China you say? If you read the press clippings generated by the Formula One media this week, you'd have thought we were already in Bahrain. The 'will-they, won't-they' saga surrounding the Bahrain Grand Prix is all everyone can talk about in Shanghai.
Everyone except the teams and drivers of course. Finding anyone to say anything meaningful about whether or not the race should take place has been near impossible, although Mark Webber tried hard to articulate his thoughts. “At the end of the day,” he said, “it’s only a car race.”
Japanese and Finnish TV networks have already said they won’t send their crews to Bahrain, choosing instead to produce their shows from Tokyo and Helsinki respectively. Who else will follow?
In the end, it took F1’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone to knock the story on the head. After meeting the team principals today, he asked for the speculation to stop. “We’re definitely going,” he said. “If there are any problems, we’ll sort them out on the ground.” End of.
There have been problems of a different kind here in Shanghai and most of them have involved drivers. Not F1 drivers, but road drivers. Kimi Raikkonen suffered the worst fate on Thursday, when he left his hotel and expected his chauffeur-driven car to deliver him to the F1 paddock. After two hours of driving, he was eventually dropped at the airport!
At that moment, Kimi’s recent experience in rallying came to the fore. He grabbed a map and made some pace notes, which involved drawing landmarks that the driver should follow. He eventually arrived at the track three hours after he’d set off… The upshot? He’s pulled rank and pinched the chauffeur of Lotus’s third driver Jerome D’Ambrosio for the remainder of the weekend.
On a different note, the F1 paddock was graced by the presence of Williams’ new development driver Susie Wolff today. The DTM star (and wife of Williams shareholder Toto Wolff) put on some overalls, answered questions and tried to sit in Bruno Senna’s seat for a feature on Sky TV. She just about managed it, but was shocked to discover that Bruno has narrower hips!
While on the subject of Sky, their chief pundit Damon Hill is nowhere to be seen in China. He’s contracted to do only 11 of this year’s 20 races for F1’s newest broadcaster and he’s been replaced this weekend by three-time grand prix winner Johnny Herbert. Let’s hope Johnny be good.