His regular reader will know Eric Silbermann was ill last week. Whatever medication they put him on, he’s literally full of the joys of spring and filled with love for his fellow man. It’s rather scary.
It’s springtime in Russia. We’ve never been here in the season of new beginnings, indeed it’s only been six months since last we were in Sochi in October. Could this have something to do with the impression that the locals are far more cheerful and friendly than in previous years? Possibly they’re in a good mood because the summer months lie ahead, rather than the misery of a Russian winter, which is all that has awaited them when we raced here in the Autumn.
Whatever the reason, everyone on my travels; the passport controller in Moscow, the Aeroflot cabin crew (still wearing their Thunderbirds caps bless ‘em) and Reuben, the bloke who picked me up at Sochi airport at one in the morning and refused any form of payment, have all been really friendly. It’s not perfect of course and most of the food has to be treated with, let’s not say respect, because it certainly doesn’t deserve that, but a degree of caution. Despite not lingering with me physically for barely any time at all, the memory of the sandwich served on the Moscow-Sochi flight will linger far longer.
However, cabbage soup in the Media Centre canteen is the best yet, but there again, Russians not being able to dish up their delicious national dish would be like finding an Englishman who can’t make the perfect bacon sandwich.
Actually, on the first night, right next door to what for me and my colleagues is a new hotel, we found a restaurant called “Cowboy” that served excellent barbecued chicken and chips with the all important side of beer. It was a bit basic and like the Kardashian reality TV show, its business model was based on legs, thighs and breasts, but it was a giant leap forward from eating Pot Noodles in the room.
None of these complex culinary conundrums ever trouble the F1 drivers, from the moment they tweet the now obligatory selfie from inside the private jet that brings them to the race from Monaco, hashtag #HowManyMillionaireDriversCanYouFitIntoOneJet, to the time they are chauffeured to their hotels. As I looked at Nico Rosberg’s Tweet, while munching a stale pretzel covered with sugar in a downmarket PayAsYouGo lounge in Moscow Airport it dawned on me that chartering our own aircraft might be the way forward for our merry band of journos.
Actually, I find it charming that, away from the glare of media attention, the drivers do seem to enjoy each other’s company and can act like normal human beings, or as much like normal as you can, when you earn squillions, live in Monaco and have your own name on the logbook of a plane. It seems you the fans do too, judging by the fact that an amusing little video that Felipe Massa shot of his son racing Daniel Ricciardo on motorised tea trays around the balcony of the Brazilian’s flat, got a massive 4.5 million views in less than a week. Ideologically, it was a million miles away from the, shall we say, “agency generated” stuff that the more reclusive Mr. Hamilton tends to put out there.
Proving it’s not just our Russian hosts who struggle on the meal front, I committed my own food faux-pas this very morning. “Not coming to Williams breakfast?” a colleague asked. “Er, no. Think I’ll just head down to Red Bull during FP1 for these canapés they’re banging on about,” I replied. Look, my reading glasses are the wrong strength, I’ve been poorly, my lap top screen is filthy, so yes, I did think it said that Daniel Ricciardo would be evaluating the new canapés in FP1.
Not only is Red Bull looking at protecting a driver’s head, it’s also decided to keep its jeans on, announcing an extension of its deal with Pepe Jeans. Both Christian Horner and the clothing company boss referred to it being “a great fit” which seems like the least you can hope for from jeans tailor-made for your team. The new deal does allow me to recall when Horner, still in team kit, attended a Governor’s Ball at the time of the first US Grand Prix in Austin. Some Texas bigwig with no knowledge of F1, but aware that Christian was someone important, spotted what he thought was the name badge on Christian’s shirt, went up to him and said, “good to meet you Pepe!”
With three mentions of Pepe Jeans in one paragraph, I shall await the “toot-toot” of the postman’s van as he delivers my complimentary pair/s. Easier to come by in the way of freebies were the gifts that were included with our media kit in Sochi. In the first year of this race we got a delightful Russian fake fur hat with pull-down ear-flaps, last year it was the multi power adapter and this year it was a Matryoshka nesting doll. For the sake of clarity, a nesting doll isn’t some sort of Barbie, reclining on a cup-shaped bed of twigs, fluff and leaves, but one of those sets of identical wooden dolls in ever decreasing sizes, that fit inside one another (see photo of same next to (empty) cup of cabbage soup.) Either way, this doll is quite possibly the first Russian lady you can take back to England in a suitcase without attracting the attention of the Vice Squad.
Still on the subject of freebies, I can warn my fellow hacks not to expect any from new Force India sponsor Felio Siby. In their catalogue you can find a Nile Crocodile and Italian hardware handbag for US$34,595, a T-shirt made with hand painted python (not a clue, don’t ask) and a hand-polished platinum case for an iPhone for a mere US$99,999. Well fair play to them I say. They must have seen how much sponsors are charged to place a sticker the size of a phone on a Formula 1 car and decided that there were possibly quite a few mugs out there who’d happily part with a hundred thousand dollars for a phone cover.
Cabbage soup anyone?