Today, I was given a job in a real, live, F1 pitstop. The days of graft paid off and the lads at Lotus gave me a set of overalls, a space-age helmet, and a fire extinguisher.
I was told to get right behind the car and look for flames, and if I saw so much as a flicker, to squeeze the trigger and shower it with oxygen-sapping CO2.
I’ve never used a fire extinguisher in my life, and the nearest I’ve come to a fire is by my kitchen hob. But when the call came over the radio for Heikki to pit, none of this mattered.
I’ve been joking over the weekend about drivers taking out their own men, and to those men, I apologise. Because when that car angles itself towards you at 100kph everything tells you to hurl yourself about 20 feet backwards.
I flinched, and Heikki’s sharp-edged front wing passed a metre from my ankles. Before I could even shift to my position beside the rear jack man, the boys had the tyres off.
As I tiptoed into place, the new ones were on. And by the time I remembered to spot flames, he was gone, with about 40 degrees of drift angle, cooly collected before wiping out the Virgin crew next door.
I could smell the hot rubber from the tyres. I could feel the exhaust heat on my neck. And I can tell you that no matter how many times you watch a pit stop, the speed at which these guys work is inconceivable to mortals in this dimension.
As you’ve probably seen, the race didn’t end well for Lotus. And after three days of complete immersion in the team – which is crammed with warm-hearted blokes from management to tyre techs – that was gutting.
Over the next few days I’ll post more behind-the-scenes pics and answers to your questions. Thanks for following. And thanks to the people at Lotus, for letting us into their marvellous world.