitted through simple bloody-mindedness or silliness? I don’t know. That seems... well... a bit bloody-minded. Or very silly. I can't get my head around it.

But would they really have got him blackflagged on purpose just so they could have an early bath?? Surely not?

I’m being driven to distraction. WHY DID HE NOT PIT?! Why am I the only person who cares?!


It’s like the “what on earth happened to him on the formation lap of Silverstone Race 1?!” question - utterly mystifying.

If you know what happened, or if you have a better theory than any of mine – do let me know.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

This is me...


OK, so let's get everything clear before we set out. This is me:

* I'm a 24 year old girl, I started watching F1 when I was about 8 years old.

* I started watching F1 because I'm a big old Daddy's Girl. My Dad, like many Dads, used to work in an office till the evening time, and then evenings were over all too soon, so weekends were the prime time to see him. And I realised that he spent many of his Sunday afternoons in the front room (a room where I was only usually allowed at Christmas or Easter or when we had guests)... I figured out that this meant there was a couple of hours where I could not only spend time with my Dad, but also be in the room I didn't normally go in. I was eight. This was good stuff. I can still vividly remember sitting on the floor by my Dad's chair, looking up at the big old TV, asking Dad all sorts of questions about what was going on in the race.

* My long-term favourite racing driver is Johnny Herbert. He's who I began supporting back in those days of sitting looking up at the big old TV. It was Hill's heyday, and DC was up-and-coming... and then there was this Johnny fellow that didn't seem to get mentioned very much, but there was his name with the little Union Jack next to it and I started to follow his every move on the racetrack.

* Anyway, so that's the history. What about now? Well, I still adore F1. My second love is GP2. And then otherwise I just watch whatever motor racing you put in front of me.

* My favourite F1 drivers are: Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Timo Glock and Bruno Senna. And I have a fondness for Jaime Algersuari (Bob for short) because he's stepped up his game this year. I also love Pastor Maldonado (currently in GP2).  And of course, Johnny Herbert is still the man.

* Oh, and just so that all my cards are on the table: I'm not a fan of Schumacher or LH. I'm aware that they're both very good drivers. That doesn't mean I have to like them.

OK, that'll do. Everything else we can deal with as we go along. And plus, it's late, I want to go to sleep.