FREE PRACTICE 1
(Martin spent FP1 in the pit lane, doing interviews to fill slow moments.)
MB: You know, obviously, lots of pre-season talk about you having problems at Ferrari, and the cars not working. I mean, what is the real - what's the truth here, Luca. How confident are you in this car?
Luca Colliani: Well, the truth is that we'll know something more for tomorrow afternoon. Um, what we said, is that we are behind what was our target, but what does it mean in terms of er, pecking order with the others, honestly it's difficult to say. For sure there are teams like, er, Red Bull, McLaren, who look very strong. We hope we can be competitive with them, when? Time will tell. In the next [?]
MB: How do you say "pecking order" in Italian?
LC: Well, "rapporti de forza"! (?)
(Martin asks Gary Paffett why he's serving as Force India reserve driver despite having a McLaren contract)
GP: Well, Jules Bianchi is their contracted driver, but he's away testing this week, so they sort of asked if I'd step in if anything were to happen, and I'm here anyway, so why not?
MB: So you're leaving banana skins outside the drivers' changing rooms down there, yeah?
GP: None of them have slipped over yet, but there's still time...
(Felipe Massa ends up in the gravel trap at turn 1, then is on the radio asking if there's a problem with the car)
Anthony Davidson: (watching replay and theorising)...so he moved out and...there we go, on the grass. The cameras don't lie! Mmm, "something strange with the car". It was on the grass!
David Croft: Turf on the tyres, I think is the strange thing there, Felipe.
(Interviewing someone from Force India, Damon Hill desperately attempts to dance round what the team used to be called without actually saying "Jordan" on Sky, in case we're all reminded how much we're paying for this while EJ's shirts still roam the pit lane on tape delay)
DH: I was just gonna say, we remember the times of yore when, uh, similar sort of, uh, a similar sort of outfit as this, under a different guise, er, won races...
(Glock goes out for qualifying in the Marussia)
MB: I'm still struggling to get used to these ugly Formula One cars of 2012, I have to say - they scare small children, these things. One thing I will say, though, is they sound glorious, as Glock doesn't trouble the apex of 3 at all - Turn 4 looks better. But with the exhaust coming out of the top now, not underneath, and without all that popping and banging of the blown exhaust, and all sorts. I hated it last year - the driver lifting his foot off the throttle and the computer put more throttle in, in some situations. (He then realises he can turn this line round to hawk 5.1 surround for the 2,198th time this weekend and only does it mildly awkwardly.)
DCr: Yes, quite. You wouldn't want to hear the raspberry-sounding cars of old in 5.1 surround.
(Was Senna baulked by Timo Glock?)
MB: Well, perilously close to it, wasn't it? I mean, sort of gormlessly going through the fastest corner on the circuit.
(Vettel comes out and immediately takes the scenic route)
MB: That must be the most-used runoff area in the wirld of Formula One, across there between turns 1 and 2. You can't help but feel that the Red Bull is nowhere near painted to the racetrack as it was last year, and indeed the year before.
(Karthikeyan waddles hopelessly about in front of Alonso, then Hamilton has an adventure of his own)
MB: Narain Karthikeyan, I think his eyes are on stalks trying to get himself round Turn 16, and didn't see Alonso in a hurry behind him. And this is Lewis Hamilton, and he goes off for a bit of gardening on the edge of Turn 1.
(Vettel has more adventures)
MB: Vettel must be in there saying "what's going on??? This is not the Red Bull I'm used to driving!"
DCr: Has the sport changed from Formula One to drifting?
MB: Here's a bit of useless-but-interesting information: Sebastian Vettel is wearing his third different helmet design so far this weekend.
DCr: Has he signed some new sponsorship agreement or something?
MB: He must be looking for a faster helmet!
(Talking about blocking in Q1)
MB: There's only 24 of them, but they all seemed to be out there all the time, didn't they?
(And then, a moment later)
MB: We've lost seven, that should improve the traffic. Especially as two of them were HRTs.
(Alonso spins out)
MB: He dips his wheels onto the grass again! We've seen so much of that this weekend! It's like, this amateur hour mistake. I don't understand why brilliant racing drivers are making that [mistake].
MB: I did 40 laps in the 2010 Ferrari at Fiorano last week, and I thought it was absolutely brilliant, to be honest. It was handling very nicely; but this one looks a little bit evil.
DCr: It's always a sign of driver error when they return to the paddock with the crash helmet still on?
MB: Yeah. It's hard enough to get a word with Fernando Alonso when he's happy, as I know well on the grid; and you're more likely to get a punch there than a word.
(Massa rides the kerb)
MB: As we watch Massa straddling the kerb - that'll bring tears to your eyes, I can tell you!
(Observation: Hands up everyone who noticed that Sky used an instrumental of Cars, the 80s synthpop hit, the first time they ran down the starting grid? I thought that was quite funny.)
(Martin goes to Fiorano to drive a Ferrari)
MB: Stefano Domenicali, team principal, Ferrari. How does that sound??? You must pinch yourself every day!
MB: You wrote to Ferrari when you were a student. I wrote to them when I was a Formula Three driver; I got a letter back from Marco Piccinini saying "we'll keep an eye on you". Thirty years later...
MB: That was a very emotional piece for me to watch. I think I'd be extra-emotional if...you know that sick feeling, Damon, when you had your first Brabham?
MB: You did know that feeling! When you had your first Brabham, head up on race morning - I had some dodgy cars in my Formula One career, and you get 'em on a Sunday morning and you really know that unless there's loads of crashes and unreliability, you don't have a prayer of even a World Championship point.
(On the grid)
MB: Jean-Eric [Vergne], it seems five minutes since I was watching you in Formula Three at Thruxton winning the British F3 championship, and here you are on the grid.
MB: Sebastian Vettel, now. We don't often find him down here on the grid, do we? Let's see if we can, if he's actually still on the grid, or if he's taking a comfort break, as they say.
MB: Mark Webber, over on the side - we might just have found that little zone, I think, when...(spotting Christian Horner) Where's Mark? Any idea?
CH: Not here. I know where he is, but you can't go there!
MB: Ah, well, you'd be surprised. One day I'm going to do that. (later, to Ciaron Pilbeam) You didn't walk to the front of the grid and go "Oh, we're not there any more?" (Back to Horner) So, both your drivers have gone, yeah?
CH: Sebastian said he was going for a Jimmy.
MB: A Jimmy! Yeah, he likes the English language, that one.
(It's rhyming slang, the full phrase being "Jimmy Riddle", meaning "comfort break" - Ed)
MB: Let's wander in here and see if we can at least look at a Schumacher.
(He finds Jenson Button)
MB: You're looking dead cool and comfortable, chap!
JB: Hah, it's only on the outside.
MB: Why, how's it feel on the inside?
(They talk about Hamilton and the first corner)
JB: No, I just haven't seen him today. It's always busy, as you know - I know it was a long time ago - but you know it's always busy before a Grand Prix.
(Martin goes for the nipple)
(Vettel mugs Rosberg for position)
MB: That's the man they said can't race in Formula One! Sebastian Vettel, he can only win from the front, apparently! I don't think so! That was amazing!
(And then goes rallycross)
MB: I think he's going to lob it into the corner, and the back end says "You're kidding me, I can't do that."
MB: This is slightly reminiscent to me of 1998, when McLaren came here with Coulthard and Hakkinen, and basically they were so far ahead they just had to make sure that they didn't break down or run into each other.
MB: Big queue behind [Massa] because his rear tyres are going off, as he's just helpfully told us - thank you for that - and that's why he's becoming a bit of a traffic jam.
MB: [Webber'a] tyres are getting a bit second-hand as well, judging by the oversteer he had through Turn 14. And he's ready to hand them back in. Don't think he'll get much for them, because they look like they've had enough.
(Vergne hops out of the way of Mark Webber)
MB: Me probably thought there's no point in fighting that one; the last person who wouldn't yield to a Red Bull in a Toro Rosso is no longer driving a Toro Rosso.
(And then, on the same theme)
MB: Perez, he's in the Sauber-Ferrari, and he's holding up the Ferrari-Ferrari, and he doesn't care one little bit. So, great driving from him, and I'm sure he's frustrating a few World Champions as they coast up behind him and can't find a way past.
(And then, as Perez gets passed by Rosberg)
MB: You could see [Rosberg] thinking - I've done it a million times - gingerly turning in, thinking please don't miss your breaking point, and you sorta turn the wheel and think "Oh, he hasn't hit me!"
(Natalie Pinkham collars John Button)
NP: We're at the less salubrious spot of the bins at the back of McLaren. What are you doing out here?
JB Sr: Toilets are round here!
NP: I spotted you having a fag! How are the nerves?
JB Sr: Oh, er. Okay. Bit nervous. Long, long way to go yet.
DCr: Hamilton's managing that gap, though, isn't he, Martin? Should they really be too concerned?
MB: I think he just wants to get to the end of the race and see Nicole again, doesn't he? She does look absolutely glorious today. (Crickets chirp) But...er, where were we? We were in a race, weren't we?
(Vettel pits and thumps the front jack)
MB: Here he comes into the garage of 22 of his favourite men in the world - except 21 of them only like him, the man on the front jack won't appreciate that.
(Button's team radio)
MB: Ooooh, juicy information! Fuel 4! We've got some motor, then.
MB: It's so easy to have a crash behind the Safety Car. It sounds so silly, doesn't it, but it is! You've got to keep tyre and brake temperature, and yet all of a sudden you've got a faceful of the crocodile of the pack behind the Safety Car.
MB: I don't like this rule. So what? It's the luck of the draw. If they have to get through some back markers on the restart, so what? They're the best drivers in the world. Let's see them negotiate it. I think we should get rid of blue flags. You'll hear me say that once every three races! Passing back markers is a core skill of being a racing driver!
DCr: There's Heikki Kovalainen! Looks to me like he's out of the race in the Caterham.
MB: He's looking trolleyed there, ha ha ha.
DCr: Johnny Herbert the driver steward here, part of the Gang of Four presiding over the race this weekend.
(Massa's retired car has a large mark on it)
MB: I don't know if it was when Massa kicked it as he got out...
MB: About five seconds into this race, when the front of Webber's Red Bull got attacked from both sides, I doubt he imagined he'd be in fourth place on lap 52.
DCr: I wonder, has the Renault got enough pace - the Lotus, I should say! - have enough pace to--
MB: I've done that all weekend.
MB: I think the Mercedes is so geared up to getting on the front row of the grid witht the various devices and the seventh gear that they must have to run to take advantage of those high straight-line speeds, and I guess that they were hoping that they could control the race from the front, but they never got there.
MB: Alonso, as ever, pulls a rabbit out of the hat for fifth in a car that Felipe Massa couldn't drive, basically.
DCr: Is that the finger from Jenson Button for this year,the Vettel finger, that's transferred?
MB: Two of them, anyway.
(The champagne is sprayed and the commentators throw back to Simon Lazenby, under the podium)
SL: They missed us! First Grand Prix, we didn't get any champagne because there was a stiff wind blowing.
MEANWHILE, ON THE BBC
(Massa makes his first stop for new boots)
DCo: He came in so slowly there! It's like he's given up!
(Alonso puts some fast laps in)
DCo: Ferrari have overnight recovered their mojo!
(Raikkonen sneaks past Kobayashi, who was distracted by Massa)
BE: That's exactly why so many fans around the world are so delighted that Kimi Raikkonen is back. He might be monosyllabic out of the car, but boy, he can race when he's in it!
DCo: Difficult times here for Mark Webber, having to be patient with the tyres. You know, you're wanting to push on, and try and create an opportunity, but the way these Pirelli tyres are, you've got about two and a half millimetres of gauge of rubber available before suddenly you lose your little sighter of how much rubber's on top of them, the belt, and that's the point at which they fall off the cliff, and the performance dropoff is huge.