Team McLaren Fan Blog: Helen, Mike and Snowy
Our alarm woke us at 2:15am on Wednesday morning to get us up and driving to Gatwick for the 6:30 flight to Barcelona. We were still on a high from being asked to blog for Team McLaren so even though it was so early we had grins on our faces. Having never camped at a race before, we were a bit apprehensive, but when we reached the camp site and could see the track just metres from our tent, we knew the weekend was going to be a good one.
On Thursday we got to the track bright and early for the morning pit walk. As soon as the gate opened we went straight for the McLaren garage. The mechanics were working away but we couldn’t see much of the cars. We met fellow blogger Sarah and lots of other fans. We knew the afternoon pit walk would be even busier and we wanted to get to the front of the McLaren garage again to meet the drivers, so a group of like-minded fans who we met through @TeamMcLaren’s Twitter feed (Sarah, Sam, Sam’s Dad, Greg and Ali) all got in the queue really early.
The gates opened, the marathon training kicked in and we ran. We were a bit sweaty but we were at the front! The drivers came out. We met Kevin first, he is one cool guy. He signed Snowy’s McLaren teddy bear t-shirt. Then Jenson came, luckily Kevin had left him some space and he also signed the teddy shirt. Jenson asked where Snowy had been. I think he was having a dig at him being flat and dirty, we told him Snowy is 31 and travels everywhere with us! We wished both drivers well for the weekend before recovering in the shade for a little while. When we returned to the McLaren garage shortly afterwards, the mechanics were practising pit stops which was great to watch.
On Friday you have access to all of the grandstands so we tried out quite a few of them to get a good overview of the whole circuit. We watched FP1 and FP2. The cars looked good and we had high hopes for the weekend.
This was the 10th Grand Prix we’d been to but the first time we had done General Admission. Again we were slightly apprehensive about what this would be like but we shouldn’t have been. We got a great spot on the first corner for qualifying. Snowy got a big head because some McLaren fans he met last year recognised him and came to say hello. Now we had a big group to cheer on the team through qualifying. We were disappointed when Kevin didn’t make it through Q2 but we know he has great mechanics and were confident he would be ready by Sunday. Jenson put in a solid performance to start in 8th place on the grid.
Our “Pelouse Privilege” tickets meant that we could walk round the support paddock on Saturday evening, so we went to have a look around and check on Stoffel’s garage. He wasn’t there but his car was, so we said hello to his car!
Not wanting to miss out on a good spot for the race we arrived at the circuit at 7:30am on Sunday morning. This paid off and we got the perfect position for viewing turns 1,2 and 3. We settled in our camping chairs feeling quite smug and then it started raining. We went from glamorous F1 fans to soggy, unattractive poncho-wearing fans in seconds. It wasn’t a long shower and thankfully it was dry the rest of the day. We were surrounded by Ferrari fans but this didn’t intimidate us. In fact it worked to our advantage because on the driver parade our lonely union jack and Team McLaren flags stood out and Jenson gave us the thumbs up.
Then finally it was race time. It was exciting sat on the first corner but also nerve racking and we held our breath as the cars all charged through. Thankfully both drivers made it through unscathed. The atmosphere was great throughout the race and by the end we were communicating in Spanglish with our neighbouring fans. It was good to see Kevin make up a couple of places and although neither driver finished in the points that didn’t dampen our spirits.
After the race we walked the track and watched the McLaren crew bringing the cars back from scrutineering. We always try to get near the garage at the end of each race we go to as it gives us a chance to support the rest of the crew. It really is a massive team effort. We were very lucky to be invited into the garage to have a quick photo with the car. And just when we thought the weekend was over, we got the opportunity to spend some time in the paddock. We had photos with various people including Stoffel. It was amazing to wander around amongst the motor homes and we even bumped into the F1 legend Alain Prost.
All in all we had a fantastic weekend. It’s not just about the race. Watching the pit crews and meeting the drivers on Thursday was a dream come true. We met lots of other McLaren fans who we will no doubt see again at other races. The Circuit de Catalunya is fantastic from a spectator’s point of view and a great track for getting photos too, which became very apparent as we sifted through our 2000 pictures.
Helen Bragger, Mike Silver & Snowy