Grey skies greeted me for day one of the Chinese Grand Prix. It’s been grey skies every time I’ve been to China but I see with great interest, there is a sun symbol next to Sunday’s forecast, I hope it eventuates.
Let’s start with Daniel Ricciardo shall we. When I caught up with him doing hot laps with invited guests in an Aston Martin he was nursing a very large blood blister on his bottom lip. It looked nasty and painful.
As an aside, whenever he takes off his helmet as he did after the hot laps, he is very quick to ask for a cap, no doubt part of his sponsorship arrangement “cap must be worn at all times”. Although I did catch him hatless in the moments it took to track down the cap. His team driving partner Max Verstappen was one of the 3 drivers featured in the press conference at the track today and I found him, and two of the Red Bull marketing team James and Victoria, coming out of the lavish Red Bull driver’s suite (Christian Horner’s in the background). These suites are situated on the right of the paddock as seen below, with the garages on the left. The large paddock is full of nothing, just concrete and is largely soul-less.Max joined Pierre Gasly and Marcus Ericsson in the press conference room for an uneventful 25 minute Q&A; they are all very polite and have not yet tired of the relentless questions, some quite inane. There was a drivers’ autograph session on the track in the afternoon and while there wasn’t a big crowd, those who did front up were certainly keen to get a front row position. All the drivers presented themselves with everyone wearing a smile at some point during the signing/selfie session (well maybe not Kimi, that’s not his thing). There was a surprising number of enthusiastic female fans who turned up for the autograph session, both in the crowd and in pit lane. Being a major event in China, there were plenty of police around to keep us safe. They were well kitted out in hard hats, vests with many pockets and two way radios. Lewis Hamilton arrived at the track this morning wearing a Tommy Hilfiger outfit. The fashion brand pumps significant coin into Lewis and the team as he’s been very supportive of them on social media over the past week. Later at the signing session he’d changed his shoes to team footwear.I did invest 80 minutes waiting for him to come out of Mercedes’ hospitality suite after lunch as there were some lovely trees either side of a narrow path that made a great back/fore/side-ground. It would have been ideal if he’d come out on his own but I took what was on offer. You’ll note below how perfectly he is holding his can of Monster sugar syrup. He was aware there were a few photographers waiting and I suggest he choreographed his hand position with that in mind and even turned on a smile with the resultant pic a winner for Monster and Tommy. A shot like the one above is quite rare as Lewis rarely smiles, often looks down and nearly always has a mobile phone in his hand.
After that I went looking for colourful shots and came across some interesting subjects. Sebastian Vettel did his track walk and I found him at the start of his lap on the main straight. The fella second from the right is Inaki Rueda, the team strategist and my son Tyler took the most marvellous photo of him and Seb after the Melbourne GP. I printed 3 x A3 copies of it and presented Inaki with one for him and one for Seb and asked if he (and Seb) might sign the third. As I was leaving tonight I popped back and was delighted that he’d not only got two signatures on it, but that both had positively commented on the shot. My 18-year old son was understandably thrilled. Perhaps as thrilled as the women below who embraced her job of cleaning the paddock with great gusto and vigour. She was all of 4 foot 6 inches (135cm) and impeccably dressed.
So with day one out of the way it was back to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 20 mins from the track, for a night’s rest and then back to the track tomorrow for the two 90 minute practice sessions.
But before that, my driver’s helmet of the day is that of Kimi Raikkonen and from 4 different angles; thanks to Russell Batchelor.