So which is Monte and which is Carlo?

So a night out in Monaco, on a Grand Prix weekend – I’d call it crazy cool, sleek but slutty, sophisticated yet stylish, with mutton meeting lamb on every corner, and both kind of working, albeit for different reasons.

A Cannonballer’s paradise

So, the cars. Heading down through the casino gardens (tactically keeping my head down past the Häagen Dazs boutique this time) we arrive in the main casino square. On one side, there’s Café de Paris, with umpteen seats outside, populated by those who aren’t especially car mad, but want to be part of the wealthiest action in town (as it always was, traditionally). Their pleasure? A car park view of Ferraris, Porsches, Rolls Royces, and the odd Audi RS8 thrown into the mix. Amusingly for me, the popularity of the Fezzas makes them seem common – the easy choice for the rich buyer, just pick a number (458, 355, F40 etc) and pick your colour (black or red). I’ve only seen one yellow one (my preference, if I was to buy one) and that was in the showroom at the dealership down the road!


Similarly, there are a lot of Rolls Royces – mostly in white – which seem to be the next step up from the playboy’s Ferrari; seemingly driven (more often than not) by an older chap with his jewellery-clad lady sitting beside him.

But the excitement, for me, always comes in the beauty (and unmistakeable sound) of the Lamborghini – ideally a Gallardo, but I’d settle for a Murcialago if push came to shove. So far, I’ve seen just one of each, so clearly the more discerning driver’s choice – one who goes for something beyond the obvious choice of a prancing horse, and opts for a flamenco of Spanish extravagance instead. This is, I kid myself, is demonstrated by their rarity in an environment such as this, I mean even the Bugatti Veron is more common (we’ve seen two of those!) Call me crazy, deranged or whatever you like, but I like Lambos, that’s all! (I blame the opening sequence of Cannonball Run…)

Betty’s or Oscar’s?

So next, to food; and we opt for a steak at the TipTop bar. I’d never heard of it before, but I’m told it’s the place to be – right on the pavement beside the circuit, opposite the Rolex boutique, on the exit of the casino square (which is remarkably round for a square?) It’s a great place – small and typically French, with a huge wooden bar dominating the interior, dark brown wooden round tables and chairs, red and white paper serviettes, a simple menu, lots of dusty bottles of wine knocking about, and it’s heaving, serving those in the know with good food, wine and beer (whilst the tourists queue for Café de Paris). For those in (or familiar with) York; TipTop is the like old Oscars (before it moved) whilst Café de Paris is Betty’s.

The steak is simple but amazing; a chunk of perfectly-cooked meat, with a peppercorn sauce, and a plate (not bowl) or frites (not chips) on the side. The drinks are simple but spot on – gin & tonic, where the gin is served over ice in the glass and, because there are two of us, the tonic comes in a glass jug, for us to add at our leisure. Simply obvious when you think about it, saves a fortune in glass recycling and avoids having to go with a particular branded tonic (saving the vendor his margin) whilst appealing to the tourists as being typically French. I like.


So after a great feed and some nods to other members of the paddock who pass by*, we leave casino square and wander down towards the harbour. And as we turn every corner, and another nautical metre of water (and boat) appears, the “oh my god” comments start to get so boring and repetitive, that I zip it and just make a mental note instead: “Close your mouth please Michael, we are not a goldfish…”

(*I’m completely oblivious to this by the way; rather than getting star struck, I just become ‘numptified’ by the razzmatazz of being here, I completely miss the fact that my host knows half the city’s occupants this week and is intermittently nodding and saying Hi to random strangers…!)

As we approach the harbour, the ambience changes completely. The population gets younger. The music gets louder and faster. The bars get brighter and more neon-lit. The girls wear less (intentionally and otherwise). The men get more drunk. This is the modern side of Monaco then, I guess? I always thought the money was ploughed into rooms at Hotel de Paris (where I saw Sir Jackie Stewart a moment ago, wandering through reception with his holdall! Brilliant!), where the staff wear uniform suits with hats marked “Voiturier” and entertainment comes in the form of the world famous casino. But as much (if not more) wealth now appears to be floated in boats bigger than the QE2, owned by race team bosses who just happen to also own one of the world’s largest breweries. The yachts really are huuuuuge. And the parties they host are loud and in demand… although, I’ve since heard from one of the race engineers, that once you’re on board, you forget you’re on a boat in Monaco and it’s just like a club (I bet he’s never been to Toffs though, right?!) Nevertheless, everyone wants to be here. Average age? I’d say 35. Average income? Onshore I’d say around £40k, offshore I’d say about £400k. This is the stretch of the circuit running down to the swimming pool towards Rascasse and, at night it’s like a clubber’s paradise.

In contrast to the traditional tourist up at the casino, the clientele down at the harbour is very different. It’s a mixture of younger F1 fans, just excited to be in Monaco; Made in Chelsea rejects, who are just here for the glitz; and the pit lane boys who are letting their hair down and, out of hours, are no different to your average mechanic working in the local garage.

It’s a giggle drinking with these boys… they’re all half cut, curious who I am (random bird drinking pints with a pit crew?!) and are a real mixed bunch – there’s the truck driver from Stobart’s, the lubes man from Petronas, the fuel man (who’s equivalent was the chap injured in the Williams garage in Barcelona), the gas man, the bolties (mechanics) and Nico’s car manager – this guy just has the little job of being responsible for everything which goes on, off, in, or out of Nico’s F1 car. So not much responsibility there then, only he looks about 24! I’m told he’s a bit older than that, has a wealth of experience, and is damn good at his job, but I can’t get over how young he looks! Career, nailed, good work! We then bump into Sam Bird, the Mercedes reserve driver, who smells like he’s wearing a duty free shop (luckily it wasn’t the Old Spice counter). In fairness though, he smiles as we walk past and says Hi, seems just a normal chap. (At this point, I’ll point out that I’m typing this whilst watching the Formula Renault race and Sam is currently in P1… this is his day job I guess? The likelihood of either Nico or Schumi being poorly sick and unable to race in F1, is so slim, that his role as reserve driver is perhaps more an indication of his potential and skill, rather than a realistic necessity for the team)). We see Sam again as we get home and he has a brief chat. Nice chap.

So, a night out with the bolties, a chat with a real driver, and an audience with Sir Jackie Stewart’s holdall – quite a good night then, really!

ttfn /R xx

I’ll be British, you be German; I might be smaller but I’ll stand my ground!

Ok so the race has finished and you’ve probably seen more coverage than I have (if you like to watch what’s actually going on, watch the bbc as you see very little here! You come for the atmosphere, not the view!) So I won’t blog about the race.

Instead, I’ll be typically British and start with the weather. The forecast has consistently said it’ll be wet and thundery this weekend. Yet until Mark Webber saw the checkered flag, it’s stayed dry. But like Brits with a BBQ, as soon as people come out to play, the heavens open.

Luckily, being brought up with typical British holidays (ie camping in the rain on the Sussex coast) I’m used to coming prepared with a pacamac. However, as an experienced F1er, I’ve also discovered FanVision; a remote tv the size of an iPhone, which you hire and return either at the track or when back in the uk. It streams the F1 tv coverage (as you see it on bbc) and you can chose your audio stream (language, media, etc). You can also personalise it to your favourite driver, so when his position changes, radio is live, pit crew prepare etc, it tells you. You can also view from any car rather than the general view… Anyway. I had FanVision today, which meant once they’d gone past me on the last lap, I could beat the crowds back to the bar and get a dry seat… Just as the heavens opened.

Now the good thing about this, is that I still look relatively chic in tailored black shorts, Prada shades and a black (dry) waterproof. Whereas, the ladies I now see flooding (no pun intended) towards the bar look more like Alice Cooper in drowned drag. Not a good look and, I’m sure, not what they’d been aiming for. Naturally, I had to smirk, just a little!
So here I am, sitting like lady muck, all dry in the best seat in the bar. The tables around me gradually fill up with couples, friends, and Germans. Nothing wrong with that – again, I had to chuckle as they hadn’t the foresight to put towels on chairs – but then I was invaded. A girl bearing slight resemblance to Sabine Schmitz sat at the next table and started to ‘budge up’. I noticed she was part of a SMALL group, larger than the 2-person table at which she’d sat, so I did the polite thing and offered to move down a table. Whilst this meant I now had to put my wet bag on my lap, this wasn’t a big deal. Until I realised the stealth of Sabine’s approach – she was clearly on a reccy and there were actually 11 of them. Suddenly felt like Jersey in the 1930s; there’s only 1 of me but I’m standing my ground – it’d be easy to offer to move to another table but, on principle, I won’t do that. I will stay here until I finish my beer, and smirk at their absolute obliviousness to the fact I’m slating them in the public domain!

Mit freundlichen Grußen /R 🙂

PS – worth noting here that I’m in no way racist! It’s like Basil Fawlty, just a great subject to be funny, that’s all!



The joy of being lucky enough to go to the Grand Prix, apart from the obvious, is that you get to have mini breaks in some of the most spectacular places, when they’re on show to the world and thus looking their best.

Monaco would probably not need the GP to look amazing. But the casino and harbour areas are just alive.

There’s a live band who’ve been playing in town every day, and they’re just awesome. A covers band playing all sorts from Elbow to U2, the Killers to the Stones, Pink Floyd to Blur. And they’re sharp, with tidy stops & starts (dad!) and have the surrounding streets bouncing.

After qually, I decide to venture up the hill towards the palace and see what was occurin. It’s a steep climb, but worth the views.

This part of town is far less affected by the glitz of the GP, instead retaining a quiet sophistication of quaint streets and little coffee shops.

I wander round the Oceanic museum too – now this is strange. In the basement is an aquarium. Whilst the fish on show are beautiful, it feels like they’re all stuck in tanks to be on show. It feels very captive. I don’t like it.

On the next floor are some very peculiar artefacts, like skeletons fornicating with fire around them? Weird. I don’t really get it, sorry Monsieur l’Artiste. But the building which houses all of this is stunning. So I just sit and stare around it for ages (probably not what the entry fee is meant to cover, but hey!)

The monarchy

Beside the museum, there’s a beautiful botanical garden and, like most gardens in town, it has a sign depicting a significant moment in the royals’ family – Princess Grace, on this occasion. This, along with the photos of Prince Albert in almost every shop window, illustrates the sense of pride and respect the locals seem to have for their monarchy. Where I’m sitting, about half way up the hill behind Rascasse, we frequently hear whistles as the police ride past on their motorbikes, escorting people up and down to the palace. They seem visible and part of their city. It’s nice.

Right, formation lap… #letsgoracing

ttfn /R xx





Notes from a small terminal

This week, whilst everyone has been telling me how jealous they are, I’m not really feeling it as much as I thought I would. This reminds me of Australia. I’m sure I should have been squeeling, and hopping around like a mad thing for weeks before I went, but I wasn’t. I was pretty chilled really. It wasn’t until I hit Honkers that I actually though, OMG, this is real.

Monaco is much the same. Everyone (me included) who knows anything about F1, knows that Monaco is the special one. It’s the Jose Murhinio of Premiership Managers. It’s the Kris Akabusi of public speakers. It’s the Bombay Sapphire of gin and the iPad of tablets. It’s in an elite calendar but for some reason, it’s just extra special. So why am I not just saying “eeeeeek” to everyone? Probably because I’m tired. Who knows. But I’ve got to get there first!

So, having driven down in good time (not trusting the M1 for timing!) and worked from Alex’s in North London, I head up to Finchley Central tube. Here’s the first snagette – in Monaco, the forecast is thundery and it’s 20 degrees. However, for the first time in months, London is sporting a whopping 28 degrees with wall-to-wall sunshine. Glorious as this is, it makes me want to wear very little to travel (and pack layers to put on as it gets gradually colder) but I’ve no spare room in my luggage. So I have to trek, uphill, to the tube in jeans, top and jacket, with my luggage, in 28 degrees. By the time I hit the underground, I need a shower! But I won’t be put off – it’s all part of the adventure right?

So having got caught out last time (allowing 90 minutes to get to LHR on the Northern / Piccadilly lines and being at the gate 3 hours later with seconds to spare), this time I opted for the Heathrow express from Paddington. This was good (expensive, but quick), but getting to Paddington was just rubbish! Tube mayhem, lines closed, tourists out in force (due to the sunshine), I ended up thinking “sod it, hail a fast black”. Again, expensive, but it got me there in enough time to let me relax in the departure lounge with a G&T, and contemplate the trip ahead of me.

I think I like traveling. Sitting in departures just feels exciting. I could be flying to Bagby International, yet it feels exciting to be there. As it happens, I’m flying to Nice. I’ve no idea what time I arrive, or how I’ll get from Nice to Monaco, but I’ll worry about that when I get there. For now, I’m winding down from work and just starting to switch off.


OK, so I remember take-off, but at some point I missed the food and drink? Never mind. When do we land? 25 minutes. OK. I’ll look out of the window at the scenery. Hang on, there’s no cloud – what happened to all the rain forecast? Oh lord, I knew I should have packed my shorts…!


That was the smoothest landing I’ve ever had – I didn’t even know when we touched down. Good work Mr Pilot. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the French train network – yes, they’re on strike! So instead of the train to Monaco, I look for a bus. I’m actually glad I did this, as it meant I got to see the lights of the city and its harbour on the way in – wow. How beautiful is this? I’ve seen it by day, but not at night before, and it’s just stunning. As we get further into Monte Carlo, I’m breathless at the architecture too – quintessentially French but with a majestic glamour worthy of Caesarian Italy, cleanliness of a brand new car showroom, and non- uniformity of a city built into and around it’s mountainous location, rather than a grid pattern etched into it.

Regardless of the F1 excitement, Monaco is truly a beautiful city. Little streets, snickets and stepped alleyways, cafe culture and a language which just sounds peaceful. Every shop seems to have a framed photo of Prince Albert in the window, and… Oh, my, god,……… There’s a Haagen Dazs boutique in the park! Sorry guys, will write more later…

#nomnomnom /Rxx

Packing, again

So far, this has been a long week. I started on Sunday, packing to work south for a few days facilitating a 3-day training course in Welwyn. So I packed the usual (work wear for 3 days and enough smart/casuals to last 3 nights. Now when I worked at O’Connors, this used to take me forever, primarily because I didn’t have the luggage or wardrobe to make it easy (surf t-shirts, cargo pants and trainers weren’t really the right match). However, when I took my current role, with a European remit, one of the first things I bought was a new suitcase, that was small enough to pass for hand luggage but which included a shuttle bag (so I didn’t also have to take a laptop case). To date this has served me well, although with various travel restrictions in the job, I’ve had minimal call for it at work! Outside work, however it’s my trusty companion and pretty much serves as my ‘other wardrobe’. So Sunday night, I pack the aforementioned items and head off to Welwyn.

An 8am start Monday, with a 9pm finish officially, Monday was a long day. However, when hosting a course of this nature, where the delegates are staying over, it’ rude not to socialise in the evenings too, hence it was perhaps closer to midnight by the time we finished the last beer.

A 7.30am start followed on Tuesday, but luckily we had a normal finish time, so back to the hotel for a few beers in the garden – our first glimpse of Summer – lovely! The sight of the Global Account team going off for a run, clad in shorts, vests and trainers, was perhaps less pleasing (sorry guys – far too hot to be running in 25 degrees!)

Wednesday was a normal start and a 4pm finish, but by the time we’d cleared-up, pulled the evaluation report, analysed and discussed it (ie publicised the good bits and made the necessary excused for the bad) and driven back to York, it was about 10pm before I got home.

At this point, most normal people would have thought ‘long week, early night’ – but as I’m far from normal, quelle surprise I opted to make a fish finger sandwich (triple decker, of course) and make a list of things I needed to do before I left in the morning… eat, unpack, put washing on, hang washing out, clear down email from past 3 days, prep work for next 2 days, repack and THEN hit the sack. So I got to bed around 2.30 – joy!

OK, in true fashion, I’m down to paragraph 6 before I get to the point – don’t worry, I don’t write press releases in this way! So the point is, packing.

Last week, I did 3 countries, in 6 days, including work wear across 2 climates, beachwear, race stash and enough casuals to cover 5 days and nights away. This I achieved without having to check in any bags on the flight – hand luggage only, happy days. But tonight I’m packing for 4 days, 2 countries (3 technically), one work day, race stash and the necessary casuals. Yet I’m struggling to get everything to fit in? The only reason I can think of for this, starts with the word Monte and ends in Carlo, with a spot of rain thrown in for excitement.

Yes, the Monaco Grand Prix beckons. I’d love to say this was in the plan for 2012. But no, it’s a last minute decision, a flying visit, but one I just have to do. 2012 is my year and, if something makes me happy I want to do it. So when I got the chance to do the Monaco Grand Prix, there was a momentary lapse of reason before I thought “oh sod it, why not?!” But most races are generally attended by a combination of avid petrolheads, those who just love the atmosphere, or a combination of the above. Contrary to what you see on TV, they generally care little about what they wear, make-up doesn’t get a look in, and the humour and creativity comes more from the extravagance of people’s picnic infrastructure that their style or fashion (but that’s another story!) So when you pack, you include functional clothes, not fashion and accessories. You take sunscreen or a pacamac, not Channel and Prada (although they’re often an accidental pick-up on the way home).

But Monaco is different. It’s my first complete street circuit. It’s the most stylish destination on the planet. It’s in the south of France, it’s May but forecast thunder and rain. Something tells me my baseball cap, shorts, t-shirt, flip flops and rucksack won’t quite cut the mustard down there. This is complete unknown to me – so what do I pack? Oh lord, help! At times like this, there’s only one person who can sort me out. My friend Laura has a wardrobe bigger than my bedroom. Her clothes are stored by colour, and she has accessories for all occasions. But more importantly at this point, she knows what I should take and how to mix things. So I call Laura and beg. I turn up at 10pm with a bottle of bubbles and we pick out a wardrobe. I’m tempted to take her dog too (Bailey) – a gorgeous white Maltese who would not only keep me company, and love Monaco, but would fit perfectly in the Prada handbag I spotted in T5. However, Laura’s not so sure so we leave him to help his dad (Rob) to get over the jealousy of my adventure.

So, I need to pack things for it to be hot and muggy, yet wet, allowing for the fact that the forecast could be totally wrong. We need stash for me to watch the race, but allow for the fact that, if it’s pouring down, whilst the race will be über exciting, the grass bank on which I’ll be sitting could end up a mud slide (hardly Monaco darling, that’s the white skinnies out then). I also need to prepare for the possible invite to another F1 party after the race (perhaps on board a yacht?) as well as the possibility of venturing into the casino (oh… my… god…). Whilst much of the above may not happen, you can guarantee that it I don’t pack for it, it’ll happen in abundance, hence I’m going prepared.

All this means my SLR camera has to be ditched, in favour of my point / press. My Vodafone McLaren Mercedes umbrella (perfect for the grassy bank) has to stay at home, in favour of buying a little one out there. (Don’t tell Laura, but I snuck in the Regatta waterproof last minute!)

So, I’ve no idea if I’ve packed the right things, but who cares, right now it’s 2.30am and I’m getting up in 3 hours – I need to sleep!

ttfn /R xx

Watching someone you admire do what they do, well

When I first joined, I didn’t get this person, at all.

OK stop. I’m consciously trying not to use names and specifics in this post, to avoid embarrassment and being accused of sucking up. But this is going to make it nigh on impossible to write, let alone understand. When in Oz, I posted a story about ‘Hurling projectiles‘ and used fictitious names as I didn’t know the people involved. Made it a bit of fun, I thought? So rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll try this again…

So, when I first started, I met Bob. Bob had immense credibility with the team I’d joined. Everyone seemed to rate him; he was seen to be switched on, impressive and really capable of doing a good job. Quite senior in the team, from what little I knew at the time, I just figured this must be a true reflection. But within my first few encounters with him, I became confused; why did people rate him? I didn’t understand a word he said! What was all this ‘solutioneering’ about? What was a ‘deliverable’? Surely, delivery was something couriers did when taking something tangible from one place to another? When he talked about this ‘piece’ or that ‘space’, what on earth was he on about? Surely a ‘piece’ was something tangible; a share of something, like a piece of cake? And ‘space’ was something infinitely difficult to measure or quantify, unless you were working in real estate? Yet in this ‘space’, everyone was talking about their respective ‘piece’ or that ‘piece’ and my sense of feeling completely out of my depth was becoming ever-more worrying!

I remember having my first meeting with Bob. My predecessor was also involved; we went through the specifics I was working on and Bob wanted to know how I was doing with them. Some of the questions he asked made little or no sense, and the more I tried to explain what I considered to be common sense, the less he seemed to be taking it on board. Why on earth did everyone rate him? Did he not get common sense? He just seemed to talk in virtual terms, with little or no substance, and nothing seemed to be definitive!

Then I saw Bob in front of a customer. And then I got it.

He never once said “erm…” or “it’s like, well…” or any other such uncertainties. He was considered, clear, straightforward, and regardless of the questions thrown at him, or challenges he was expected to manage, his answers were clear, concise, tied straight into the strategy and absolutely simple to follow, even for me (let alone a massive, slow thinking customer, who probably didn’t really appreciate why they were working on the contract in question).

Bob made it obvious. He managed challenges in a considered, polite yet clear way. He got the audience to understand what he was on about. He got their buy-in, and by the time we left the room, they (and I) were of a completely different opinion. For them, they got the concept, they understood what we were collectively trying to do. But as (if not more) importantly, they believed in us (or rather, Bob) and were behind us every step of the way. Not because he’d blinded them with bull, but because he spoke their language, not patronisingly, but in a way which made it understandable.

For me, I was in awe. Now I got it. I could see why Bob was rated. Whilst I still needed to learn the jargon and how a deliverable could be solutioned etc., Bob’s ability to think on his feet and manage the minds of the audience was like nothing I’d seen before… until today.

Having had little to do with Bob in the past 2 years, I was lucky enough to be re-enthused by Bob again today. Whilst the context was different, the audience internal, and the subject matter was factual (rather than selly / influential), Bob once again had every second of my attention. His ability to grab the attention of everyone in the room, without any ‘side chat’ and in absolute silence, was just brilliant. Once again, I got it. It reminded me why I’d been impressed by Bob to start with and why, given half a chance, I’d support Bob without question in future.

So, no sucking-up, Bob impresses me, it’s as simple as that, that’s all!

ttfn /Rxx

Word of the day – Williams

OK, so not for all the right reasons, but this weekend really has to be all about Williams F1.

As the only Independent team in the paddock (ie not having a huge commercial sponsor backing the majority share, to the extent of having its name in the team title), and possibly the best known and respected team in F1 (the boss has a Knighthood and I’m told they’re considered the more organised bunch on the pitlane), if you’ve ever followed F1, you’ve probably heard of Williams.

Yesterday, the boss turned 70, so the family was here this weekend to celebrate.

On the big day, the team took pole position in qualifying which, whilst courtesy of an unnecessarily harsh penalty on Lewis, was well-deserved as Pastor Maldonardo was on great form.

Pastor drove a solid race, worthy of the team colours: consistent, reliable, not risky, no showboating, just a great performance from pole on the grid to the top of the podium.

(Lewis, of course, also drove a great race; starting from the back of the grid, being the only driver to complete the race on a 2-stop strategy, when everyone else went for a 3-stop, and finishing 8th.)

But the day belonged to Williams… until disaster struck.


Whilst the team was enjoying the (customary) group victory photo and a speech from Sir Frank, one of the Kurs units got a tad hot and, sitting right beside the fuel line, this didn’t bode well. An explosion was heard and the Williams garage filled with toxic black smoke, which poured out of the garage and filled the paddock and pit lane. Luckily, due to the quick reactions and professionalism of the crew around, the fire was quickly brought under control and there were no casualties. A few burns, some smoke inhalation, but nothing deemed ‘serious’ – a very lucky escape and utter respect for all those who prevented it being much worse.

What about my day?

So how was I so close to the action for all this? Well, for most of the race, I copped a squat on the grass bank on the exit of turn 7, with a great view of turn 8 into the straight up into turn 9. Basking in glorious sunshine (and drowning in the best of Boots Soltan),


I was mostly surrounded by Spaniards shouting “Alooooonso, Alooooonso, Alooooonso…” with the exception of a couple of guys in front of me, who were joined by a young chap. Can’t have been older than 3 or 4, but the cute little smally was clad in stash and clearly enjoying ‘a day out with the big boys’ – bless!


Beside them, a couple who obviously had differing allegiances, so wre never going to go home entirely satisfied! But whilst his dreams were shattered by Bruno Senna (taking Schumi out, good lad!), her dreams were realised! As the only Maldonado fan in sight, every time the Williams drove by, her hands were in the air, she was cheering and generally being the best fan in the world. Needless to say, as he won the race, I’d say she had a good day!


As for me, I enjoyed the race, of course, although I managed to blag my way into the paddock afterwards again – that kinda takes the biscuit! I saw Pastor being interviewed, wandered past a few drivers, saw Jake (v tall!), Eddie (limping, badly) and DC (hot!) on BBC Sport, Damon Hill (looking old?!) on Sky Sports, and was right outside the Williams garage when the explosion kicked-off. The smoke smelt horrendous, Mr P suggested if could be toxic as masks were being handed out, so I decided that it was best if I went back to the cheap seats and got well out of the way. Reading the Twitter and media feeds on what happened, I’d say the guys reacted so quickly must have had much to do with why it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could’ve been. The people working in F1 really are good – numpteys as times (I’ve met the odd ‘Boltie’ this week!) but good at what they do. Big respect.

Anyway, I’m now in the bsr, ready for a glass of red…!

Great day 🙂 ttfn /Rxx

Another fine performance thwarted

Firstly, happy 70th birthday Sir Frank Williams. Founder of the only independent team in the paddock and, arguably, the most well-known and respected name in Formula One. Today, for him, was a good day.

Unfortunately, for Lewis it was another demonstration of a superior drive, thwarted by a poor team decision.

Having qualified on pole, his qually times were declared void, after the team was considered to have broken the rules. Hamilton was told to stop the car one he’d finished his last lap, as he didn’t have enough fuel left to get back to the pit AND provide a 1litre sample for the FIA. So, if his sample would’ve been taken on the track, they wouldn’t accept it. Yet had the car run home, he wouldn’t have had a full litre left, hence he stopped to ensure he have the full (required) litre. had his mechanics retrieved the car, they’d have broken rules. Hence he stopped.

The FIA dismissed claims of this being an issue beyond McLaren’s control, saying they just didn’t put enough fuel in. So Lewis, after a great drive, starts from the Back, on a circuit known for the rarity of its overtaking opportunities 😦

However, having qualified 2nd, this means Williams F1’s Pastor Maldinardo steps up to pole, a birthday great for Sir Frank 🙂

Will update on the race later!

ttfn /Rxx

Time to see the boys in action

So, having collected my tickets yesterday, made the necessary stash purchases (ie Noah’s tshirt and programme) I’m wondering what to do next? In Spa we had general admission tickets, which forced us to walk round the whole track to find a spot to watch the race. Whereas in Monza and Melbourne, we had grandstand tickets so didn’t walk right round. This time, I opted for a general admission pass; partly because I’m on my own (so can cop a squat pretty-much anywhere) and partly because I figure that, as a relatively hilly circuit, there should be plenty of elevated grassy banks to choose from. So I really should walk round and find my spot. But then, the greatest text of my F1 life arrives…

“I’ve got a spare paddock pass but it has to be back in 30minutes – you about?”

Oh. My. God. The worlds greatest rhetorical question? Silliest question? Unnecessary question? Exciting question? No brainer really, isn’t it?! The words “I’m there!” fly straight back to the paddock, with yours truly following behind like a child excited on Christmas day!

So I am escorted through the tunnel under the grandstand and up into the paddock. I’m given pass and in I go.

Walking the strip behind the pit garages, where all the posh motorhomes are, initially the paddock looks no different to the other night, just more people about. Then I realise Mr P is now walking a good 5m away from me? He rejoins me, saying ‘you just walked right behind a BBC Sport interview’ I turn round aghast to see Lee McKenzie with a mic and headphones chatting to some chap! Oops!

We stop behind the Mercedes garage and I’m told ‘wait here; they’re busy in the garage but I’ll see if you can come in’… I’m thinking he means the viewing area behind the glass, where visitors sit to watch the team in the pits during the race. So I just loiter, getting some odd looks from team Mercedes wondering who on earth this random is, sitting on the steps up to their engineers room! But it’s all good – thumbs up, and in I go.

Ok, so I’m not a Merc fan, I think their drivers are arrogant, and their car isn’t as good as the MP4-27. But I’m speechless. I’m not allowed to take any pictures because I’m in the pit garage, where Nico’s car is being taken apart. There’s nothing behind the engine, the seat is propped up on blocks at the front and there’s no nose or wheels in sight. The first thing I spot, is a guy with a screwdriver. Not surprising, for a guy working on a car, you might think? But this is an F1 car, one of the most technically advanced cars in the world – and they still use a screwdriver and brute force? Yep. It’s not all air guns, laptops and digital radios; they have nuts, bolts, screws, screwdrivers, (no swarfeger, I was disappointed to hear) but it’s just typical mechanics, only working faster and with more expensive parts!

I picked up Nico’s seat – it weights less than my iPhone. He has a map of the circuit stuck to the inner cockpit wall – like he’s going to get lost…!? And the guys at the back are singing to cheesy 80s tunes on the radio – it really is just like a specced-up version of the Easingwold Motors workshop, where I worked during my Uni days!

Time to go. I leave the pit garage, head back down past Bernie’s bus, avoid the camera crews and buzz back through security. Wow. I love it. Perhaps, the best half hour of my F1 life!

ttfn /Rxx

Is my love of F1 slipping behind my love of the sunshine?

Now there’s a thought. I’m an admitted F1 junkie, there’s no denying that. But as I wake up today I face a quandary. It’s 27 degrees (but forecast to be cooler tomorrow and wet on Sunday), so do I hit the beach and soak up the sun? (I did bring a new bikini after all, mum having told me my beloved O’Neil number was so old, it’s lack of elasticity was verging on obscene.) But I need to collect my tickets from the F1 booth at the circuit, practice starts today and it’s my first chance to hear that amazing roar that is an F1 car. Or given I’ll be at the circuit tomorrow and Sunday, should I try and see a bit of Barcelona?

The beach wins first place!

Well, bop me down with a soft cushion, I donned the new bikini (which, incidentally, had to be a replacement O’Neil number), my über comfy beachwear from Oz (courtesy of Between the Flags) and I head for the ocean! There’s nothing quite like the sound of the ocean, especially early in the morning or late in the evening. Since Port Douglas, I’ve totally fallen for it; sarong, shades and sunscreen. If I’m not careful I’ll find myself with a good book taking up reading!

but the draw of the paddock is too enticing

Now it’s a known fact that, after midday, it’s dangerous to bask in the sun, right? So I wander back to the hotel, swap my bikini for my camera, and I decide to head to the track.

Right. The track. As I’ve already been this week, I didn’t bother researching it’s location… So where is it? No idea. So how do I get there? Even less idea. The traffic round town looks horrendous so I’m guessing tram, train or metro? Given it’s a huge event, I’m also guessing there’ll be some pre-arranged public transport? So my plan is, head for the main station in town and ask at Information. Simples 🙂


So I descend beneath the windy streets of the Forum district, buy a 2-day travelcard and hop on the first train that comes along, getting off at what, I’m guessing, is the main station (based on the fact it has the most connections listed on the Metro map?!) For some reason, I assume my travelcard wont work out of the city, so when the Senõr on the Information desk tells me I need to go to Montmeló, I buy a ticket. At an extortionate €2.20, I expect it was probably covered on my travelcard, as it can’t be far! But hey, for €2.20 I’m not bothered.

So I’m on the train to Montmeló when Mr Petronas texts me: “3 minutes to practise, are you at the track yet?” I have to confess about my little trip to the beach but tell him I’m on my way there now. As long as I get my tickets from the F1 booth… Oh crap, the voucher I have to hand over to get my tickets… It’s safely stashed away, in my hotel room! Nooooooo! Well I have a copy on my phone, let’s hope they’ll accept that instead? We’ll soon see, just arriving at Montmeló…

ttfn /Rxx