As Thursday morning begins so does the start of a Grand Prix weekend. Barcelona marks a change for all the teams. Gone are the long haul flights and mostly modern circuits with purpose built hospitality suites. Now we enter the period of the season where we visit the most historical circuits and also have the purpose built team hospitality suites.
This extra team space gives the press, television and sponsors lots of opportunity to take advantage of the surroundings and as such they plan various events and filming sessions with drivers and team bosses.
The McLaren Brand Centre is one of the best looking and most functional hospitality units in the paddock. There are 50+ TV screens, a fully functioning internal network that is the equivalent to a small business premises as well as a wireless network for guests, a PA system and many other features that will be used by the above mentioned people to maximize their event or filming session.
Luckily for me these systems behaved themselves and the weekend passed with no real drama.
The first European race is exciting and the prospect of the ever-developing McLaren Honda making its way up the grid makes this particular race weekend one to savour. However, there was a once of jealousy in me as I was regularly updated by Sandra in Brands Hatch telling me what a great time she was having. I love racing and to see the cars in the Blancpain GT series would have been a treat, especially the McLaren 650S GT.
After the race was finished the entire paddock remained built, as there was a two day test to commence on the Tuesday. This posses a challenge to many of the teams with large Motorhomes as they have to take down their units on Thursday and travel immediately to the next venue to build there. The next race is Monaco and this also presents it own set of unique challenges the main two being that there is only one road in and out of the paddock area and the second is that the weekend starts on a Wednesday, a day early as there is no F1 running on a Friday.
The de-rig began on Wednesday night straight after the test had finished and was then completed in a full day on Thursday.
The crew then travelled via the company vans to Monaco on Friday.
Monaco is basically a nightmare for teams in terms of organization and logistics. The pit lane is small and there is no space to keep the normal build of trucks and tyre garage/office space directly behind the garages. Instead there is an upstairs section above the garage and everything has to be fitted into that space with the tyres being sorted in the open air in what will become the pit lane in the race.
There is a tiny space between the back of the garages and the start finish straight, just enough of somebody to stand with the pitboard and hang through the fence. From that angle the spectacle of F1 cars bursting down the street is one that cannot be repeated anywhere else in the world.
As I mentioned before the paddock has one road in and out. That is because it is a harbour side that is opposite the Rascasse turn. (Where Schumacher stopped that time).
In its normal guise this area is a car park and residential area. On one side is the sea and the other restaurants and apartment buildings.
For that week the peace for these residents is well and truly disturbed as there parking area is taken over completely with F1.
The first day of the build (Saturday) is a fight between locals and teams as people park their cars where you need to put a truck and Bentleys, scooters and motorbikes ride through to get to the yacht club just beyond the end of the car park.
Building is slow and at times painful as someone is blocking the road with a truck or a piece of lifting equipment. Everybody is trying to get built but in the most part everybody works together to help each other out. Smaller teams or units have to wait for the ‘big boys’ to get done before they can move in but everybody manages to get done and built with literally a foot of space between each unit.
Taking it all down presents the same set of problems so once the final truck leaves the dock it’s a big sigh of relief not only for the teams but the residents of Monte Carlo harbour.
Signing out for another week, see you all again soon