Travel 2008 – Bucharest, Day 2

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Friday, 29th August 2008 – Bucharest, Day 2

This was a first. We actually had time to have breakfast at the hotel. It wasn’t brilliant in quality terms (pre-packaged chocolate croissants, white bread, fruit juice, plain yogurt) but it was adequate and anyway it was included in our room rate. We weren’t too sure what the catering arrangements at the circuit would be this year but we weren’t taking any chances. Thus fortified we headed off to get our passes from the accreditation centre, which this year was exactly where the organisers had told Jacquie it would be – so that saved a lot of tramping round getting nowhere. This was a good thing and the right answer as far as we could tell, even if we did find the Icelanders being disorganised when we got there; luckily they were behind us in the queue so at least they didn’t hold us up and we could tease Kristjan’s friend about his multi-lingual attempts to meet women while we all waited!

Passes acquired we started a slow wander through the paddock and up to the Media Centre which was once again in a room in the Presidential Palace (aka The Madman’s Palace).

And this year the promised shuttle buses were in action which meant you didn’t have to flog up the hill in the midday heat. Even though it wouldn’t have been too bad because we’d left our laptops at the hotel for once – no practice, no reports to write, no need for laptops – we used the service anyway because the buses were air-conditioned.

Once up there the building was just as mind-boggling as last year even if – sadly – they’d decided not to run guided tours for the journalists this time round. I’d have loved another look round but had to settle for the bits I could see going from the door to the office and back.

Additionally, they’d brought in the same German catering crew as last year and lunch was served for the media. This is unprecedented. It just does not happen. Normally you make your own arrangements and look grateful if there’s so much as coffee and biscuits so a full lunch – pasta in a cream sauce, potato cakes, beef in sauce, broccoli – was gratefully received and duly devoured! We followed that up with a wander around the paddock where different drivers were taking different approaches to the extreme heat. Marcus Ericsson was out in it wearing as little as possible with a wet towel on his head.

Oliver Turvey, by contrast, was hiding in the shade and not exposing his redhead’s complexion – or anything else if he could avoid it.

After that we decided to investigate the new café just outside the paddock gate, the Tango.

The terrace had big umbrellas shading deep, comfortable sofas and there was a breeze blowing along the boulevard.

The idea of a beer break became irresistible.

That led to ice cream and a long pause before free practice started.

For the first session I was keen to head out to the first chicane because you can get really close to the action there (it can be too close when they’re scattering you with bits of gravel and old tyre rubber or “marbles”).

I took quite a lot of shots, and did some experimenting with the fisheye lens just to see what would happen.

They were doing quite nicely out there until Kendra, Sam Abay’s mum, remarked that it had been a trouble free session and that’s when it came to a premature end thanks to Atte Mustonen (or Pratte as he was later referred to).

You can see why perhaps from this photo.

Anyway, that put an end to that session so we retreated to the paddock for a while where Sam showed me the effects of brake wear – or at least the indicators of it. The marks on the disc start out green, amber and red and change colour once a certain level of heat is reached. They’d all changed, which given it was apparently 55°C out there (track temperature anyway) wasn’t that big a surprise.

After that we decided we needed an iced coffee or similar, similar turning out to be a vanilla frappe at the Tango.

Then it was time to head out to the last corner for the second and final session of the day – only to find that you couldn’t actually get there! Theoretically it was permissible for photographers to go there, but in practice there was no obvious way through and none of the security guards had the foggiest idea of how it could be done.

I ended up having to improvise, first from the steps of the bridge and then from the inside of the corner, neither of which were ideal.

And by then the light was starting to go (Bucharest is on GMT+2) so I gave up and we staggered back to the hotel.

That evening we decided we’d visit a new restaurant, the Charme, which came highly recommended. And so it should. We started with the best caipirinha I’ve had since Sabor do Brasil closed and we drank them while trying to decide what to have.

I had a shrimp salad to start with:

Followed by grilled seafood:

All told, the food was excellent, the wine was very good, the waiters friendly and helpful and we also got treated to the weird cabaret that is apparently cigarette marketing in Romania. As if the small child trying to find his way into the ice cream display wasn’t entertainment enough:

We’d finished dinner when a well-dressed couple came into the restaurant and had some sort of discussion with the manager/owner. They then went back outside and shortly afterwards three tall women in long satin cloaks carrying glass bowls with candles in them wandered in, went round the room and went back out again. After another pause a very odd ballet ensued outside on the terrace, with four women dressed as a bad-tempered ladybird, a butterfly and I’m really not sure what else, and a man in a silvery robe danced and pranced about for about ten minutes.

Then they went away. And then the women with the cloaks came back, handed cigarettes to the smokers already in there, and went away again. Odd doesn’t begin to cover it quite honestly. Maybe it was the heat… Who knows!

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