YAS MARINA, Abu Dhabi — The Formula One paddock is a busy place that hosts a lot of serious business over a race weekend, but this blog will aim to bring you some of the more colourful moments from the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.
The mark of a champion
It’s been a while since a car has carried a No.1 in a Formula One race. The last time was at Yas Marina in 2014, Sebastian Vettel’s last grand prix as a defending world champion. That same year saw the introduction of career numbers for drivers they carry for the rest of their time in F1, with the option of taking up No.1 if they win the title.
In the four years since that Hamilton has won the championship, he has opted to keep his career number, 44, over the traditional mark for champion.
At the start of Friday practice, Hamilton emereged from the garage with the No.1 on the nose of his car, albeit with 44 still at the back above the engine cover.. For his second run, 44 was back on the front. He did the same at last year’s race and at the time explained he views it as a meaningless mark.
“Personally don’t like it, don’t like it at all,” Hamilton said after the 2018 occasion. “Since we’ve been world champion we’ve never had number one on the car and I thought it would just be cool to have it on the car for just one session. So at least they have a picture somewhere that they can be really proud of where we were number one”
A Mercedes has never officially carried the number one since returning to the F1 grid. Jenson Button won the title in the Brawn GP team came which became Mercedes in 2010, but he took his No.1 with him to McLaren. While Hamilton has always declined the chance to run it, Nico Rosberg retired immediately after winning the 2016 championship, meaning there was no champion on the grid the following season.
The longest question in the world…again
In 2014, a journalist named Walter Koster became a viral sensation for his long, slightly rambly question on the Thursday press conference ahead of that year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. On that occasion, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg were among those trying to hide the smirks.
At the end of that occasion,Vettel cheekily said: “Can you repeat the question?”
Koster has become known for doing the same in subsequent years, and this year it was no different. This time the men on the panel where Charles Leclerc — who his long question was aimed at — sitting alongside an amused Max Verstappen and Kevin Magnussen.
Welcome to another episode of Walter Koster asking F1 drivers long questions: pic.twitter.com/s1TCl30ht3
— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) November 28, 2019
Someone has since worked out that the question was longer than Leclerc’s pole position lap at the Austrian Grand Prix earlier this year.
A new Vettel in the world
Sebastian Vettel was absent from media day on Thursday ahead of the race, having welcomed his and third child into the world this week. Vettel, the only driver on the grid without any social media presence, is famously guarded about details of his private life, with the names of his two daughters never published. Vettel and long-time girlfriend Hanna were married in a private ceremony last year.
The news meant Vettel was able to miss what could have been a tense appearance in the Thursday press conference alongside Ferrari teammate Leclerc. The pair collided in the closing stages of the Brazilian Grand Prix and both hinted the other was to blame – both were called to Ferrari’s HQ in Italy to explain their actions between the races.
Red Bull’s Hump Day
Notoriously stubborn and prone to wondering off, camels and F1 drivers may have a thing or two in common.
To find out, Red Bull invited media and its two drivers, Max Verstappen and Alex Albon, to take part in a day of camel polo in the Arabian desert. The media were split between the two teams, given jodhpurs and, after a minute-long briefing on the rules of the game, invited to mount their camels to go head to head over four seven-minute “chukkas”. Albon’s team went 2-1 up in the first chukka, but it was downhill from there as Verstappen’s team took hold of the game to win 9-4.
There was a scare soon after half time when Verstappen’s camel stopped and knelt down in the middle of the pitch. Fortunately, the animal was uninjured and it was, in fact, Verstapppen who had strained a muscle in his upper leg as he overstretched reaching for the ball with his mallet. Despite being subbed off for ex-F1 driver Johnny Herbert, Verstappen had fully recovered by Thursday’s media day in the Abu Dhabi paddock.
This article will be updated throughout the weekend…