Grapevine: Paddock Life: Istanbul edition

AUTOSPORT brings you its regular column of life inside the paddock. This week: Istanbul

Grapevine: Paddock Life: Istanbul edition

Turkey has always been a quiet weekend on the Formula 1 schedule, and there were certainly no expectations of it being a match for the glitz and glamour of what had even been a fairly low-key Monaco Grand Prix.

But few were expecting the kind of ghost town that was witnessed at Istanbul Park last weekend, with the grandstands and paddock pretty much empty for the entire weekend.

Although some suggested that the events were the result of a lack of interest caused by the ongoing political rows, and Jenson Button's domination, the reality probably owed more to high ticket prices.

Amid the investment bubble of the last few years it was probably easy for F1 races, including Turkey, to justify high ticket prices - and expect people to pay them. But times have changed, and changed dramatically.

There was no better proof of how the worldwide economic recession was affecting everyone than by the hundreds of ships all parked up in the mouth of the Bosphorus Sea.

For when there is no business for shipping in town, then ships' crews have no choice but to park up and wait, and that is what ship after ship have done this year.

All those ships parked up, so clearly evident for those driving into the track each morning, delivered a clear message to everyone that times are hard now - and F1 must start accepting that things have to change if this sport is to come out of all the world's troubles as strong.

The Formula 1 paddock can be a hot-bed for rumour and gossip, but Sunday morning reached a new peak as journalists and photographers got into a frenzy about the latest political goings on.

That morning the eight members of the Formula One Teams' Association, plus all their drivers, met (almost certainly deliberately) behind the wide open windows of the Toyota motorhome.

It was a show of unity - and the stance adopted by some of F1's biggest guns like Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in declaring total support for FOTA's demands was certainly a sign that unity was strong among the remaining teams.

Yet while the 25-minute meeting appeared to bring all factions together, outside of the meeting, between the gaggle of photographers and journalists present, conspiracy theories were running wild.

Chinese whispers initially started that the meeting had been called because the eight teams still within FOTA had just been informed that their entries to next year's championship had been rejected. That was quickly shot down as too fanciful by those who, despite the incredibly political times, still felt they had an ear to the ground about what was going on.

Yet, within an hour of the meeting finishing, the talk that the teams had been told their entries had been rejected had somehow manifested itself into talk that there was going to be a boycott of the race by FOTA teams.

Now, firstly, such a scenario was highly unlikely. If anything was going to damage FOTA's mantra as being there for the good of the sport, it was to do something so militant as to wreck an afternoon's racing.

Yet, such reality didn't stop several journalists and photographers getting carried away with all the talk.

In the world of F1, even if the world is about to end, the first priority is to make money out of it. So it was in the hours before the race that a whole host of people got frustrated that Turkish laws prohibit the use of online betting websites.

For those who felt they were onto something, with the eight FOTA teams out, it was a guarantee that Nico Rosberg would come out on top - but they could do little to put their money down on it.

In the end, of course, the boycott talk proved very wide of the mark. But in a final twist to the story, judging by what happened on Sunday afternoon, would it not have been hugely amusing that if, in the event of the boycott, Kazuki Nakajima had not been slowed by that problem at his last pitstop and edged out Rosberg on the track.

Here's an exclusive for you: Toyota became the latest team to run KERS at last weekend's Turkish Grand Prix.

Yes, you may have missed that little one in the news pages of this website - and that would be because it wasn't actually on the F1 cars.

Sitting in front of the Toyota motorhome throughout the Istanbul weekend were two bicycles that featured a unique push button system on the handlebars.

Yes, these were bikes that reused some of the energy captured in braking to turn it into power that could then ease the burden on the man at the pedals.

It seems, however, that may be as close as Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock will get to a KERS system this year, with the TF109 looking increasingly likely to stick without the technology.

In another amusing twist on the KERS tale, it caused a bit of amusement that on the weekend that the members of FOTA chose to do their best to do away with the hybrid systems from F1, a new Mercedes-Benz promotional video on the hybrid technology was doing the rounds in the press office.

Although the environmental benefit of KERS has not been universally accepted by all in F1, it is McLaren who needs a pat on the back after Turkey for having taken the initiative in doing its bit to help save the environment.

For years now, teams have religiously distributed their press releases to journalists in the press office over a weekend. That means at least six sheets of paper from each team to around 300 people each weekend - estimates coming up at hundreds of thousands of sheets of paper per year.

So McLaren's ever inventive press duo Matt Bishop and Steve Cooper decided that, in this era of electronic media, it was pointless continuing to outlay on paper production when almost everyone now can read and access comments electronically.

McLaren's head of communications Matt Bishop said: "Our calculations show that, as a team, we could save as many as 20,000 sheets of A4 paper per season if we were to no longer print our previews and post-session round-ups on paper."

While most journalists were unruffled by the move, and if truth be told quite a lot of the press office probably did not even notice, McLaren did have one voice of discontent.

Veteran American journalist Dan Knutson still thought it important that he get his hands on a paper version of the paper release - so McLaren duly obliged.

It delivered him with a release that was headlined: "Dan Knutson's Analog Version." And in it, if you kept reading it to the end, Bishop had added his own quote:

"We have slain one Turkish maple for the purpose of providing a bespoke analog service to aforementioned seniors," wrote Bishop. "We have also issued one bespoke invitation to the unveiling of the McLaren M23, at Colnbrook, next Friday week. Tiffin will be provided at a cost of 15 shillings."

Let's hope more teams follow you. In the press releases that is, not the Tiffin.

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