The chaos and thrills of a grand prix Sunday
I finished our red button F1 Forum on Sunday evening by saying that this sport has once again proved you can't take your eyes off it for a moment - another weekend packed with incident, controversy and, yes, rain. Unbelievable.
Anyway, thought you'd like to hear about how this Sunday felt from my perspective.
To start with the morning of race day just flies by. Up, shower, out of the hotel by 8.30 (apart from this week when my watch had inexplicably stopped at 7.45 and the production manager Anne called at 8.35 as I was still in the shower... whoops... we finally got away about 8.55!)
So, apologise to Anne, negotiate China's rather haphazard rules of the road with our driver Mr Hu and translator No No. The team all get to the circuit, make our way past security to the Portakabin-style production offices, where I get on the wireless, check the news, finish my script, have a production meeting to discuss where we will be for each segment and then put on my 'show clothes'.
At this point we're still about 90 minutes away from transmission and I go to see Sunil in VT to try to watch some of the items on tape. I think this is really important because if I don't see them now I realistically never will because once I link into an item live it's time to reposition to another area, welcome a guest, speak to the gallery or listen to some important info from the producer Mark. Unfortunately, this week VT were up to their eyeballs and just poking my head around the door I knew it was a no-go area!
I wouldn't want some presenter wandering in asking to stop the whole process, so as much as it pained me I knew this week it just wasn't happening.
Instead I set off to the paddock through a tunnel that leads under the start-finish straight to go through the show with pundits David Coulthard and Mike Gascoyne and make sure they're comfortable with everything.
Obviously there isn't the luxury of an autocue on a job like this so I read my script out loud as I go, trying to burn the words onto the old grey matter. I get some funny looks as I wonder along saying, "Good morning and welcome to Shanghai for our..." You get the picture!
This week we wanted to pre-record the very top of the coverage on the grid with some shaolin monks entertaining the grandstand behind me. I was standing in the pouring rain for 20 minutes waiting for the prime moment to deliver what I thought was a killer line and as I started to speak someone from Formula 1 Management threw us off the grid...
Frustrating, and a real shame as I was reduced to just doing a less jazzy intro live in the pit lane, and we'd missed our rehearsal window too. So no VTs seen, no rehearsal done, and no opener shot. Things were going well!
Once we were on air I was pretty happy with how it went, by and large. We got up-close and personal with Sebastian Vettel's race-winning car, hopefully conveyed the atmosphere in the pits, paddock, and this week even on the grid.
By the way, did you notice the guy try to stop us getting onto the grid until DC flashed his pass? Yes, stop me if you want to be officious, mate, but not the guy to my left... it's David blinkin' Coulthard!
Once that was safely negotiated, and DC and Martin Brundle had chatted to various grid guys - including a cheeky Seb Vettel - it was race time, and an opportunity for me to take a quick breather.
During the race I tend to retreat to the Red Bull hospitality, mainly because with DC still heavily associated and involved with Red Bull he can get accurate race information in there, and he's more welcome than in other places. There's quite a territorial vibe in the paddock and it's harder for other teams to accommodate him.
It was fascinating to watch the race with DC and Mike. Mike pretty much called every strategy the teams should employ before they did it, and David has such a natural empathy with what the drivers are experiencing.
He was telling me that in the wet he is using his sixth, seventh and eighth senses just to keep the car on the road. It's a natural 'feeling' that you employ. Incredibly he says you actually listen to the car in front! Obviously, these cars have no break lights and being nose to tail in the rain at 120mph your eyes alone don't give you the info you need to stay on the track. Amazing insights.
I remember when I was presenting Football Focus one weekend and before we went on air I was watching Norwich v Tamworth in the FA Cup with Gary Pallister, who's won the trophy three times. Ninety minutes of pure enlightenment. Yesterday was the same.
And the atmosphere in there? Well, there was an intake of breath when Sebastian Buemi hit Vettel from behind, bitten lips when Mark Webber was sparring with Jenson Button and a real release of emotional release when RBR bagged their first win in a one-two finish. DC was quite emotional. He seems really at ease with the fact that it was the right time to stop and that a very, very talented guy has taken his seat.
What were your thoughts on the race? I thought it entertained once more and, apart from the front two, Buemi and the McLaren duo impressed me. We really have been blessed with the drama the racing has thrown up this season and I feel so, so lucky to be at the eye of the storm, bringing the show to your living rooms.
I appreciate how fortunate I am and I hope this blog continues to go some way to letting you all know what life's like on my side of the fence - and that I'm not taking this job for granted.
I hope you all pressed red after the race as the F1 Forum was fascinating at times this week. Cheers for your e-mails. Keep them coming next week to firstname.lastname@example.org and sorry I didn't get round to yours GFasulo.
I've read all your blog responses. Glad you like the added dimension of pit lane and grid movement. All comments noted and taken on board!
Right, off to Hong Kong which is our stop on the way to Bahrain, where knowing our luck it'll be raining in the desert!
Have a great Monday, I'll try to sleep for the next two days and drop by with a blog later in the week once the bags under the eyes have faded slightly. The jet lag was definitely worse here than in Oz.
Cheers as ever,