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!