Travel 2007 – Macau, Day 7

Saturday, 17th November 2007 – Macau, Day 7

Saturday used to be the day we didn’t have to do much. Saturday was entirely given over to the motorcyclists (who are all certifiably insane – these, after all, are also the men who race in the Isle of Man TT), and the demented locals, most of whom seem oddly surprised to find corners where they are, despite the fact that they probably drive these streets most days of the week. There’s definitely often an air of “Who the hell put that there?” about some of their moves, which makes you wonder a bit.

Mind you, the locals who play with the F3 boys – and there’s a regular half dozen of them – are also often woefully out of their depth, even young Mr. Avila, who is not a racing driver except in his own head, even after a couple of years in Europe seeing how it really is done. Anyway, having had years when this was a three day race meeting with Saturday off as far as we were concerned, these days we have the qualifying race in the afternoon. Granted it’s only ten laps, but it still needs to be reported on. After all, it decides the order they’ll start the main race on Sunday.

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It’s interesting too, because beforehand there’s often an air of sense in the paddock, with people fervently claiming that they just want to survive, that “This is not the time to be a hero!”, as Bruno Senna was insisting to me in the garage half an hour before (shame he didn’t explain that to Nico Hülkenberg), but it’s amazing how much of that goes straight out of their fluffy little brains the moment the lights go out and they get to go racing. Oh, and Bruno proved he’s an observant individual by telling me he’d seen me ”standing on a bridge” the day before. He was the only one who did, it seems, or at least the only one who mentioned it. Stephen Jelley, on the other hand, complained he’d been looking for me at Melco and hadn’t seen me. And that would be because I was there on Thursday, as I’d told him I would be, not on Friday!

Mind you, it wasn’t too strenuous a day. I headed down relatively early to try and do some shots in the paddock, and also to make sure that the F3 Group Photo didn’t take place without me. This was less chaotic than it can be, because they’ve now hit on the brilliant idea of rounding them all up straight from the compulsory drivers’ briefing and marching them off to where they’re needed for the photo shoot. It saves messing about, and lessens the chances of them wandering off or just not turning up! The only issues I have with it are that they use the scrutineering bay, which means there’s not much time, and Yokohama make them wear hats, which is a bad thing when it’s noon and the sun is directly overhead. It means you can’t see their faces. At least this year we got to do a “hats off” shot as well as a “hats on” one.

I like the way Macau is organized, and the fact that the grid is formed up quite a while in advance. It gives you plenty of time to get out there and take photos, unlike the somewhat variable five minutes we tend to get at home. I love taking photos on the grid. It’s interesting to see how different drivers react, some remaining chatty right to the point where they’re left alone to get on with the job (Charlie Kimball was one of that school, making jokes, crossing his eyes, that sort of thing), while others retreat into themselves, to the point that as an observer you can sense it (Lewis Hamilton springs to mind). They don’t want anyone to talk to them, touch them, even make eye contact with them at this point because they’re busy doing whatever it is they have to do to be in the right place in their heads. And of course there are people who completely fail to pick up on that and try to communicate. Me, I mostly notice. Sam Bird’s very much in the latter camp, as I think some of my photos show.

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After the race, I opted not to do the podium ceremony, but started frantically recording what had happened, including the Nico Hülkenberg/Bruno Senna ”aircrash” of an accident. The worst incidents seemed to come from the Macau rookies, who simply hadn’t understood Bruno’s point about not trying to be a hero on Saturday because you’ll ruin your chances for Sunday’s race. Still, everyone survived (though the same could not be said for Bruno’s car), and the only real injury was a cracked bone in Bruno’s hand. The combination meant his race was over before he’d even had a chance, which must have been very frustrating, especially after he’d insisted ”This is the best race in the world! Everyone should do it!”

As soon as the work was done, we took off to change and get a cab to the Rio to join the shuttle bus to the annual Grand Prix Committee Dinner, as ever a splendid buffet affair held at the Taipa Houses Museum over on Taipa, with food prepared by the Lisboa hotel chefs, and various entertainment (a band, a man making silhouettes of anyone who wants one, someone producing scrolls of people’s names, a man making model crickets from dried grasses, dancers).

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We were joined by the Jelleys (Lindsay enjoying herself far more this year than last) and the Jarvises, and Lindsay and Jenny had a fine time collecting various arty things, while Stephen seemed to be enjoying the food. The Buurmans turned up as they did last year (as they’re Dutch it could just have been the opportunity for free food – sorry, Nath! Helena! – but it might just be that they liked the atmosphere last year). They do seem very sociable actually. When we first started going to these parties, the museum looked out over a lagoon and towards the open sea. Now, the Venetian dominates the skyline, and I seriously doubt that the migratory birds that used to settle there (and that meant no fireworks) can even see the place from the air for all the light pollution.

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