I try to avoid being on holiday during a Grand Prix weekend. That’s not always easy once the European season gets underway, as you will appreciate.
Looking at the diary in February I quickly came to realise that the summer was going to be busy, Motor Sport having put my name next to a most encouraging number of events, some of them Grands Prix. An early holiday, or no holiday, were the options.
The latter option did little to improve the atmosphere at home so here we are, in Corfu, and the Spanish GP in Barcelona is not exactly headline news in the local newspapers. The Greeks are a great deal more concerned with football than they are with motor racing. And it is Easter weekend – well, Holy Week to be precise – and access to British newspapers and broadcasting is, to say the least, limited.
Easter Sunday found us with friends in the mountain village of Skripero, slowly roasting a large lamb over an open fire, and easing into the day with an ouzo. To receive the race coverage on ITV requires the installation of a satellite dish the like of which you would expect to find atop GCHQ or some similar secretive government establishment. This is clearly not an option in an area of such outstanding natural beauty. And nor should it be. We therefore break away from the Easter celebrations to watch the Grand Prix unfold on Antenna, a Greek channel with, naturally, a Greek commentary.
As the Ferraris lead the field round lap after lap the commentator doesn’t sound very excited but there is much discussion amongst our international party about what might, or might not, happen over the duration of this first European encounter.
The Italians are pleased, but not surprised, to see the red cars out in front. The Americans want to know what Michael Schumacher is doing these days and why did he stop at the top of his game. (The Italians glance across at Kimi who, through the interference, appears to be cruising to victory). The Brits want to know if Lewis really has what it takes and whether he is truly as cool and charming as he appears? The Greeks, understandably, are more concerned with the lamb slowly turning on the spit.
I mention these things this week because distance delivers a little perspective upon the matter. If you have not seen practice or qualifying, and you do not understand the grid, the race somehow loses some of its intensity. If you have just recently joined the throng around a TV set in a café to watch a most enthralling football match, joining in the general hullabaloo, then the Grand Prix seems somehow not to bring you to the edge of your seat.
In the days following the race at Barcelona I have come to appreciate that there was some excitement, some intrigue, and possibly some measure of the margin that the red cars appear to have over the rest of the field. And it’s interesting how the team from Maranello has a following wherever you travel, in the same way that Manchester United clearly had plenty of support in the cafes of Corfu when they strode onto the pitch at Stamford Bridge last weekend.
The village of Arillas, from where I am writing, seems a world away from fast cars, let alone racing cars. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. I am tempted to start to believe that I could wean myself off the drug that got into my bloodstream all those years ago at Goodwood. But I know that such a process is not going to happen. As the grid forms up for the next one I know I will not wish I was here, whatever I may have written on post cards this week.
Incidentally, the internet connection through which you will have received this brief report is not so easy to find. So thanks Dimitris at Brouklis where I have perched to satisfy the terms of my contract. I guess that Jenks would have simply walked down to the post box by the sea and dropped his envelope in with fingers crossed. Those were the days.