I woke on Saturday morning feeling refreshed; Formula Renault 3.5 qualifying was not until 9:30am Spanish time, late by World Series by Renault standards. This gave me a much needed few extra hours sleep. After meeting Glenn, we drove to the circuit again, aware that the weekend would be much busier now and this would most likely be the day our champion was crowned.
Kevin Magnussen needed five measly points to take the title; if he lost it would be on the greatest upsets in single-seater racing, frankly. DAMS had been controlling proceedings this year, their race strategy like no other. This was the day, I could feel it.
I must confess I was relieved when the championship was taken to the final round; Magnussen should have won in Paul Ricard before a disqualification from his race one victory. This meant I could be there to watch it, report on it and live it. Lucky me!
I took a few moments to myself before the chaotic Saturday began, wanting to watch the other championships soar past me. Whilst I was the only person peering out of the media centre window, I wanted to enjoy my moment. Then, it was show time.
My colleagues at Crash.net had left me one enormous story to cover for the weekend; Stoffel Vandoorne had, apparently, turned down Toro Rosso. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, my mind was spinning. Finding Stoffel was of paramount importance.
I knew he would be the hot topic around the paddock and, whilst the media centre was not jostling with journalistic presence, I knew I would still have a fight on my hands. Fortunately, I had spent the year getting to know his team mate, Oli Webb, through his columns.
Find Oli. Find Stoffel.
I tracked him down in their hospitality, which is very open, a reflection of just how friendly this team is. “Hi I am Stoffel and I’m a Belgian waffle”, said his team in unison after I had introduced myself and my publication. In short, he was annoyed about the misreporting of the Toro Rosso story and insisted that no meetings were ever had, contrary to what I had been made aware of.
After I promised to set the record straight, he smiled, thanked me and went back to his meal. I looked at the time, wondering if others may have heard this scoop too. Qualifying had only just finished so perhaps my desire to leave the media centre had paid off? One thing about me, I rarely run for anything however my laptop, situated the other end of the paddock, could not have felt farther away from me and the Dictaphone containing this vital information.
After writing my report, and sending an email describing the real turn of events regarding Toro Rosso to my colleague, I breathed a sigh of relief. Crash.net were the first to report it. Little me, Katie the blogger, had the story. Before I could really reflect on the interview I had just done, the race was starting. Magnussen was on pole and Vandoorne not far behind. This was it.
I wish you could all have heard the noise which echoed from the media centre, some of it too rude to mention. The first lap was a disaster, the first of its kind this season. Marco Sorensen’s Lotus flipped following a collision from heavy braking – a total of eight cars retired as a direct result of this incident.
Not one was Stoffel or Kevin, not as newsworthy as it could have been. One by one, all eight of the drivers got out of their cars, their helmets glowing in the sun. The cars would soar past, I could hear them, but my eyes were fixed on the screens above us.
Lap after lap, Kevin Magnussen maintained the lead and, with no pit stops for Saturday and on a notoriously difficult circuit to overtake, there was no way to catch him. Kevin won in elegant style, the roar of the DAMS garage almost as loud as the 3.5 litre engines themselves. Ladies and Gentleman, we had our champion and what a champion he is.
I followed the crowd of my peers out to the press conference where a shell shocked, Kevin Magnussen, sat, staring at the rows of cameras, Dictaphones and journalists. To his left, Stoffel Vandoorne, who had to admit championship defeat, and to his right, Will Stevens who was his usual relaxed self. One thing about Will, he is incredibly laid back.
The questions from Renault came thick and fast for the drivers who answered in their typical, “I do not have 2014 plans yet” style. The press conference over, I turned to leave, following the large group out. I couldn’t see Glenn, who remained my point of reference for the entire weekend.
“Wait, Glenn is in a different room. He’s over there”, I thought in my head. He was in a room filled with the drivers and Renault media crew who were more than happy to oblige me interviews with Will and Kevin. I spent half of my interview with Will Stevens, perplexed by his height (sorry Will!) – he was shorter than me! His casual aura helped to calm me down amidst the chaos of cameras and champagne. Kevin approached me, knowing full well I wanted an interview; a matter, the press pass probably gave away.
Our interview started like any other.
“So Kevin, now you are champion, what is the first thing you will do when you get away from it all and go to your hotel”.
“Sleep probably. I don’t know really. Maybe I will lay on my bed and think about what has just happened”.
This question, a slightly strange one on my part, sparked a reaction; Kevin let out a sigh as the significance of his championship began to sink in. In that moment, I realised I was sharing this with him. I knew he wouldn’t remember me and my line of questioning, however I was there the moment he realised he was a champion.
That will stay with me forever.