Saturday, Race Week
With a late qualifying session today, the extra hours of sleep this morning were very welcome and the day started in a slightly more relaxed manner. We left the hotel at a leisurely 9.30am for a steady drive to the circuit. The traffic was quiet compared to yesterday and it seemed as if every motorcycle in Malaysia had been hidden away as I don’t think I saw a single one, unlike yesterday when there appeared to be thousands.
Getting out of the car at the circuit, it felt much hotter than previous days, maybe it was because the sky was clearer and I could feel the direct heat of the sun, and I realised how thankful I was of the air conditioning in the car.
Once we got to the garage, it was the usual ritual of switching on the analysers, checking the calibration, taking the fire-up sample and then breakfast before the final practice session got underway. This session is really the last opportunity to fine-tune the cars, select the right sets of tyres for qualifying and make any final changes to the set-up.
Now it all starts to get serious… the TV crews are here in the garage, there are interviews with Michael, Nico and Ross, and an atmosphere of nervous excitement and eager anticipation as we all gather around the monitors for the start of qualifying. Off we go for Q1 and everything is fine but then suddenly there are large pieces of carbon fibre everywhere on track and a red flag. Buemi has lost the left-hand side bodywork from his car and it’s sitting in the middle of the track so everyone returns to their garages. A couple of minutes is all that was needed for the marshals to remove the debris and clean up the track and off we go again.
Unfortunately we had a disappointing afternoon with Michael qualifying in P11 and Nico in P9. It’s not what we had hoped for and everyone was feeling a little downbeat but tomorrow is another day and who knows what will happen when the red lights go out?
It’s now just a matter of waiting for the cars to be released from Parc Ferme which is where the officials and scrutineers check the legality of the cars and address any protests before returning the cars to the teams. Once this is done, there is then a short time for some final checks to be made in readiness for the race. These are mainly safety related and do not allow for any changes to be made which could affect the performance.
So the cars are safely put to bed for the night, everything is put away and tidied and I join the mass exodus from the paddock just before 9.00pm.