The Chinese Grand Prix has the F1 paddock isolated and unable to communicate. If that’s not a metaphor we really don’t know what is…
If your name’s not down…
The paddock is shorn of a few regulars this weekend as the annual chaotic bunfight that is the China Visa Scramble claims – as it always does – a few victims. Unlike a tourist visa, which is pretty simple to organise, anyone working needs to go through a tortuous process slightly more complicated than getting a mortgage and nearly as expensive. There are a dozen impenetrable steps and to give it that frisson of excitement, the authorities don’t let the process begin until 14 days before the race. Then there are Chinese national holidays and European holidays to negotiate – during both of which the process grinds to a halt. Unsurprisingly, as happens every year, names go missing off the list and the unlucky few don’t get to come. Autosport’s redoubtable Edd Straw is one of this year’s sacrificial lambs and rumour has it our very own Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost was initially denied entry at Shanghai Airport. All around the world, angry F1 folk have been camped out at Chinese embassies and visa offices, wondering if they’ll make their flight. Among the more amusing stories are the ones where Embassy staff apologise for losing the required documents and suggest the unlucky soul change their travel dates and come to Shanghai next week instead…
The saga of Lotus, Lotus and ex-Lotus
The story that simply won’t die is the ongoing grumpiness between various Lotus and ex-Lotus factions. Much to the amusement of anyone in the paddock not directly involved, Group Lotus (the one in Norfolk that makes road cars) issued a press release insisting that it’s alive and well and continues to be involved with the Lotus F1 Team (the one in Enstone that makes F1 cars and used to be Renault), it went to on to suggest tweets to the contrary from Tony Fernandes (team principal of Caterham F1 which used to be Team Lotus) are wide of the mark. Like a dust-up at a wedding, you realise it’s all very inappropriate but somehow you can’t quite drag your eyes away.
The Great (fire)Wall
If you see the Shanghai International Circuit on TV, you can’t fail to notice the two enormous sky bridges across the track. While the one after the start-finish line is home to various VIPs, the one before is currently home to a seething ball of resentment – yes, it’s the media centre. The gentleman and occasional lady of the press like having something to complain about but this weekend our Chinese hosts are giving them plenty of ammunition and top of the list today was internet access. It costs an eye-watering €130 for four days’ access which is enough to get them revved to start with, but to add insult to wallet-injury it didn’t work. Access is always a bit awkward in China but today everything ground to a resounding halt. It seems everything had been put on the restricted list – including redbull.com. Later on, things started working and a notice went around that China’s main server had gone offline because of the earthquake in Indonesia. If so it was a very selective earthquake which didn’t have the same effect down in the paddock, or indeed sites with collaborative agreements in China like Google and Yahoo…
Bridges over troubled water
While the F1 paddock likes to run like clockwork this weekend it’s definitely more of the wonky fake market variety than Swiss watch efficiency. As you may have seen on TV, the team buildings are raised on stilts above an ornamental lake and connected by bridges and causeways. Most teams have two of these units but crucially not two next to each other. Cue much bafflement as people try to get from one building to the next, which is often in sight but usually on the other side of a body of water. “Sorry I’m late, I got lost,” has been a familiar refrain. People usually have it figured out by Sunday though – only to be confronted by a new configuration the following year.
- Visit the official Formula 1 website
- F1 Chinese Grand Prix event page
- Chinese GP F1 Blog
- Lucky Numbers: Chinese Grand Prix
- Search for Formula 1 videos on YouTube