An eventful day at Monza
Hi there, thanks for being patient waiting for this week's blog. I had plenty of Twitter messages asking me to pull my finger out and well here it is, finally.
I try and get these posts written in the immediate aftermath of a race weekend but with a busy time in Italy I didn't quite manage it, here's why.
After an incredibly emotional win for Ferrari, and an F1 Forum that lasted well over an hour, I was dragged by EJ into the Sauber motor home as soon as we came off air. Eddie was remarking that I am 'too polite' and have 'too many manners'. Essentially, what he meant was that I shouldn't be shy about the fact that we'd snuck in, plonked ourselves in the middle of the Sauber staff trying to clear up and then nicked the delicious lasagne reserved for the muscular blokes packing away their 'paddock palace'.
After almost nothing passing my lips since breakfast, I was grateful for the food and the ice cold beer that the staff were only too happy to provide. One thing EJ always manages to get is what he wants, it clearly stood him in good stead in his team boss days!
Anyway, this weekend's prep actually started a couple of days before when I was in an empty school playground in south-east London driving a moped that wasn't mine. Now, don't panic and think that between GP's I'm out joyriding around the capital, I was in fact doing my CBT course to ride a motorbike.
I love the fact that the F1 team come up with the kind of ideas that no normal person would even consider such as a hot air balloon with EJ over Silverstone, the glitzy Monaco opening in a helicopter and Martin and his E-Type on the Channel Tunnel. This week the inspiration was 'Jake, DC and EJ arriving in Monza on scooters'.
The only problem being that while David and Eddie were fully qualified, I wasn't. Therefore we found a CBT course in London and there I was in a bright yellow jacket and L-plates doing a figure of eight in a school playground.
Almost every question my incredibly patient instructor Simon asked me I managed to get wrong. However after he re-educated my brain and I'd got control of the bike on to the roads we went.
Now, I sometimes long to be back where I grew up in Norwich with my family and this was one such moment. As I gingerly pulled out on to the main road I thought that it was busy -then I remembered it was a tube strike day.
The roads were heaving and I was suddenly crossing Battersea Bridge, motoring in front of the Houses of Parliament and trying desperately not to ride with my fingers over the brakes, which I kept doing.
Thankfully the day ended with Simon signing my certificate and so I was able to take to the streets of Monza with my pals, despite EJ ending up on a yellow bike (rather than a green one which would have gone with our white and red ones to replicate the Italian flag). However, in his words "Yellow is in my veins!".
Actually, when I saw the edited opening piece and Eddie standing on the podium celebrating a Jordan win, it reminded me just what these two guys have achieved. Once you get to know a person you quickly forget the baggage they carry and focus on the individual, personal relationship you share. It is a bit like having a scary boss who becomes a good mate. To that end Eddie and David have become friends rather than the famous people they were when I first met them.
It's amazing how life has changed for them both. I was getting my earpieces and microphone fitted in the paddock about an hour before the show and DC and I were chatting to a couple of the Virgin Racing guys when Sebastian Vettel sprinted through the paddock followed by a surge of media people.
I looked at David and thought that 12 years ago he wouldn't be able to just stand and chat about life because he, too, was inside the F1 pressure cooker.
I just hope the current crop of drivers appreciate being the centre of the F1 universe because it doesn't last forever!
F1's loss is our gain as we now get to hear from the boys every weekend. Mind you, this one was trickier than others to actually hear what they were saying.
On the Saturday it was such a crush outside the Ferrari garage that I lost my essential communication with the gallery. People were squeezed up to the pack on my belt so closely that all suddenly went quiet. Not good when the only way I can hear Eddie and David is because they are fed electronically down my ears.
It's so loud in the pitlane that we have to wear ear defenders and what we say to each other goes down the microphone, into the sound gallery and back into our earpieces.
Thankfully the crowd moved slightly and I regained my communications and hopefully you didn't even notice!
It was an early reminder about the passion that courses around that place and sometimes overflows.
On Sunday it was quite funny because we were surrounded by the red-clad crowd as 'The Chain' was ringing in our ears and I was all geared up to ask David about the Italian love of Ferrari.
Then, with seconds to go until the show went on air, FOM suddenly closed the pitlane and cleared the crowd. I needed a quick rethink of my first question!
One of the aims of the show is to get you guys even closer to the action than you've ever been before, that's why I quite like a bit of madness and the odd badly-behaved member of the crowd or a cheeky pitcrew member. Take Saturday and one of the Ferrari guys who clearly knew we were on air and could have waited but decided to wheel a whole rack of tyres in front of Eddie who promptly disappeared behind them. All good fun.
From the huge roar that went up when Lewis ended up in the gravel, to the sea of Tifosi who descended onto the pit lane at the end of the grand prix, I think the fans were the main story of the weekend and I for one would love to see more of that kind of thing.
It was clear that part of the elation in Italy was due to Fernando being smack in the middle of the title race and this is an interesting part of the season to chat to the drivers.
I reminded Jenson last week that in 2009 he looked seriously stressed and under pressure at this point. By contrast, he looks super chilled-out this year. Is that the confidence of a champion?
The same applies to Lewis. Perhaps after our console exploits with Nic, when I took on the Hamilton brothers at the latest F1 video game, he thought he had the damage option turned to off in the opening lap of the race.
It was great to see Lewis and his bro interacting with each other and he is another man that doesn't seem in the slightest bit phased by what may lie ahead. He was relaxed, confident, and joking about the rival cars, of course.
I won't criticise his over-exuberance or Vettel's recent exploits. They might not be conducive to winning a title but they entertain and that is why we watch the sport isn't it?
Anyway, whilst Lewis, Fernando and Jenson will be reveling in the moment, do spare a thought for poor Karun Chandhok who seems like he's driven his last race of 2010.
I'm off to India to see the new circuit and get a Delhi tour with Karun before heading to Singapore, which is great, but I'm sure he'd rather be behind the wheel of an F1 car. If you don't already, I'd suggest you get following me on Twitter and I'll post plenty of photos of the trip.
Right, off home to watch back the F1 Forum. If you missed it then you missed plenty so have a look and I'll see you for more in Singapore.
I'm also going to make dinner as I need to be the perfect husband whilst I'm actually at home. Have you seen the 2011 calendar...!?!