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“Life in a Bag”

May 15, 2015

A laptop, charger, EU plug converter, two pairs of trousers, five pairs of socks, five pairs of underwear, four T-shirts, a shirt and jumper, notepads, hard drive, Dictaphone, pens, pass and season media pass.

Arriving in Toulouse last night – and desperately on the hunt for food (tricky on the approach to midnight) – I poured all of these things on to the hotel bed and crashed out within moments.

It was, in a nutshell, my life stuffed inside a bag. To a degree. Further travelling this morning – a 6.10am train to Pau – bought further mileage and thankfully and extra three hours of sleep.
This may explain the occasional discomfort in my lower back.

But for now, the second Formula 3 free practice session has just finished under red flags and the field – split into two groups for practice and qualifying – have taken in their laps of the circuit under very damp conditions.

Remaining virtually unchanged since its inception as a circuit over eight decades ago, Pau will easily prove to be the toughest task yet for the new European Formula 3 runners, as they take to the town’s streets for the first time at this level.
While it is quick in places, it also possesses a number of slow and tight corners and the bumpiness of the road make it a very difficult challenge. It was here last year that Ed Jones’ season unraveled when he fractured two vertebrae during qualifying after getting the Foch chicane wrong and hitting the adjacent wall.

There is an added dimension to Pau, for of the thirty-four entrants, only thirty-two can actually take to the races, ensuring that a couple will go home early or at least miss a race or two should their respective qualifying positions place them in and around the bubble.
However if a driver does not qualify for any of the weekend’s three races, that raises other questions too – and pointers that have not had to be asked in quite a long time. For example, should any of those who do not qualify be regular backmarkers anyway, will it signal a pulling of the plug on full season deals?

When we think of these dilemmas, it is often too easy to focus on the merits (or the lack thereof) of the driver and completely miss the bigger picture. For example, if a programme is closed down, could that potentially leave mechanics, engineers and other assorted personnel in a position where they are temporarily out of work due to cancelled contracts.
Unlike categories such as GP2 or GP3, Formula 3 does not have a mandated full season entry, where teams take fines should they not have a minimum compliment of drivers.
In those series’, teams are fined should they not show up, or only bring a single driver – a situation, which in some cases, has led to teams to run a driver under budget, because the losses from that are less significant than taking a fine from the series. The likes of European Formula 3 – while remaining reasonably stringent – are still more flexible when it comes to market forces and driver allocations.
It is a question that I will come back to at a later time…

Alongside the regulars for this weekend is once-off entrant Gustav Malja. The Formula Renault 3.5 racer opted to enter the Pau Grand Prix with EuroInternational, as he prepares for his next FR3.5 race on the streets of Monaco, which comes next week.
The Swede is an amiable and confident young man who delighted in giving a colleague and I a step-by-step imagined lap of the Monte Carlo circuit, as memorised from the simulator.
It was one of those rare occasions when a driver offers an insight into how they go about their business of being a racing driver. Alas, there will be no Monaco for me in 2015 – other “issues” have got in the way of that unfortunately.

But first Pau and unfortunately it would appear the damp clouds have followed to the Pyrénées. If nothing else, it could make the races very interesting indeed.

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