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GP Week : Issue 182
11 GPWEEK.com // 11 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: OPINION The Formula One circus set up shop in Barcelona for the start of the European season and I was not there. I am at home in Bangalore. It’s frustrating and it hurts. After travelling to Malaysia, China, and Bahrain to cover the grands prix from the heart of the circus, I was just getting used to the Formula One life. Not the glamour – not at all. Spending nearly 19 hours asleep on a cold airport seat while waiting for a five hour flight is hardly what anyone would call glamorous. But that’s exactly the sort of thing that F1 gets you accustomed to, and exactly what you miss when you’re no longer there: being cramped into an economy class seat in the row just ahead of the emergency exits with no reclining backrest; walking through the paddock gates all bleary eyed on Thursday morning; walking into the media center and catching up with those fast but firm friends that define a life in the paddock. Then there’s the pressure. The constant pressure. They say Formula One is all about performing at your best and that applies as much to journalists as it does to the drivers, teams, and cars. Despite permanent sleep deprivation and sporadic writer’s block, there is no choice but to deliver, and to deliver to a high standard. But come Sunday evening, when the last piece has been filed, there’s the satisfaction of a job well done. Like the drivers, however, the vast majority of the press pack leaves the paddock knowing that they could always do better. The paddock atmosphere of constant achievement at high speed can be as demoralizing as it is motivating. This Formula One business is a heady cocktail of emotions, of highs and lows, and it is more addictive than any drug. The buzz is so intense that it creates instant lifers, addicts who need their F1 fix and can’t countenance never coming back for more. But there wasn’t more for me this weekend. As the journalists filed into the press conference room on Thursday for the drivers’ presser, I was at my regular day job, keeping an eye out for financial news and alerting respective beat reporters to something breaking on their patch. On Friday I entered a go-kart race thinking it would go some way towards making up for not being there and on Saturday I sat watching qualifying on the television in my living room. When the unilaterals came on after the session I thought to myself, “Damn! I was in that room asking questions only three weeks back.” When budgeting my season last year, I knew I would miss Europe, that after Bahrain I would be parting ways with the Formula One world. In Bahrain, I wandered around the paddock on Sunday night after the race, after all my stories were filed, soaking up the buzz and watching teams pack everything away – the sponsor hoardings, the Coke fridges, bits of suspension, a front wing – leaving the garages and hospitality units bare and cold and bringing to mind something my colleague and friend Trent Price had said in China. “It’s always depressing to see them take everything down,” he had said. “But it’s all the more depressing knowing you won’t be there when it goes back up again.” But Trent and I were agreed upon one thing – however sad it might be to say goodbye to the travelling circus, having been granted access in the first place is a privilege. For any Formula One fan, for anyone hoping to work in this rarefied world, a paddock pass is a prize to be treasured. However in-depth the television coverage, one thing the cameras can’t capture is the rush of adrenaline that you experience walking through the paddock gates. Days spent chasing stories and making contacts take place against the backdrop of a miniature village filled with some of the world’s most passionate and hard-working people. The energy is inspirational. This weekend I might have been out in the cold. But I was watching from home warmed by the knowledge that I have been there, that I have contributed to that buzz, and that one day – in the not too distant future – I shall be back ... OPINION ABHISHEK TAKLE Contributing Writer OUT IN THE COLD