Grapevine: Paddock Life: Sakhir edition

The new Formula 1 season may be just five weeks old, and there has been some truly fantastic racing so far, but there was very much a sense of tiredness pervading the paddock in Bahrain

Grapevine: Paddock Life: Sakhir edition

The scorching temperatures did not help, and neither did the difficulty that many faced getting from Shanghai to Bahrain for the second consecutive back-to-back. There was no easy route from the far side of China down to the Middle East, and whichever way you went it seemed hit by pitfalls.

A few opted to go back home (I managed a whole 15 hours on British soil between planes!), and it was no wonder when you totted up the hours already spent in the air - 85 by my reckoning once Bahrain is over - that a lot of the weary souls in the paddock were looking forward to a well earned break before the European season gets into full swing in Spain.

One unlucky representative of the media, who shall remain nameless, had the tiredness hit him earlier than before the weekend was over, when he nodded off sat next to Mario Theissen at a BMW Sauber media dinner on Saturday night.

Theissen was most amused, especially when one other hack asked him: "Oh Mario, have you been talking about KERS again?"

Of course the best way to overcome any weariness is to be a winner, which is why Jenson Button was still full of beans all the way through the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.

In fact, life was even better for him as the weekend marked a bit of an emotional one for the Brawn driver and his closest friends.

Button had joined best mates Richard Williams and Chris Buncombe in facing an uncertain future over the winter - with none of them having any guarantees of racing in 2009.

The Button story is well documented, but Bahrain marked a unique moment for all three of them - as it was the first time they were all competing on the same weekend having put deals together.

Buncombe and Williams were both taking part in support events - and stuck around to see their man triumph in the biggest race of the weekend.

Button has had a pretty surreal start to the season, having gone from facing his F1 career being over to now being favourite for the world championship.

But it is not just Button's strong form that has left the whole paddock feeling as though the whole thing has been a bit of a dream - because you still have to pinch yourself sometimes that the powerhouses of Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and BMW Sauber have tripped up too.

One poor Red Bull Racing engineer certainly got a bit confused on the morning after the Chinese Grand Prix when he turned up for breakfast in his full race gear.

His colleagues looked at him in amazement when he told them: "Oh boys, you wouldn't believe what I dreamt last night. We'd won the Chinese Grand Prix. It was fantastic."

After much laughter, it was pointed out to him it had not all been a dream.

Button himself made sure to make that clear to Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner after the Chinese GP too, after the pair set next to each other on the flight from Shanghai to Dubai.

Horner fell asleep at one point, and when he awoke Button turned to him with a smile and said: "Don't worry, it wasn't just a dream."

If Button was the happiest man in the world, then the funkiest place to be at the Bahrain Grand Prix was...McLaren. No, I didn't name the wrong team there - it was McLaren.

For so long an outfit that has been overshadowed by a corporate grey, the Woking-based team turned over a new leaf in Bahrain as it embraced life post-Ron Dennis.

There were a few wry faces in the media centre when McLaren announced that it was to ditch the famous 'Meet the Team' press gathering (AKA 'Meet the Ron'), and replace it with VMM180.

Working out what VMM stood for was easy, but the 180? All people could think about was 180-degree - a U-turn. Not such a good image in the week it faces an FIA World Motor Sport Council hearing for lying.

When the official explanation came through, it didn't help matters much. "The 180 is for 180 degrees - making the inside face outwards to tell you about our team, our drivers, and our objectives," stated the official explanation.

It sounded the kind of corporate tosh any F1 marketing executive would splurge out, but whatever it was portrayed as - McLaren's new open image transformed the team's paddock area into 'the' place to be in Bahrain.

With music blasting out from a serving counter in front of the team huts (press officer Steve Cooper's devotion to iTunes playlists paying off!), an endless supply of ice creams and free flowing cocktails throughout the weekend, if you wanted to meet anyone it was the place to hook up.

New team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the new message coming out of the team was a sign of it looking forward.

"It's probably best to talk about the future," he said. "We are all individuals and have different ways on how we would do things. McLaren hasn't always got everything right. And I can say that as someone who has been part of it for 20 years. So we've got to be better in many ways.

"There's no revolution going on here, but there's an evolution. We're just trying to respond more to the needs of our partners, the needs of the media, be more accessible, be more frank and open. That's a style that I'm comfortable with.

"It doesn't always seem like fun, and in the last few weeks there have been times where it hasn't been, but it is meant to be fun. Those of us that are involved in this sport are fortunate, it's a fantastic sport and we're very good at focusing on negativity. But it's got a whole range of challenges. The technical challenge is great. I've had 20 years of great challenge and we should reflect on the positive aspects of this sport perhaps more."

For those of you not lucky enough to be in Bahrain to experience the 'new' McLaren, here are the two cocktails that were served in Bahrain by the team's expert catering department Absolute Taste.


1 part sugar syrup
10 parts fresh apple juice
5 parts ginger beer
6 mint leaves
A fresh lime chopped into wedges
Muddle together in a glass and add ice.
To make alcoholic add 3 parts Johnnie Walker Black


1 part sugar syrup
10 parts pomegranate juice
10 parts blood orange juice
A fresh lime chopped into wedges
Shake together and pour over cubed ice
Garnished with a wedge of lime
To make alcoholic add 3 parts Ciroc vodka and 1 part peach schnapps


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