Saturday, 16 April 2011

Hamilton 3rd

Saturday 16th April 2011

MP3 track of the day: Driving in my car– Madness

Weather: Freezing. As my seat was almost at the top of an open grandstand, I got the full brunt of the wind in my face. Even with my coat done up, my gloves on, my woolly hat in place - with my coats hood over the top - I was still cold.

I was awake at 3am due to a familiar noise. It wasn't the rustling of plastic bags, it wasn't the sound of trains passing by the dorms open window, it was the sound of a mosquito buzzing near my ear. I haven't been bitten by a mosquito for about a month and I wasn't going to start now. I waved my hand across my ear (hitting nothing) before applying mosquito repellant. I then headed back to the land of nod.


I awoke to find that I had been bitten quite a few times, mainly on my arms and hands. Annoying I had one bite on my left-hand's index finger – which itched like hell - that had swollen preventing me from closing my hand into a fist. Other than that I was fit, healthy and ready for the F1 qualifying today. Once again I found myself downstairs before the Colombians; I went on the internet and awaited our meeting time of 8:30am. At 8:45am we were all ready to leave.

Instead of heading to McDonald's we went to a Chinese take-away, recommended to the Colombians by another traveler. As I hadn't eaten much Chinese food so far I was looking forward to this meal, until I saw what was on offer. Eggs, eggs and oh, more eggs seem to dominate the menu; I ordered a small bowl of noodles, skipped the eggs (and the moldy pastries) and sat down. Even the noodles weren't that good; the Colombians were equally unimpressed with breakfast as I and so we went to McDonald's for 'second breakfast'. I ordered another 'sausage and cheese McMuffin' but, of course, I got a spicy chicken McMuffin instead. The queues were large and I didn't want to make a fuss; I sat down and ate my breakfast rather surprised to find it quite tasty.

The others ordered their lunch and tea just like yesterday. So far things were very similar to twenty-four hours ago; we had spent a fair amount of time within McDonalds and we were running late. The only difference was that there was no 'bag snatcher' this morning. The lateness really didn't matter as today's events started one hour later than yesterday. As I was about to board the underground train I was glad that I was with Chinese speaking Colombians as the first train wasn't heading to the race track, however there were no English signs to notify you of this.

We waited for the next train with a South African joining our, now very international, group. The train journey took forty-five minutes to reach the track. I had a quick look around for any new Mclaren merchandise stalls but their weren't any. What I did find, on the coca-cola stand, was a dance performance by five very fit Chinese ladies, wearing hardly anything, whilst jumping around a lot. I quite enjoyed the performance but, as it appeared, not as much as the Colombians who went further forward to video the routine.

Today wasn't an 'open ticket' day. Because of this there was another line of security at each stand; once I'd found the entrance to my stand I had to show my ticket again. Looking at my ticket I was allocated seat six on row twenty-seven (the second row from the top) in block 6.1. Once I'd walked up the many steps to my seat I came to the conclusion on three specific topics. Firstly it was a long way up and so I was glad that I had all my food, and drink, with me. Secondly the view, of the track, was superb; I could see the final corner, most of the pit-straight, right around the first corner and off onto the second straight. In the distance I could also see the third hair-pin. Thirdly I noticed that it was cold, bibically cold. Being up this high meant that I caught the full force of the wind (and it was windy); I'd tucked my t-shirt into my trousers, zipped up my coat, put my woolly hat on, put my coats hat on above my woolly hat and even put my gloves on. I was still cold. The temperature wasn't great for me however it should liven up the racing today as all of practice, from yesterday, was in relatively warm weather. I sat and I waited for 'practice three' to start.

Due to the change in weather temperature I was expecting to see all teams out racing, trying to get as much practice in as possible. However this wasn't the case; everything seemed calm and normal. The view was exceptional however, from this far back, I couldn't make out the drivers very well. I also couldn't see the TV that well; I had to take photos of the TV screen, zoom into the photo, to see who was leading. Practice three ended with Vettel on top, Button second and Hamilton third. I wasn't planning on leaving the stands – as I'd walked around the circuit yesterday – however I was so cold that I needed warming up; I decided to go for a walk before heading to the 'F1 village' to find a hot cup of 'coco'.

I walked in the direction of the first hair-pin, hearing the Porsche cars take part in their third practice session. Today no one could be seen climbing the fences and there seemed to be a lot more police around. The police still weren't doing a lot and I found a group of them, within a public toilet, talking and sheltering from the wind whilst smoking. Just like yesterday a barrier prevented me from completing a lap of the circuit; I headed back the way I had come and went into the 'F1 Village'. Once there I met the Canadian from yesterday; he was wondering around the same as I and we joined forces in the hunt for a hot drink.

Not one hot drink, not even coffee, could be found. Due to the walk I was getting quite warm and so I abandoned the idea and walked, back in the same direction as earlier, chatting to the Canadian. Again we talked all things F1 however we mostly focused on the fact that the Shanghai GP side events were few and far between. At other races you would have an 'F1 Village' four times the size with bands, car shows and dances happening all the time. Events would run into the night however here it seemed you watched the race and then left; again this reinforced my conclusion that the Chinese people don't really follow F1. Don't get me wrong, the Chinese girls wearing very little was great this morning, but more performances were needed.

It was getting close to qualifying; once again I said goodbye to the Canadian as I got my ticket checked before I reentered my stand. I sat down and prepared myself, once more, for the cold. Unusually most people took their seats, which was great as it meant everyone could see; the only annoying thing were the 'lucky, lucky salesmen' walking up and down the stairs trying to sell ear buds and binoculars throughout qualifying. Session one finished with Mark Webber out; I like the Aussie but as long as Hamilton got through I wasn't too upset. Session two didn't really show any surprises and soon we were up to session three. This session was only ten minutes long and it took Hamilton eight minutes to appear. My heart was racing until I saw the silver and red car of Lewis Hamilton on track; it was clear he was only going to do one run. Just as Hamilton was starting his only 'flying lap' the TV's stopped working. I watched Hamilton drive around the first corner faultlessly and into the distance. I had no idea what would happen for the rest of the lap until he crossed the finish line. Once the session was over the TV's came back to life and I took a photo of the top ten placings. As I zoomed in I noticed that Vettel was first, Button second and Hamilton third. Even thought I would have preferred Hamilton on pole I was glad with third.

Most people departed the track however I decided to stay. Reading my 'timetable of events' I noticed that there was a Porsche race on next, that only took thirty minutes. The race was okay; being located at the first corner I did see a few cars go off the track but most behaved themselves. The race soon finished – with some guy winning who I'd never herd off – and so I packed up my stuff and walked down the stand. As I departed I looked to my right seeing the Colombians within the stand next to me. I waited for them and eventually they appeared but they didn't see me. They didn't seem to be in much of a rush and were taking their time; as they hadn't seen me I departed and met a British couple, from Kent, on the train back to Shanghai. It seems these two Brits follow F1 around the globe; they were telling me about all the races that they've been to. They also told me that their daughter wants to travel in which I replied 'do it', it's one of the best experiences you can have. I said goodbye as I departed the train at my stop. Once back at the hostel I logged onto the internet to check the BBC F1 site before having tea and getting ready for another early night.

Tomorrow the race … COME ON HAMILTON!!!

Toodle Pip

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