Fielding feedback from DC
Welcome back to Europe, Formula 1! After four long-haul races, three different winners, no pole-to-flag victories and a slightly longer than expected stay in China, it was a shock to the system to sit on a plane for only a couple of hours to get to a race.
Now, along with less travelling, there is one big difference for us when we get to Europe - motorhomes!
Ferrari's, as you'd expect, stands out somewhat. Silver windows, bright red walls and three floors high.
McLaren's equally imposing 'Brand Centre' is probably the coolest, all silver and black, and they also make a mean cup of coffee. It was the scene of 'sausage-gate' in 2009 season, when BBC 5 live commentator David Croft polished off a whopping seven sausages one breakfast time. He has since started looking more like a long-distance runner after an impressively successful diet.
I even bagged a guided tour of Virgin's new 'paddock palace', which was making its debut, and I must admit it was pretty swish.
However, for all the sliding doors, ergonomically designed breakfast bar stools and flat-screen TVs, my favourite of the lot is grey, a little cramped, and is prone to slight flooding if we have heavy rain.
You see, the teams now have their own homes that will travel to the grands prix (except Canada) until Monza, and so do we.
Ferrari's motorhome fails to attract the attention of two passers-by Photograph: AP
On the long-haul races both the teams' homes and the broadcasters' facilities are provided for them at the circuit and, I know it sounds strange, but after a few races using portable buildings as production offices, we felt like we'd come home.
It was a little like going back to school after the summer holidays. You might not have been in your classroom for weeks but you still head to the same desk and hang your coat on the same hook, and we were no different.
I spent this weekend working away at the very desk I left in Monza last year, I even discovered a coat-hanger I'd left in there at the back end of the 2009 season.
However, while the paddock VIPs enjoyed fine wines and delicious meals just yards away, it was the welcome return of the chance to create the 'ultimate sandwich' that I enjoyed the most!
Along with the production office, editing facilities, sound booth and gallery, comes the most important room of all - the kitchen.
Despite a slight crisis on Friday when a late-arriving team member had to sneak some teabags into their hand luggage, it was a textbook race weekend for Pete, who's effectively our quartermaster.
As well as looking after the technical aspects of the truck, Pete heads off to the supermarket each day, picking up bread, salad, meats and cheeses so the team can ensure that, no matter how busy the weekend becomes, there will always be a bit of comfort eating just around the corner.
They say an army marches on its stomach, well the BBC produces F1 based on the same principle it seems. Cheese and ham sandwich and diet cola at 11am... our director knows how to live!
However, while the trusty truck is part of our lives again, it's still been a strange couple of races without my usual sidekicks to enjoy the action with.
And, to be fair, the famous Mille Miglia is a pretty good reason for being otherwise engaged. DC spent Saturday cruising around Italy with former team-mate Mika Hakkinen in a classic Mercedes gull wing car, although David admitted that Mika was hogging the driving somewhat. However, thanks to more ash-related frustrations, David was unable to join us on Sunday for the race.
Now, picture this. DC lives in Monaco and there would have been a raft of boats, restaurants, pools and parties that he could have frequented on Sunday no doubt. Instead, he spent the afternoon with us. Well, sitting in his room watching the coverage, anyway.
Sure enough, we got David live on the phone to confirm this. I then proceeded to ask him what he thought of the afternoon, meaning the race itself, and he launched into a critique of the BBC coverage!
Now, I am only too happy to discuss the coverage with David and Eddie, as our sole aim is to make the programme as strong as possible. I just wasn't expecting to do it live on air.
But that is a snapshot of why David shone in a world as competitive and cutthroat as F1 - attention to detail! Now he has decided to be part of the BBC's F1 output, he wants to make it the best he possibly can. Merely acceptable isn't good enough. I did feel sorry for the masses of British F1 fans in Spain who were all asking if he was here. It seemed a certain couple had traveled from Wales just to see him!
Monaco harbour beckons Photograph: Getty
I've actually missed having my two TV partners by my side since Malaysia. It feels rather strange listening to The Chain blasting down our earpieces and having only one friend to wish luck to. No, let me correct that. EJ's attention span is so so short that he is usually chatting to someone during the opening titles and has to be shoved into shot seconds before we're live anyway!
It's incredible how quickly you slip into a routine and create a bond with your on-screen buddies. I guess that's because you very quickly need to develop a comfortable rapport, a real trust of each other and an understanding of body language. It's an intense working environment and it is genuinely a little unsettling to suddenly be without one of them.
I'm pleased to report that both the guys missed being involved terribly, and we're looking forward to being reunited on a boat in the Monaco harbour in just a few days' time.
I actually had the privilege of spending a morning in the company of Monaco Grand Prix winner Sir Stirling Moss last week, when we discussed the most famous race of all. He blew me away with his attitude to life, but I think that is deserving of a blog all of it's own.
Boarding our plane home last night, the one or two nervous fliers in our ranks were not helped by the fact that the plane next to us was for some reason surrounded by blue flashing lights... Hmmm! Mind you, we spent much of the day convinced we'd be driving to Nice... it seems the F1 circuit acts as an ash-magnet!
My phone has just buzzed with an incoming e-mail. I'd bet my house that it's from Monaco entitled 'areas for improvement...'
Have a great week and remember you can see cars on track in Monaco on Thursday on the red button.