The circuit tracker spins, digital screens flickering with highlights as multi-coloured car-representing dots race around a bright white track map.
Cars cross the finish line one by one and Alonso jumps to first. On their final laps now, drivers desperate to start Q3 give it their all as a slippery Q2 comes to a climax.
Fernando’s name and Jenson Button’s too slide down the list, both now on the bubble. Will they make it? How many cars are yet to complete their lap? The tension is tight…
“YES, GET IN!” An engineer’s relief is profound.
Safe and secure, our two world champions are through. Q3 is once again home to both McLaren cars.
Fernando’s crew are pleased but for JB’s guys the relief is greater.
Five minutes into Q1 they’d performed miracles. Upon pushing Button’s dripping wet MP4-31 back into its way-too-small garage, eagle eyes had spied a very slightly loose front-wing flap.
Within seconds Woking’s finest had diagnosed the issue, formulated a plan and rocketed into action.
You may think it a simple task to repair a three-inch-long piece of carbon fibre that’s moving a few millimetres out of place. Some years ago you’d probably be correct, but modern-day F1 isn’t like that.
Unclipped from the car, the faulty front crash structure is carried through the cramped pit box and through to the even more cramped – and out of sight – working area. Behind the shiny garage panels ten men – comprising guys from both car crews – disassemble two multi-part front wings and nose sections.
Why not simply bolt on the spare? Not in 2016 F1 qualifying you can’t! Cannibalising sections while keeping a watchful eye on the legalities of part replacement, a perfectly choreographed ballet of crack F1 mechanics get the problem fixed in the time it’d take you or me to undo a wheel nut!
For those fans that appreciate the expertise of the folk who fettle and repair their racing machines this would all make great TV. Sadly, but entirely understandably, even the prying lenses of Formula One Management’s camera crews have to respect the ‘private’ behind-the-scenes team areas, so, for now, you’ll just have to believe me…
The world is none the wiser as the wing goes back on the car in time for Jenson to join Q2.
“IS THAT US…? OH NO.”
Lee ‘Lethal’ Hart shouts his distress at an opportunity missed.
Fernando’s black McLaren is broadside across the kerb exiting the Hungaroring circuit’s right-handed Turn 9.
Around me guys clad all in black look a little crestfallen and disappointed that the Spanish racer, whose car they prepare, blew his final Q3 lap.
Quickly, though, the frustration of a harmless spin is replaced with a sense of relief and of a job well done.
Alonso and Button will start Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix in seventh and eight places respectively.
The hard work and long hours put in by the mechanics up and down pit lane are often taken for granted; drivers bemoan faulty parts and/or unreliable power units, often coming across as glorified woe-is-me moaners.
As our shiny-helmeted, overpaid ‘heroes’ flounce aboard their private jets it’s the guys who get their hands dirty who deserve all the credit they so often don’t get.
C’est la vie.