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China 2007

8th October 2007

"I hear it'll rain on Sunday for sure."

Within the Formula 1 paddock there's an understandable obsession with exactly what the weather will do on the Sunday of the race. What's much less understandable is how so many unqualified people suddenly become such experts on a subject they know little or nothing about. Although we rarely see rain during the F1 summer, throughout the season these paddock meteorologists enthusiastically forecast it on an almost hourly basis.

You'd think that after so many wayward predictions, they'd learn to say nothing.

Last Friday the imminent arrival of Typhoon Krosa had the paddock Cassandras in an extraordinary tizzy, predicting not only rain, but also carnage and destruction on a grand scale as it tore through the facility, uprooting entire grandstands. What we actually got were some gusts of wind and a shower or two. Big deal.

HE'S OFF, HE'S OFF. As I sprinted the 100 yards or so to the scene of Lewis Hamilton's "off", carrying what so often feels like a ton of camera equipment, I scanned the area to see how many fellow snappers were there already. Very few was the answer. Stop, focus, compose, shoot! Nicely framed - there he was, the champion elect, beached in F1's rarest sight these days: a gravel trap. Shooting Lewis as he walked from his car, head hung low, I was struggling with two conflicting emotions: elation at getting the shot the world wanted; and sadness that the guy (almost) everyone wanted to win, wouldn't - not today, anyhow.

Quite what McLaren were doing insisting that Lewis continue on tyres so worn that you could see the fabric carcass flick-flacking around is a mystery. For heavens sake, he lost something like 11 seconds over two laps!

Of course, as everyone knows there will likely be a vacant seat at McLaren come the evening of Sunday October 21, and the queue of applicants is growing. Amid the palm trees outside McLaren's office in Shanghai circuit's ridiculously large paddock, Heikki Kovalainen could be seen chatting to the team's Finnish fitness guru, Aki Hintsa, no doubt about dried fish and saunas - not! Various names were bandied about over the weekend, from Sutil to Rosberg to Fisichella to - wait for it - Ralf Schumacher. Apparently his lacklustre-looking manager has been doing his utmost to sell his charge in to Ron. I guess one should admire his chutzpah if nothing else.

Perhaps it's just as well the paddock is so gargantuan, because the strop Fernando Alonso threw post-qualifying was, I hear from an eyewitness, a sight to behold. Voices yelling heatedly in Spanish could be heard approaching the McLaren area long before the door flew open to admit the fuming world champion, his manager scurrying in fearfully at his heels. On seeing no McLaren employees present, Alonso stormed into his private room, and, still screaming at the injustice of it all, slammed the door behind him with such force it came off its hinges.

Prior to the race on Sunday morning, there was a real feeling that a momentous afternoon lay ahead. Even though it didn't pan out as expected, no one seemed disappointed - save for the Hamiltons and most of Lewis's team.

No doubt we're in for a special weekend in Sao Paolo - where, you never know, sunshine may be forecast!

Please take a few minutes to enjoy my pictures from the Chinese Grand Prix by clicking on the link at the top of the page.

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