Not very much to say about that, is there? We went into the Bahrain Grand Prix thinking about trophies but instead managed to end our participation before anyone had taken their seats. Then again, it happens to everyone and this was simply our turn.
It’s a testament to the professionalism of the team (also the skill of the drivers – but they can write their own blogs) that a lot of the children in the garage have never experienced this before. Lots of commentary pointing out our last double DNF was in Australia 2014 – but, of course, it wasn’t: Daniel finished that race on the podium, only to be DSQ’d after the fact, leaving the team manager the unlovely task of doing the walk of shame through the paddock to hand the trophy to McLaren. It’s really eight seasons back that we had our darkest hour*, and a double DNF in Korea at squeaky bum time in the Championship run-in.
Compared to the full horror of that, this seems pretty minor – but it’s still a miserable, chastening experience. No-one enjoys packing down the garage while the race is still on, wandering around the paddock like a hi-vis undertaker, with friends from other teams studiously not catching your eye.** The nature of Daniel’s DNF made it worse. The reasons why Max stopped were fairly self-evident but not being able to recover Daniel’s car until after the race, and therefore not knowing what happened to it, had half the garage wondering.
Until then it had been a fun weekend. Bahrain is a well-ran paddock with nice, roomy garages, and after another wet, cold week in Milton Keynes, a bit of sunshine wasn’t going amiss. The car was performing well (at the start of the weekend) and we were thinking more about trophies rather the getting the shaft.
We also had another innovation from Formula One in the shaft of a formalised ‘Hot Laps’ structure for which Daniel and Christian were driving lucky guests / willing victims around the circuit in an Aston Martin Vanquish. Spy can’t help think F1 is missing a trick here. Surely the experience would be better if the guests were driving and the drivers were hanging grimly on for dear life.
Spy’s seen Daniel after a ride in the passenger seat around the Nürburgring, looking every inch a man who’s just stared in the abyss and found the abyss has no concept of braking points or personal safety. In fairness to Daniel and what one presumes were a ruined pair of trousers, it was Stu, his trainer doing the driving, and very few others can take the zen-like approach to Wippermann of visualising the racing line by screwing the eyes closed, screaming at the top of their lungs and firmly nailing the right foot to the firewall.
Anyway, moving swiftly forwards. The good thing about a back-to-back is that you don’t get much chance to brood. With everyone jammed into a zoo plane heading East, the mind lurches through the gears and gets back into race-prep mode. The long-run pace that we didn’t get to see in Bahrain looked pretty handy – but Shanghai represents a very different sort of challenge. It’s a happy place for Spy, though even fewer people in the garage were around in 2009 when we recorded our first F1 victory – a 1-2 to boot – and with a wobbly car held together with little more than tape, cable ties and fervently positive thinking.
Luck, you see, is a door that swings both ways.
*Though, in fairness it was everyone’s darkest hour. Despite what the FIA may claim, by the time that race finished, it was a night race, albeit without the floodlights.
** Because the paddock is essentially populated by decent human beings. They’ll wait until Shanghai to start taking the mickey.