11 May 2014 – the day that could’ve been so different; plenty of last minute random decisions which led to this…
1. Shall I go to the race this time?
To start with, I only bought my race ticket on Wednesday! I knew I was coming out to Barcelona, but having watched this race live a few times, I was pondering whether to just watch from a bar in town and come to the track for testing instead (€15 rather than €115). Makes financial sense, but since when did Financial sense and Formula 1 go together?! Come on Rebecca, it’s your first race of the season, Mercedes are owning the championship, the boy’s on flying form, and to watch him win would be just awesome. So I decide to get a race day ticket.
2. Shall I sit in the grandstand this time?
I nearly always buy a General Admission 3-day pass, which gets me into the circuit, leaving me to wander round, find a spot with my blanket and settle in for the day, enjoying the action on the track as much as the banter and people watching around me. However, because I’ve left it so late, there are only a few grandstand tickets left, and they’re trying to get rid of them by selling them off cheap. So for €180 I can get a seat! Being a tight northern lass, I decide that I could spend the extra few Euros on something I haven’t done before, so opt to stick with general admission.
3. What no taxi?
Having booked so much F1 already this year, I have very little annual leave left, so I opt for the early flight Saturday morning. This is fine – I can just get an early night on Friday and get up early Saturday morning right? Well any normal person would, yes. But what do I do? I go to a ball at Kensington Roof Gardens Friday night, consume silly amounts of champagne, get two hours’ sleep, and drag myself out of bed for my cab at 5:15am. And I did well until 5:20am, when I texted my taxi to see if he was on his way, only to receive a reply 5 minutes later saying “No, didn’t know I was meant to be picking you up…?” Right. Plan B then! Can I get the tube? Not enough time. Can I book another cab? Can’t get me a car for another 25 minutes. Hailo it is then. And £65 later (there goes my General Admission savings) I arrive at T5 at 6:01am – breath Rebecca!
4. Shall I sit and stay or walk the track?
Because I arrive on Saturday rather than Friday, I miss qualifying (and my chance to walk right round the track). So on Sunday, I decide not to sit in one place for the whole race, instead watching it from various vantage points throughout the day. So I find a spot on the straight for the start and see Lewis come flying down in front of the pack – woo hoo! I then walk round to turn one, to see his name topping the timing board after lap one – yee haa! And by the time I get to turn eight (my usual spot to put out my blanket, I see he’s still out in front, with a gap of around 10 seconds between the Mercedes’ and the cars behind – brilliant. Given that this could be the case until the first pit window (around lap 20), I walk on a little further, listening to the cars flying around the track, the cheers as Alonso comes past, and admiring the usual crazy outfits of the day (I’m sure this guy was at Valencia in 2012 – going by the name of ‘Lola’…?)
5. So glad I wore my trainers
I brought my running kit to Spain this year, hoping to run the circuit during testing (when the fans, paps and associated security have all gone). With no sign of sun this morning, and an emerging blister from yesterday’s flip flops, I opted to go for the comfort look today, and wore my running shorts and trainers (with a Mercedes AMG Petronas top, of course). So by the time we reach lap 61/66, and I’ve reached the last turn on the track, I suddenly realise I’m in with a chance of running faster down the finish straight than most people around me, meaning I could even get under the podium for the champagne! Challenge! So after jumping up and down squealing as Nico closes the gap on Lewis each lap towards the end, I am so excited to see Lewis take the chequered flag, that my adrenalin is pumping and I’m poised for a faster start than Valteri Bottas!
6. Go! Go! Go!
Once all finishers have gone past to complete their last lap, I’m squashed up against the railings at the top of the pit straight. The stewards finally pull back the gates and I’m off. I get a flier, passing a couple of Ferrari (fans), a Vettel shirt (tempted to wave the infamous finger), and I’m down to the pit wall ahead of the pack. As soon as I reach a gap in the pit wall I stop, in full view of the podium, ready to see my boy emerge. Once the bubbles have flown, I move further down to where my friend Mr P would’ve been only minutes earlier, hanging over the wall with Nico’s pitboard, waving home the 1,2. I drop him a hopeful text to say I’m there and he soon emerges with a champagne flute to say hello! Much to the jealousy of those around me, he also brings out a handful of jelly beans from the garage! I hand him my phone and ask if he can get a photo of the trophies close-up? Of course he can! And he does! Star :-)
7. Stay, just a little bit longer…
Having eaten his sweets and enjoyed the anthems and champagne, I contemplate whether to head back to the merchandising area and buy myself a souvenir programme of the day. The merchandising area will be quiet now, so could be a good time. But I’m enjoying hanging over the pitwall, watching Suzy, DC and Eddie wander up and down, and Ted Kravitz filling up his infamous Notebook. So I decide to stay and watch a bit longer.
After a few minutes, Mr P pops back over to say hello and the look on my face turns to disbelief… I know what that is in his hand! It’s a green (VIP paddock) pass!!! His red (pit lane) pass is still round his next, so it can’t be for him!!! Oh… My… God…!!! I’m handed the pass and told to ‘pelt it back to the turnstiles…’ and that’s it, I’m off again! I run as fast as I can back up the track to the gate, round the grandstand, and down to the media tunnel, still not quite able to believe that I have a pit pass!
When I meet Mr P in the media tunnel, he tells me ‘Lewis is still in the garage, if we’re quick you might catch him…’ Oh sweet Jesus, I run faster than ever, taking the stairs three at a time, and buzz my pass through the turnstiles. We dive through the FIA garage and down the pitlane, overtaking Pinky and the Sky Sports F1 cameras, and into the Mercedes garage, just as Lewis is walking towards us! Mr P says ‘get your camera, I’ll introduce you…’ By this point, I’ve no idea what I’m doing, I can’t find my phone in my bag and Lewis has stopped right in front of me. I am introduced, I ignore looking for my phone, and shake hands. All I can think of is don’t mention watermellons… so I constructively come up with ‘Great to meet you Lewis! Awesome drive today, congratulations!’ Not a watermelon in sight Rebecca, well done. Camera? Damn! Where’s my phone?! I fumble for it for a few seconds and he waits, he flipping waits for me! Unfortunately, I can’t find it, so I tell Mr P to tell him to keep going. Just as I find my phone! We cut back to the back of the garage and as he approaches the door, Mr P asks him if we can get a photo? ‘Sure, man…’ Eeeeeeeeeeeek! I get two photos with Lewis Hamilton!
It all went so quickly, that I didn’t have time to prepare or to get excited. I could’ve not bothered to go to the track on race day, but I got a ticket. I could’ve taken a grandstand seat, but I chose to be trackside. I could’ve worn flip flops like usual, but I opted for trainers. I could’ve left the pitwall after the podium, but I hung around. Even when I got the paddock pass, I didn’t know he’d be in the garage. Even when I got in the garage, I didn’t know I’d get close enough to really see him. And even when I couldn’t find my phone, I thought I’d missed the chance as I’d already been introduced to him. But I did.
I once said opportunities don’t fall into your lap, you have to go and make things happen. After today, I don’t know – I made some things happen, albeit without knowing the outcome would be so amazing. But I also got a helping hand in the closing stint. So maybe opportunities do fall into your lap? But I still think you have to do as much as you can to get there – and if people recognise how much you try or want it, they’ll help you get there…