Well hello sailors! Spy here, giggling with nervous exhaustion somewhere between Austin, Texas and Mexico City, um… Mexico. What a race! What a weekend! What a lot of water!
While we're leaving the circuit damp, sweaty, thoroughly cream-crackered and with close to naff-all in terms of a result it's fair to say our deep-seated love for the Circuit of the Americas and the fair city of Austin remains undiminished. We'll put up with a lot in exchange for a great track, good facilities, helpful staff, fabulous fans and BBQ. Important to not forget the BBQ.
It's a far cry from the state of things when we arrived in Austin at the top of the week. Every year COTA does something different. In 2012 it was bitterly cold, since then we've had baking hot and pleasantly sunny grands prix. This year it was just incredibly humid. That had lots of people pretty excited. A few of them were engineers muttering things about Bernoulli's equation and Euler's Formula but mostly it was people concerned about the frankly horrible fluffy things it was doing to their hair. And if you're thinking I'm only talking about the ladies on the crew then a) you're a naughty chauvinist monkey and b) you've got absolutely no idea how vain our bolties are.
They weren't the only ones with hair-related issues. Daniel rocked up in Austin with the beard still al fresco. Spy, while enjoying a brief moment of respite and a very small beer on Sixth Street, bumped into him on Wednesday. Doing his usual incognito city tour (thongs, shorts, wifebeater) Dan confessed he was feeling the weight of expectation regarding the face fur. He felt much better when he committed to a style and unleashed the razor.
Daniel, incidentally, wasn't in the bar, just passing by. He just looked forlornly at Spy's glass, made a small, sad sound in his throat and walked on. Iron self-control that boy – even if he did look like a puppy who wasn't allowed to play with his favourite squeaky toy.
The rain arrived on Friday. FP1 was OK, FP2 was never going to happen without paddles, FP3 was borderline and qualifying... well, quali was weird. We've had quali postponed to Sunday morning three times previously according to Spy's moth-eaten memory and plenty of times we've seen these half-hour delays from Race Control but it's still weird because it's one of the few times – in fact almost unique – where there's nothing to do.
And this is never otherwise the case. An F1 car is a maintenance-intensive machine, and the operation to support that is always busy – but the process is squarely aimed toward having the car ready for the start of a session. Once it's in that ready-state, you don't want to mess around with it. You can't take it apart to inspect it, there's only so many times you can polish the bodywork or sweep the garage floor, and you don't want to fiddle about with any of the off-car systems – so after the first 30 minute delay, there's nothing to do but look at the sky along with everyone else.
You can see the team manager and his chief henchman looking twitchy at the sight of the crew standing around like lemons – but there really isn't anything else for it. Of course, once the session's officially postponed, there's a mountain of work to be getting on with – but Race Control want to give it every chance, so we spent three hours becoming expert radar interpreters – isn't AccuWeather.com good?
Of course, not having quali on Saturday meant having it on Sunday morning – which made everyone clench with fear. Sunday was a monster. The crew had a 0530 call to get ready for 0900 quali, then a quick turnaround before getting the cars out of the pitlane at 1330 for a 1400 race. That's perfectly fine – but this is a back-to-back so the tough part of the race begins after the chequered flag, getting the cars stripped and into their containers, and the garage packed down and put into flight cased marked 'Mexico'. It's one of those days when we have to work nearly as hard as the catering crew (who are far too polite to point out they were here an hour before us).
Still it all got done – and we gave the fans a great race. As one marshal remarked to Spy on Saturday morning, amazed that anyone was even thinking about running: "sh*t, if this were NASCAR, we'd have taken a look at the sky and been drinkin' beer since Wednesday."