The shanghai paddock is totally devoid of atmosphere thanks to misplaced artistic licence by the designers. Each team has an office on an individual island in a man-made lake on the site of a former marsh.
The area is known as a place of ‘peace and meditation’, a misnomer if ever there was one given the constant bitching and plotting going on behind closed doors.
Saying that, the McLaren office has been remarkably calm and serene -certainly compared to this time last year when Fernando Alonso punched an office door off its hinges as a demonstration of a perceived injustice by McLaren as he qualified fourth to Lewis Hamilton’s pole.
Hamilton repeated the job this year but the atmosphere was very different as he and Heikki Kovalainen sat down after qualifying. Unlike his predecessor in the second McLaren, Kovalainen was very subdued, a
reflection of a disappointing fifth on the grid for which the Finn appeared willing to blame no one but himself.
Hamilton hid his disappointment well because Kovalainen not only failed to get among the Ferraris but he also allowed Alonso into fourth place; in some ways a more menacing presence for Hamilton than the Ferraris second and third on the grid.
Despite pretending that he couldn’t care less, Alonso remains bitter over his year with McLaren and the fact that Hamilton was able – or allowed to by McLaren, if you listen to Alonso – to humble the twice world champion on a couple of occasions last year. Alonso has gone on record recently in saying
his deal was to be Number 1 whereas McLaren have always denied this and pursued their policy of being even-handed. It’s a policy which gets short shrift from David Coulthard if you read his autobiography ‘It is what it is’. But that’s what McLaren say and it clearly niggles Alonso.
Which brings us to the start of this penultimate race of the 2009 season. Given half a chance, Alonso will put a wheel inside Hamilton’s McLaren even, some suspect, if it means eliminating both cars.
Hamilton’s start had better be good. Otherwise the island of peace and meditation will be anything but.