Friday, 18th May, 2007 – Bucharest, Day 2
Sometime during Thursday night, the weather changed dramatically, the weather going from baking hot and sunny to damp, humid and stormy overnight. It wasn’t entirely surprising because I’d stood on the balcony after we got back from dinner and nearly been blown off my feet by a wind that got up unexpectedly. Everything was sodden, which made the main boulevard slippery underfoot, and didn’t help in our attempts to hunt down the Accreditation office (in a tent somewhere). It certainly wasn’t where the map we’d been sent suggested (which interestingly had an address nowhere near the graphical representation of the tent). As it turned out, after a phone call to Jacquie in the press office, the tent was actually just by the main paddock entrance, which was actually a third location altogether.
The gate guards certainly didn’t seem to know where the office was, which meant we’d wandered quite a long way by the time we actually got our passes. Still, it could have been worse. The trek to the press office itself turned out to be somewhat epic. Over the footbridge across the track, up the grassy slope to the Presidential Palace, also known locally as the Madman’s Palace, and across the driveway, through the heaviest metal doors, and then the massive wooden doors, and then through an airport-like security scan, before we entered the massive foyer of the palace, and had to cross that to fetch up in the room that was to serve as the press office for the duration of the weekend. It was startlingly impressive, with acres of marble, silk curtains, wood inlaid floors and carpets so big they had to be woven in situ.
The press lunch room looked like this:
We settled in to what was a very empty press office, set up our stuff, then wandered out to go trackside during untimed practice. We started at the first corner for a while, taking lots of photos, and then headed down to the last corner, which was next to the F3 paddock. Originally you had a choice of getting in there while the track was not in use, which obviously limited your access, or walking the long way round, which we really didn’t much fancy. We figured we’d be covering enough ground without adding any more to it. Mood in the paddock varied, with Anthony “Boyo” Hieatt at Raikkonen Robertson Racing being Mr. Grumpy all weekend (admittedly when Atte Mustonen’s car was brough back on a flatbed truck that had no lifting gear, thus necessitating everyone having to lift it rather than roll it off the truck so it ripped its floor off on the ground, you could see his point), while life at Carlin was as noisy and cheerful as ever.
It didn’t help life at Raikkonen Robertson Racing that for some reason Carlin seem to better at getting to grips with new tracks than they are and proved to be once again here.
We spent the second free practice session at the first Chicane which was great – although I always worry a bit when I can see the whites of their eyes like this!
Also, I kept getting pelted with bits of broken Tarmac and dead tyre, and it was starting to smart a bit by the end. We flogged back across another footbridge, and then had to loop back down the hill and up again after the police wouldn’t let us walk straight across the front of the Presidential Palace (Marc and Paul were allowed to go that way; we weren’t, but then they’re male and we’re not, which was a theme that would be repeated more than once over the rest of the weekend – to my terrific annoyance). Once back there we had lunch, provided for us for once, then settled in to watch qualifying and report on it. It all got a bit messy, the most notable piece of mayhem being provided when Walter Grubmuller managed to make a complete idiot of himself.
To my way of thinking it really does take a special kind of stupid to wipe yourself and your car out completely on your out lap, especially when you go off so hard at the first corner that you break the gearbox in half and destroy the chassis. He later claimed he had no brakes, which makes the fact that the thing went into the wall rear end first very difficult to explain away, but there you go. I’ve never been impressed by him, and he’s not improving in my estimation with each meeting that goes by. He was taken to hospital, then released and promptly flew home in the private plane that had brought him there, announcing that he’d sit this one out. Apparently the following morning he decided he was feeling much better, so could he come back please? And by the way, was his car ready? Given that he’d gone home, no it wasn’t. Words fail me, frankly.
Anyway, we eventually legged it back to the hotel, had time for a rapid shower, and headed out across the Piata Unirii again in search of dinner. While we were walking that way, the heavens opened, so we ended up diving into the first place on our list, the Amsterdam, which is ironically a Dutch bar (there’s a surprise, eh?), serving excellent cocktails, Dutch style snacks – things like bitterballen and Oud Amsterdam cheese – as well as steak and chips. The service was very good too. I had a super goulasch soup to start (I needed to get warm), we drank some very good red wine, and some of us had cocktails as dessert. The rain had finally stopped by the time we headed back to the ranch to try and snatch some sleep. Practice was scheduled for 8.15 the following morning, so it was a stupidly early start again.