Friday, 9th Jun, 2006 – British Grand Prix, Silverstone
The day started horribly early when Skil Piccione called to say they were just leaving Northampton on their way to Silverstone, and she would meet me at the circuit gate. I got ready in nothing flat and headed out of the door, arriving on the approach road to the track just as Clivio drove up the slip road. That saved me a bit of a walk, and I was pretty grateful for that small mercy later.
It was a lovely sunny day, and I soon settled into the GP2 paddock, discovering that the hospitality area offered very good coffee, excellent croissants, and really friendly people. I needed a coffee by then, because I’d had no breakfast in my scramble to get ready. I’d also been accosted by Ernesto Viso by then. He spent most of the weekend trying to get his friends to kiss me, or introducing me to people with things like, “This is my friend. He really likes you! You can have sex.” He’s just as vilely horrible as ever, and I’ve missed him, in a strange and twisted sort of way.
Anyway, coffee and croissant duly consumed, I set off for a trawl around the paddock, blundering across countless old, familiar faces, including Alexandre Premat, who was very chatty, Lewis Hamilton (who nearly ran me down with a quad bike), and a very snuffly, pale looking Nelson Piquet Junior, who was suffering one of the worst cases of hayfever I’ve seen in a long time. He told me he’d not been able to train or sleep for about two weeks, and he looked thoroughly miserable.
I then decided to take a few photographs, only to have the security guard on the gate tell me I couldn’t use my camera unless I had a permit. It seemed a bit odd, but I did as I was told, and put it away. About an hour later, when I was at the gate trying to help Oliver Jarvis get in, she told me she’d checked the rules, and she was very sorry, she’d checked and actually the need for a permit only applied to camcorders and the like that take moving pictures, not stills cameras. It was nice to get the apology and feel I could get some shots. It was even nicer to be able to help Oliver out and lend him what was to be Lynne’s pass for Saturday and Sunday.
I also spent a large part of the morning trying to locate Jimmy Jacobsson, the Swede I’d had to find a B&B for (to say nothing of the four people with him). That all started on Monday when I got a phone call from my friend Alfred Dittberner in Sweden, telling me this kid had been invited to do the Porsche Supercup and needed somewhere to stay. My initial reaction was “What the hell do you expect me to do about it at this short notice?” but I made a series of phone calls to the leaders of the B&B landlady mafia that exists in these parts, and managed to find them something. They had to move from one place to another on Friday, but that wasn’t my problem! They had beds… I couldn’t find him though, not helped by the fact that I didn’t have the faintest idea what he looked like…
Skil and I sat in the GP2 unit to watch testing, and afterwards I wandered about a lot more, chatting to all sorts of people, including Mike Conway, who was deputising for Olivier Pla (who pronounced himself “bored” at being trapped in the paddock with nothing to do, and even more bored at being stuck with his arm in a cast for at least another two weeks), and Timo Glock, who is deputising for Nicolas Lapierre, the latter having collected a back injury at Monaco. Lunch was relatively relaxing, apart from an over-excitable Giorgio Pantano bouncing up and down and trying to persuade the staff to start serving before noon, and being told no. The food was excellent, with pasta and fresh vegetables, as well as all sorts of cold meats. I ignored the desserts, and took a yogurt, and just kept on drinking water to counteract the heat.
In the afternoon, I did yet more cruising up and down talking to people, and also met up with Jane, one of the Australians we’ve had around F3 for a while. We both managed to avoid being water-sprayed by Ernesto, who had the power hose and was directing it at unsuspecting passersby, and I put her in touch with Wendy (another Australian), who was taking the spare pass I had for Saturday but needed help getting from Milton Keynes, where Jane lives. I managed to track down the Swede finally (I identified him in the end because his team-mate for the weekend was Kelvin Burt – replacing Duncan Huisman – and I know exactly what Kelvin looks like) and discovered that all was well, and that Kirsty, the landlady, had been very kind to them.
I also spent a lot of time trying to contact Christian Bakkerud, because I had a spare pass for him for the Sunday. His mobile phone seemed to have failed, and in the end, after a call to Maro Engel, who also only had a mobile number, I ended up calling Carlin Motorsport and asking them to pass the message on. Chris eventually got back to me and I now have his new number.
Meanwhile, Wolfgang Monsehr, the legendarily disorganised German journalist, was flapping about having no computer connectivity, because GP2 media are not allowed in the F1 press office, and he’s such a technophobe that he won’t even attempt to go wireless (the GP2 unit is equipped for this). I offered him the use of my phone line at home, which led to constant repetition of the instructions, and him repeatedly telling me stuff I didn’t need to know about how he was getting on with the reports he wanted to send!
Eventually, at around 6pm, I decided I really should go home as I’d been on my feet for about 10 hours give or take a couple of sit downs to watch testing and qualifying, and half an hour for lunch), so I wandered out through the Copse Tunnel, and was unlocking the front door 20 minutes afterwards, which I thought was pretty good. A quick shower and a change of clothes, and we were off to The Vine House for dinner, in company with Steffy, Glyn, Skil, Clivio and Davide (Clivio’s trainer).
On the way I got a call from our friends Elaine and Bill, that very nearly tipped me into total hysteria. Sue, their friend, had won Paddock Club passes for Sunday (these things sell at something like £1900 each), and she had insisted they take the passes, as a reward for support and friendship. Elaine had therefore bought a start/finish line hospitality suite place for Sue so they could all enjoy the day. The only thing was, they had nowhere to stay… You can see where this is going, can’t you? Anyway, I offered them my floor if they brought their own bedding, and they accepted. We arranged they would show up in time to come out to dinner on Saturday evening (already booked for La Strada in Towcester).
We arrived at the restaurant still in a state of helpless laughter, and started on the Champagne just as the others arrived. We had a splendid meal (no surprises there) and Skil later declared it the best cooking she’d ever eaten in Britain. She also ordered an extra dessert for all of us to share, after she, Lynne and myself managed to steal most of Clivio’s before he could stop us. Skill also managed to pay the bill for everyone before we could stop her. There then ensued a complicated discussion with a firm of Northampton cabbies about where the restaurant was which nearly led to me telling them to get a map. The guy showed up just as I was considering driving the Piccione party back to the Marriott myself, and eventually we all retreated to our respective beds!