Sunday, for me, was the best day of the weekend; I was not intimidated by proceedings, instead aware of where I needed to be and when. Having already crowned our champion, the race was merely a formality, or as Kevin Magnussen explained to me, a “fun game”.
So following qualifying and racing, once again dominated by Magnussen and his DAMS model, I decided to make the most of this “fun game”. I was determined to embrace my surroundings and hunt down the drivers and teams around me whilst getting some great interviews and news content along the way. My first stop was Fortec to track down Oli Webb, our favourite columnist ;).
After having a lovely chat with Oli and feeling worthless alongside his, frankly, stunning girlfriend Portia, we arranged something special. Keep an eye on ‘stoodonthepodium’ for more information to come. Following our conversation, the Fortec garage became a hub of activity as the final race of the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup began.
Manor MP Motorsport and Oliver Rowland, a former Fortec racer, were up against the Tech 1 of Pierre Gasly; Fortec were keeping a key eye on the race on their big screen at the back of the garage. I was invited by his team to join the crowd, an offer I gladly accepted. With, a slightly glum looking, Stoffel Vandoorne to my right, I watched the racing action unfold for the first time outside the four walls of the media centre.
The energy was electric as Pierre Gasly took his victory and Oliver Rowland’s car lost control. After thanking the team, saying goodbye to Oli and leaving with a rush of excitement from the race, I continued walking down the paddock. On the way back to the media centre, I knew I would pass many other teams so was on the hunt.
Prior to the Sunday, the coverage had been very focused on Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne, something I wanted to change. Marco Sorensen was finishing a filming segment with Danish television when I arrived. A Lotus young driver and a two time winner this year, I was impressed with his credentials and interested in his evaluation of the race as a whole.
“My season could not have been worse”, he tells me with slight anger in his voice.
“Oh” was all I could think.
I knew he was angry about the crash on the Saturday so decided to speak of the positives. After thanking him for his time and leaving him to the swarm of fans behind me, I made my way to AV Formula.
It is difficult to know how to describe the season of AV Formula. Arthur Pic has enjoyed many a race in the points whilst the less said about Yann Cunha, the better. Pic’s rear tyres had not been fitted properly during Sunday’s mandatory pit stop, forcing him to retire just metres from the pit exit.
Pic was on for a podium, his first of the season, but it just wasn’t happening. It took a while for our conversation to start; he was confused as to why I would want to talk to him – apparently he has never seen a media pass before. Go figure. The energy at Lotus and AV Formula was not the same as Fortec, it was quieter and more sinister; neither had reason to celebrate.
I found Antonio Felix da Costa outside the Arden Caterham garage. Whilst I admit he did not look in the mood for a chat, he was stood in a public place therefore I had every right to begin a line of questioning. Something about that press pass gave me a sense of power I quite enjoyed.
He was holding some ice on his right hand as we spoke. I looked down at his thumb at intervals unsure if I should mention it. After establishing that he was not thrilled with his season, he was disappointed not to win and in some obvious pain, I said thank you and left. I did not want to push my luck.
I am mildly annoyed I did not predict the Toro Rosso announcement but drivers are perfectionist so his glum face was not a huge surprise to me. Shame, what a scoop that would have been!
Sergey Sirotkin was a surprise interview package. I imagined him flanked by bodyguards, unable to speak to me. Instead I spoke to a driver, nine months younger than myself, giving me incredible honesty. This was my favourite interview of the day despite my previous misconceptions suggesting the contrary.
I had enough for a few news stories to cover the remainder of Sunday and the Monday too so I left, content with the interviews I had done. The rest of the day finished quickly; it was a quick goodbye to Glenn, a huge thank you to the Renault team who had taken such good care of me, and then time to head to my next hotel.
Hitching a lift with some very friendly and helpful stewards, I returned to Barcelona. Sunday night meant one thing, the presentation evening. I may work in a male-dominated industry but I am a bit of a girly-girl at heart so embraced the idea of a dress and heels – though the dress code of “smart-casual” caused a major ‘what-to-wear’ crisis before my trip.
I sat with the stewards and officials who had volunteered to drive me, one of the first to arrive, we sat a few rows from the front. Kevin Magnussen just happened to choose to sit directly in front of me, flanked by some of his team’s great and powerful.
One by one, the awards were handed out in a typical slow and corporate fashion. Fortec once again made their presence known when Stoffel Vandoorne collected his two trophies for the evening.
It was nice to spend part of the weekend in fan mode, away from the stigma and PR answers a media pass can warrant. After some (admittedly, maybe slightly more) drinks, hours of mingling and the chance to meet some truly great people, I set forth on my journey back home.
Words cannot describe how tired I was when I landed. After making the journey back to my university room in a haze, I collapsed on my bed and contemplated what had just happened – much like Kevin Magnussen described to me on the Saturday. An hour later, I was ready for my seminar on Criminal Justice (medal please) which was filled with Latin words my mind failed to compute.
I would happily be that tired again if it meant living the paddock dream. Thank you to Crash.net and Renault Sport for the weekend of a lifetime. As for 2014? We will have to wait and see.
Katie went to Spain and loved every second.