Grapevine: Paddock Life: Monte Carlo edition

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

Grapevine: Paddock Life: Monte Carlo edition

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

The Monaco Grand Prix never disappoints - and 2010 once again delivered on all the hype and excitement that always surrounds the event.

There is no backdrop like it, with the famous harbour and mountains playing host to the best place in the world for getting up close and personal with F1 cars darting between crash barriers.

And with the event by far the most famous F1 race, it attracted its fair share of celebrities. Among those that made the trip down to Monte Carlo for the two-hour Sunday afternoon adrenaline rush were Mick Jagger, J-Lo, the Sugababes, Michael Douglas, Paris Hilton, and Pharrell Williams.

But underneath all the glitz and glamour there is still a very important motor race to be won - and this was a big one for Red Bull Racing, who knew that if it could triumph on the tight street circuits it had a car that would be quick on all types of tracks.

So when it delivered a 1-2 finish in the race, despite Robert Kubica's best efforts, the joy etched across the face of all at Red Bull Racing was clear to see.

No wonder that the team couldn't help itself during an emotional team victory shot next to the swimming pool on the floating Energy Station on Sunday evening. With various team members getting thrown into the water - Christian Horner too found himself getting ducked.

Then Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel joined him - as well as jumping into the famous Monaco harbour.

It all added new meaning to soaking up the joys of victory.

If the summer carries on much like the past few weeks, we may have to start renaming this column 'Ash Life.' For the third consecutive race of the season, the fallout from the Icelandic volcano once again overshadowed proceedings.

For some, the impact was felt en route to Monaco - as the ash cloud choked off the air space near and around the Iberian Peninsula.

With flights in Spain affected, some people elected to opt for some plane-less travel from Barcelona to Monaco - with Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna electing a road-trip direct from Spain on Sunday night to Monaco.

Others elected to stay put until the last minute, and that left Rubens Barrichello with a bit of a headache. He had popped over to Portugal following the Spanish Grand Prix and found that his planned flight to Monaco on Tuesday night had been cancelled.

Luckily the air restrictions lifted in time for him to make it into Monte Carlo by early Wednesday afternoon - where he had some hasty catching up to do with his engineers and team to prepare for F1's blue-riband event.

But for the British contingent in the paddock, the trouble returned when the cloud filled up United Kingdom airspace over the Monaco weekend - forcing changes of plans for the majority of people flying home afterwards.

There were some glum faces from a number of teams at the prospects of having to be up at the crack of dawn on Monday for the prospect of a 12-hour minibus journey all the way up France. Oh the glamour of F1!

Want to know what has impressed Air Asia boss Tony Fernandes the most about Formula 1 this season?

No, it's not the racing, the noise, the spectacle or seeing his own Lotus outfit come from dream to reality. It is how the F1 paddock, and especially the motorhomes, manage to get from location to location so quickly.

The scheduling of the Spanish-Monaco events, allied to the unique Thursday practice scheduled in Monte Carlo, meant that teams faced the quickest ever turnaround in races there had ever been.

The teams had to pack up their motorhomes the second that the race finished in Spain, get them onto trucks, ship them the 600 kilometres from Barcelona to Monaco, wait for clearance to take them down the hill into the famous harbour and then get them all ready in time for the Wednesday build-up day.

Well, that was the plan anyway. The super-tight turnaround meant that on Wednesday a number of teams were struggling hugely to get their motorhomes up - with McLaren and Virgin Racing in particular facing a race against time to slot the final pieces of their impressive units together in time.

But, in normal F1 style, if something needs doing in time it gets done - and by Thursday morning everything was ship-shape.

And for Virgin Racing, there was a bit of a morale boost when Richard Branson made his first visit to its motorhome on Saturday - and couldn't believe how good it was.

"Nice motorhome," he declared suddenly halfway through a press conference with the team. "You didn't make two, did you? I wouldn't mind living in here! I could put a bed over there and the television would good there..."

Monaco is unique in the Formula 1 calendar in having a rest day in the middle of activities - with Friday an 'off' day following practice on Thursday.

The extra break provides a great opportunity for teams to work on set-ups, or even repair damage for any of their drivers who have been unlucky enough to hit the wall.

The break caused a bit of confusion down at the Williams motorhome, however, when co-owner Patrick Head wandered in during the afternoon and asked if it was possible for the FA Cup final to be shown.

The motorhome staff duly started fiddling with the television remotes, and the satellite settings, but after several minutes of trying they still could not find any channels that were covering the game.

It was only when someone reminded Head that it was Friday, and not Saturday, that he realised he was trying to watch the football 24 hours too early.

The Monaco Grand Prix would not be the sensational event it is were it not for the parties - as the sport revs itself up to deliver a bit of glamour and fun on the one weekend a year where people really let their hair down.

The press centre was amused by the tales of one popular figure who earned the 'legendary' performance of the Monaco weekend as he spent a total of just six hours in his bed all weekend. The F1 cars spent more time on track than that!

Force India owner Vijay Mallya once against hosted his annual party on personal yacht the Indian Empress - and the event marked the first public appearance of former Renault boss Flavio Briatore, whose yacht was also moored up in the harbour.

Briatore also returned to the F1 paddock for the first time since the Renault Singapore Grand Prix race fix controversy - having lunch with Bernie Ecclestone on Friday's rest day and then returning once again on Sunday. Word has it he may soon be working for Ecclestone to help in promoting the sport...

Not all parties were totally riotous affairs though - with Total and Mumm holding a very civilised celebration at the famous Hermitage Hotel on the Thursday night to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first world championship race.

On May 13, 1950, F1 had kicked off at Silverstone - while on May 13 2010 a host of famous names from the past - including Nigel Mansell, Jackie Stewart and Maria Teresa de Filippis - as well as many of the top names from the present joined in to honour the date.

May 13 will also be a night I won't remember, as it was when Tony Dodgins, Adam Hay-Nicholls, Will Buxton and myself took our prize for winning Bridgestone's media karting race in Barcelona.

A truly marvellous dinner at Joel Robuchon's restaurant in the Metropole was the perfect way to toast 60 years of the F1 championship - especially when we didn't have to get our credit cards out at the end!

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