Mick Schumacher, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Paddock Diary: Bahrain Grand Prix day one

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix

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For once the biggest media scrum wasn’t around a Formula 1 driver but an F2 racer.

@DieterRencken brings the latest from the Bahrain Grand Prix paddock, including his first encounter with Mick Schumacher.

Wednesday 4pm

Leave home for Dusseldorf. My usual point of departure for flyaway grands prix is Brussels Airport, but, for reasons best explained by Emirates, at time of booking in January a BRU-BAH return was €1,200, whereas DUS-BAH was half that. To save 600 bucks I willingly travel 340km return. Another upside is that I enjoy cruising once across the border at 220kph.

Thursday 8am

I have a round-table interview with Mick Schumacher to make at 1:30pm, but I’m stuck on the ground in Dubai due to an unexplained delay with the flight. We eventually arrive over two hours late, which means a rushed check-in at the hotel and a dash to the circuit.

Noon

Being my first 2019 race, I collect my season pass en route. All my permanent passes dating back to 2000 are red, but the 2019 example is purple. I wonder what the logic is behind this, whether it’s a change for change’s sake by Liberty, or a way of marking out the media pack…

I’m amused by a line on the pass that reads: ‘No access to starting grid’, yet the lanyard says ‘Grid’ in orange.

1pm

I arrive at the circuit and rush off to Mick’s gig for my first face-to-face encounter with the son of the seven-time champion. It’s a huge week for him: On Tuesday he will make his F1 test debut in a Ferrari, he’ll drive Alfa Romeo’s car the day after, and before all that he has his first race weekend in an F2 car to get through.

Like any son of a past driver – let alone a septuple world champion – Mick Schumacher will face the same questions about whether his talent or his connections have played a greater role in furthering his career. Regardless of pedigree, he deserves whatever opportunities come his way. After all, he is the reigning FIA Formula Three champion.

His driving skills will be on display over the coming days but I’m intrigued to see how he presents himself. He passes with flying colours: I listened in on the German session held before our round table, and he answered all questions with an flustered air of logic. They failed to pierce his armour.

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The same happens when the English-speaking press has their turn. I watched intently at every mention of his father. Not a waver, not a flicker, just quiet, confident answers. “Given the statistics and demanding week you face, do you believe you’re ready?” I ask.

“Yes.” Steely silence.

“What makes you say so?”

“I just am.” Very Michael.

After the session I solicited observations from some old hands. The felt the same: cool, confident, composed. Now let’s see whether he’s quick.

2pm

Lunch in the Media Restaurant – a perk provided by Middle Eastern venues. I settle for Thai prawn fry-up, followed by fruit salad. Tasty – but slightly spoilt by chatting with a Belgian snapper, who bagged an Emirates flight from Brussels at under €500. He’d monitored the yo-yoing prices for a while, and about a month ago spotted a special offer – no wonder, he says: there were just a 100 onboard, each with a row to themselves.

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3pm

Charlie Whiting tribute, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019I hit the team interview trail. Following the sad events of Melbourne, I’m intrigued to learn how drivers viewed the first grand prix in 20 years under a race director other than the sorely missed Charlie Whiting. Kevin Magnussen and Max Verstappen felt Michael Masi and the FIA handled the situation very well given the circumstances, but that sticky issues that would inevitably raise their head in future would provide the acid test.

7pm

Head for hotel, using the time during my shuttle trip to obtain background to the new Vype logos on both McLarens this weekend – the first overt appearance of tobacco-linked branding in F1 in over 10 years. You can read more about the change here, but I feel this will run and run. Which team will be next, I wonder?

9pm

Head by Uber for The Foundry, a local steakhouse, for the circuit’s annual Media Party. The medium-rare sirloin steak is simply delicious (I would say that given the venue is South African-run) but I leave soon afterwards as I hadn’t slept a wink since waking up at home in Belgium on Wednesday morning. In the interim I’ve been in The Netherlands, Germany, Dubai and now Bahrain.

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2019 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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15 comments on “Paddock Diary: Bahrain Grand Prix day one”

  1. I like these paddock diary reports; it makes the whole circus a bit more ‘down to earth’.

    PS will there be a season pass for racefans.net frequent commenters? I don’t even mind if they make them pink.

    1. Nice try @coldfly but I suspect @jimmi-cynic May have us beat for that one.

      1. @dbradock: If you say so. But it’s too easy for infrequent sarcasm to pass for frequent commenting.

    2. @coldfly That’d be great no matter how unlikely to happen.

  2. It’d take more than 600 bucks for me to set foot in Düsseldorf!
    (Today on ‘Things that only make sense if you have cultural ties with Cologne’)

  3. Although I like Melbourne it never feels like the first race of the season for me due to time difference (UK here). It is more like an overture for the show to come.
    This first paddock diary makes it feel much more like a proper “Race Weekend” is starting.

    Nice one Dieter ;)

  4. I was worried the diary had been dropped, I look forward to tomorrow’s more in depth entry once you have had a good night’s sleep.

  5. Re Vype: I would not buy any tobacco shares at the moment. Vaping is still largely an unknown for its effect upon health. However several countries are testing and at least one looks like banning the device.
    Mind you I suppose there are still countries left that do not see the long term health issues of smoking. There are other surprising issues too like Johnson’s baby powder and now Glyphosate. The EU joyfully ban all sorts of essential chemicals, but glyphosate will put farming back to the stone age.
    I do hope you told Joe Saward of your bargain flight, as Emirates is one of his favourites.
    One might check the finances of Rich Energy Racing Ltd, to see if they actually exist.

    1. Kristin (@motorsportartist)
      29th March 2019, 15:48

      You are really nailing it down to the truth. My goodness! Re Glyphosate – the unelected EU regulators are probably getting their pockets filled by Bay.. & Co just like the US politicians. Vaping is very likely just as bad as smoking but it is easier to ban or easier to put stricter regulations on, because it is similar to smoking. To me eating a GMO modified Apple from a tree that has been sprayed with Glyphosate is just as bad. However, the big companies/governments don’t want the mass population to see that. All a big con.

    2. BlackJackFan
      30th March 2019, 3:27

      I don’t know about world figures but Thailand has long since banned Vaping, and the courts come down heavily on tourists bringing such paraphernalia into the country…

      As for F1: can someone give the official FIA wording on tobacco…? I seem to recall the original statement banned “tobacco products”… which presumably ought to include vaping…
      I have recently seen PMI (I think) quoted as saying: “In vaping the tobacco is just heated, not burned…”
      I don’t think I really give a rat’s a*s* if it is pickled in formaldehyde… If it’s banned, then have the cojones to ban it…!

  6. Gosh you really had a busy schedule. I am looking forward to the F2 races. To me F2 needs much more attention. It is a great series and the cars sound awesome. The backfire and bang noise is pretty cool and that is missing in F1. I am pleased that Mick will get more attention to the F2 series this year. He seemed switched on and calm the few times I saw him. I hope he can show his own brilliance and people stop comparing him to his dad.

    1. BlackJackFan
      30th March 2019, 3:30

      I suspect he will “…show his own brilliance…” but, human nature being what it is, people/media will never stop “…comparing him to his dad.”

  7. Ah finally….paddock pass is back

  8. Paul Greenwood
    30th March 2019, 1:42

    Dieter thanks for continuing with your diary – it really helps us feel like we are there at the races we are not. From what I observed in F2 testing in Abu Dhabi and Barcelona Mick seems very composed, confidant and pleasant with people. Looking forward to seeing just how quick he is. Three cars in the next 5 days is quite a challenge!

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