Thursday Pit Lane Visit

I had surprisingly slept well, despite the heat, I got up at about nine, and went to avail of the free breakfast. Today was the day we went up to the circuit to pick up our tickets. We ordered from formula1.com and they sent us a voucher, we had to print said voucher and take it to the circuit and collect the proper tickets at certain times (between 1-4pm Thursday, or on Friday). Being a glass half empty person I was worried there would be some monumental cock up, and I would probably be on edge until I had the ticket in my hand (or technically speaking round my neck on a lanyard).

However, at 4pm there was an open pit lane event for fans. So we planned to get to the circuit for about 3pm. That meant we had a couple of hours to go to the beach, get some lunch and jump on a train. Simple!

The breakfast the hostel put on was alright. Muffins, quasants, orange juice, coffee… that sort of thing. They didn’t have any “real” tea… so I tried some vanilla tea. It was rank! So I used the coffee machine. All it seemed to do was produce espresso so I had a bit of sugar and milk with it and it was surprisingly alright.

Leona checked the map and we got the metro to Barceloneta and we walked along the same waterfront we had the previous day to go to the same bit of beach we were at the previous day. As we were there at half nine the beach wasn’t crowded and it wasn’t as hot as it was the previous day.

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Leona went to frolic about the water while I had to phone my bank. My mum sent me a message the previous night to tell me the bank had phoned home and to phone a number. Turns it my bank card had been cloned, thankfully no money was taken (not that there was much to take!). Normally I would have got annoyed by this… but I was at the beach!

After an hour or two we elected to go for a walk and find some liquid refreshment. Initially we both wanted some coffees and we found a small café which had a sign outside advertising coffee for €1.30 and bottles of San Maguel for €2! Who was I to resist? It was just past noon.. so it was ok. They were out of San Maguel but they had Estrella. They even had bottles of “Duff”, real Duff! Like the Simpson’s!

After that we dandered through the alleys for a bit and then went to find some lunch. Went to a Subway, just for convenience (and lunch), asked were the nearest Metro station was and jumped on. To which the fun began!

We were supposed to go to Passeig de Gràcia to jump on the train for Montmelo, but in a moment of confusion we got off at Pl. Catalunya. Left the Metro station to go to the train station part, bought our return tickets to Montmelo easily enough, passed the barrier and then we realised there was nothing to indicate what train platform we were going to. The main reason was we were at the wrong station but at this point we still didn’t realise! Oops!

Asked the man at the ticket desk “¿habla inglés?”, I wouldn’t be competent enough to try this in Spanish, he pointed me to some security type man. What follows isn’t my finest hour.

“¿habla inglés?”

The man does a wavy ‘so-so’ hand gesture. Here is when I realised I didn’t know Montmelo was infact pronounced Montmelo.

“¿Monté-mello?” I ask

The man looks very confused. I try something more specific.

“¿Circuit de Catalaunya?”

Not understanding what I meant, he replies with “we are in Cataluna”

Then, in the stupidest, most desperate attempt of … I don’t know what the hell, I moved my arms in a steering wheel motion and made car noises…. Fist in mouth cringe!

Thankfully Leona saved the day (after giving me a look of disgust) by saying “¿Montmelo?” in the way its spelt.

The man straight away knew what the sensible person meant, after wasting his time with the idiot, and told us to go to Platform 2get the train to Blanes, get off at Clot.

Excellent.

Sadly the train didn’t show up for ages and time dragged, and nothing was suggesting the train was to show up, I kept getting up to check the screens, and a nun took my seat! Time was ticking and I was getting more and more concerned that the ticket office would be closed by the time we arrived. The screen changed for the next train, Blanes, then it arrived at about 2.40. We jumped on and I was relieved we were moving again. Got off at Clot, and went to a lady working on the platform. The idiot spoke again “Monté-bello?”, Leona corrected me straight away to avoid further stupidity. We got sent to the correct platform and checked the timetable. One was due within minutes. It arrived about 1455. This meant we had an hour to get to Montmelo, and walk to the ticket office (the web gave accounts of a 40min walk!). It was close!

The train to Montmelo only took about 25 minutes, when we got out of the station there was a giant yellow sign pointing to the circuit, so we walked. The town was setting up for the weekend, with many stalls selling merchandise, burger vans, beer stalls. Montmelo appears to be quite industrial and it’s in the middle of nowhere. Though, the mountains look nice. The place must make a fortune from the Grand Prix.

We walked along the main road and came to a turn off which possibly could take us to the “media accreditation centre”, though no one thought to put a sign up. Two Spanish girls walked passed who had their passes already. Tried to stop to ask for directions but they didn’t speak much English. I tried to point to the accreditation centre on the map and Leona pointed to their passes. They got us to follow them. They walked very fast! After ten or so minutes we walked up a lane in the woods and then my heart sank when I saw the main grandstand. I knew we were at the main straight, while we were supposed to be beyond turn 3 or so. The girls we followed had gone into the circuit! There was a box office type place there so we thought we’d try there anyway. A heated Spanish conversation was happening there (some fella must have made the same mistake!), by this point three English guys and a couple joined the queue. One of the English guys talked to the lady behind the counter, and she told us were we had to go. It was 3.45. We had to walk fast!

The couple ran on, I walked at pace with Leona jogging to keep up with me (I have very long legs) and the English lads walked behind us. Chatted a bit to them but not much, I was getting moody and not for talking. Got as far as turn 3 and an English woman shouted over to point us in the right direction. We weren’t far. A police car nearly ran us over when we were crossing the road (wasn’t used to cars being on right), Leona told me later on the English lads where taken aback when I shouted over “watch out for the peelers behind you!”. Walked a bit further, seen the sign for accreditation centre. It had just turned four o’clock. Another English couple were walking up, I asked was it still open, and they told us yes but we had to hurry. So Leona and I ran, sprinted in fact. I ran ahead but she had the vouchers and they were in her name, but maybe I could stall them. I ran in. The doors were open. I went to a table, out of breath I asked if they were still open and the man nodded. Leona ran in behind me and got the vouchers out. The man then informed us that they were open until five! After the long walk, worry of missing out and the final sprint I was a bit pissed off about hearing that, then Leona gave me my free lanyard and earplugs and opened the envelope to give me my ticket I was very happy! Plus the coke machine in the corner was on so we had a well deserved drink.

We walked back, at a more sedate pace, to the gate at turn 3. As we walked we could hear over the loudspeakers random bits of Spanish then a “Pedro de la Rosa”, the open pit lane had started. The woman at the bar who pointed us in the right direction asked us if we got there ok. I told her about the open to five thing and she laughed.

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We scanned our tickets through the gate and went over the bridge and we could see the pit straight and the first corner. I was relieved we got there, and excited! I skipped like a schoolgirl (not really) to grandstand J where we would get to the pit lane. En route I could hear bits of random Spanish then “McLaren Mercedes” and Lewis Hamilton saying “its great to be here”.

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We walked up the pit lane, first past the ‘new’ teams, poor guys didn’t seem to have a crowd out side. There was a crowd outside Force India as Sutil and Di Resta were doing an autograph signing. Just caught the end of it though as they left soon after Though I get get a pic with Di Resta. Next we walked up to Renault where Petrov was doing some signings when Jenson Button cycled past to do a lap of the circuit.

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Walked to the top of the pit lane to have a look at the GP2 cars and safety car, when Schumacher flew past on his scooter, he then waved to the crowd for a bit and went back into the garage.

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Webber then came out of his garage and the crowd loved it. It seemed he was out for quite a long time. I didn’t try to get close as it was a bit too crowded!

A while later on Button returned from his cycle.

It was good at the weigh bridge as there was less people hanging about and teams then started to bring some cars down for weighing, there was a slow traffic jam so there was a couple of cars just waiting, and it was good that the common folk can get so close to the cars.

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Walked further down, but that just led to the paddock. No chance of getting in there. Though I did notice that there was a reserved parking space for Vettell (as World Champion), beside Bernie and Jean Todt.

After a while we walked back down the pit lane where Schumacher was doing autographs etc there was another mad scrum, but I tried to get a photo anyway.

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We hung outside the Williams garage for a bit as it looked like they were going to do some practice stops or maybe Rubens will come out for a bit (neither happened), while waiting an attractive lady presenter from Canalnou did an interview with some random lads. At the end they started chanting “Alonso!”. I was beside them so I’m pretty sure I got on Spanish TV. A bit of noise was coming from the top end of the pit lane. Alonso came out and threw some hats into the crowd.

Lewis Hamilton also cycled past. But he wasn’t wearing a helmet!

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The Virgin team push one of their cars past us and we we able to see the car up close. That was really cool and we got to watch Torro Rosso do some practice stops.

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My legs and back were killing me from all that standing and walking, I was also very tired with the heat, so we decided to go. Took a few photographs of me beside the pit lane line (I couldn’t cross as the light was red.. hur hur hur), and I took a photo for three Italian guys beside the pit exit light and they took one of me and Leona.

We were there until about 6 oclock and our last photograph is of Jarno Trulli cycling past with and empty track and grandstand infront of him. I like that photo!

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Sadly we had to endure a walk back into Montmelo. When we got back we both were sore so we stopped in the shop to get a drink and had a sit on the bench. I saw a box of hats in one of the stalls with €5 so I had to investigate. They were all rubbish except for a Williams hat c98 (with Winfield logo!). I laughed when I saw it as it was pure retro. I didn’t buy it which I regretted.

Got to the train station and the train pulled away as we got to the platform. This meant we had to wait, but there were seats so it wasn’t that bad. The next train arrived a while later and it was empty! Happy days! No messing around for a seat. We got of at Sants and jumped on the Metro back to Universitat (to break a twenty for the ticket machine I bought two Cornettos, they were excellent!).

Went back to the hostel to get showered and changed, then we went for some food. Went to a restaurant at a street corner and sat outside. Had two delicious pints of Estrella and some chicken, Leona had some lasagne and some Malibu and pineapple thing, we both shared a salad as a starter and tried olives for the first time (we have sheltered lives), we discovered we didn’t like them.

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It was about 11pm after we had dinner so we headed back to hostel for some kip as we had to get up for Free Practice starting at 10am! Yay!

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