A crazy end to a crazy season

I really am still catching my breath after this weekend. It was absolutely manic.

Alright, so I know I haven’t written for a while. It’s all been a bit on the boring side recently. I mean, fun to do, writing articles and building up to the Formula E season finale, but not so much fun to read about, so I’ll skip to the good stuff, shall I?

So I headed down to London on Thursday afternoon. Friday was the media day but there was no way I was going to be able to get down there early enough on the day so I headed down the day before. That and I wanted to check out Shell’s “make the future” thing for a few feature articles I’m doing over the summer break.

The “make the future” thing was actually really interesting and I’m gutted that it was on the same weekend as the Formula E. I really could have spent the entire weekend there. There was so much on looking at the future of how we will generate energy and how we will use it. The coolest thing was the competition for innovative new motor technology that Shell runs for engineering students. You could get lost in all the different stalls there and every single one seemed to have a new genius idea.

Sadly, I could only stay there for an hour or so as I had to rush across London for a party: Electric Thursday. It’s a party that ABT and Warsteiner run every race, from what I could tell, and it seemed like the perfect way to kick off the Formula E weekend. Only problem is, I don’t drink, and non-alcoholic beer is just… pointless. Because I don’t think alcohol (at least not beer) is really supposed to taste nice and if you’re not drinking beer for the alcohol what are you for… anyway, there was free food and the student in me always loves free food. It was also a chance to catch up with people who work in Formula E, both on my side of the fence (media) and the other.

After about three hours sleep, it was time to head to Battersea Park for final weekend of the 2015-16 Formula E championship.

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Now, one of my least favourite films in the whole wide world is Alice in Wonderland. I used to be scared of Alice in Wonderland as a child and, to be fair, the idea of a world of chaos where logic holds no meaning at all still scares me a little. Trying to find my way around Battersea Park gave me flashbacks of that film. There were very few sign posts, the ones that did exist took you in the wrong direction, and I’m pretty sure that grinning cat could have given me better directions than the people working at the event.

Anyway, I eventually found the accreditation centre and by the time I’d gotten my pass, our deputy editor had arrived. He had a slightly (read, much) better sense of direction than me, and we were able to get to the media centre without wondering into any smoking caterpillars or whatever other horrors were in that film.

As I said before, Friday was the media day, which meant lots of press conferences and the media pen. The first press conference of the day was an eStory thing, talking about sustainability and that kind of thing, but things soon got interesting with the driver’s and teams press conference.

Both title contenders were there as well as there team owners, and local boy Sam Bird. So the main topic of discussion for the first part of the press conference was the championship and how that panned out. Then the questions from the floor came.

I was the first to stick my hand in the air because there were a few things I wanted to ask Mr di Grassi about. You see, Lucas di Grassi has been rather… vocal on social media about how he feels the Fanboost feature is corrupt and he’s caused… quite a stir. So much so that I – who once loved the feature as it brings the fans closer to the teams and makes motorsports feel closer than a million miles away – actually hated it when the Fanboost opened because I knew it would only be a matter of time before someone started moaning about it.

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I wanted to know what Lucas had actually done to engage fans because, unlike other teams and drivers, I hadn’t seen him run any competitions, any fancy graphics, or… anything but complain about how corrupt it was, to be honest. And I wanted to know how he would change it. Predictably, he chose not to answer the first question, and went on about how he would change it to just social media.

That kind of set a bit of a theme for the rest of the questions, as Fanboost was discussed more and I still had no answer to the first part of my question.

Than it was time for the press pen which, sadly, fell at the same time as lunch was served. It was going to be a late lunch.

pictureThe press pen was actually much more polite in London than in Paris a few months ago, and I managed to get a fair few drivers. This time around, I had more of an idea about who spoke lots and who only gave small answers. Once the interviews were recorded and my plate was piled high with food, it was time to send them off for transcription whilst I tried to quieten my stomach.

Next up on the to-do list was another press conference, this time from Dragon Racing. Dragon Racing are teaming up with Faraday Future and this was really just to confirm that and that they would be keeping the same driver line up as they had this year. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do next year.

As e-racing.net’s deputy editor was already on duty with an article to cover the press conference, I decided to make good use of the time and write it up for Overtake Motorsport. Though I cover BTCC for the website, I help out with Formula E as we try to get that sorted out. That, and it seemed like a waste of time to not do anything with such exciting news.

That was pretty much it for the first day of the long weekend, and I was able to get a semi-decent night’s sleep ready for the first race day.

Ok, so I gave myself half an hour on Saturday morning to get lost, as I felt this was inevitable. Strangely, I didn’t, and managed to get to the media centre before anybody else. It would be a couple of hours until the first session of the day so I got some work done for Overtake Motorsport and got myself settled.

20160703_114358The media centre overlooked the pit lane and it was really cool to look over at the garages as people began to arrive.

I was on live tweeting duties for the first and second practice sessions. It was a bit of a manic two sessions, and nobody really knew what to expect. The weather was being very British and changeable, and we were all waiting to see when the rain would come.

Once the practice sessions were over, it was time for another press conference, and this one was with the man we had all been waiting for: Alejandro Agag.

Agag was going to be announcing the calendar for season three, which was pretty important and very exciting. Battersea Park would not be seeing a third Formula E race (thank god) and I wanted to know why. When I asked Agag about the protestors against the series at the park in Paris, he assured me (or tried to) that there were very few people against the plans. Why then give in? Agag gave a good answer to the question, I felt. Or it was good enough to make an article out of and for another leading motorsport website to make an article out of. I was definitely on the ball with the press conference questions this weekend. Now if I could just get them in private interviews…

picture1I wrote up the article around Battersea park for e-racing.net and then one on the season three calendar for Overtake Motorsport. Then it was time for qualifying.

Oh my god qualifying. If you did not watch qualifying, go and read our article on it. It was a wet session, or partially wet, and because the grid go out in four packs it meant there was one dry session as there were so many red flags. And that meant the two championship contenders would be starting in the middle of the grid whilst Nico Prost and Bruno Senna made up the front row for the first race.

It felt like an eternity until the race, which was even more manic. I think I watched the entire thing from behind my hands as… as what I can only describe as chaos happened out on the track. I was making notes so this time I knew what to ask questions about during the press pen but sometimes it was so hard to describe when there was madness as di Grassi and Buemi tried to get up through the field and Jean-Eric Vergne decided Formula E was actually a contact sport. And then up ahead of them Nico Prost and Bruno Senna were just cruising along as if this was a nice Sunday afternoon drive.

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Prost and Senna easily finished first and second, Prost’s first win since Miami last year and Senna’s first in his Formula E career, whilst Vergne controversially picked up third.

After the press conference, it was time for the press pen again. I managed to get a good interview with Senna – who’s one of the drivers who likes to talk a lot – as well as Buemi. Buemi’s interesting to interview and going through the interview from race one made me smile. I also managed to grab hold of a few more drivers and got those sent of for transcription/typed up before heading back for another well deserved sleep.

20160703_073817After an hour’s walk due to the fact nobody seems to think public transport is necessary on a Sunday morning, I got to Battersea Park bright and early once again. After stopping to check out Mahindra’s trophy and very heavy (and empty) Champaign bottle, I settled down for what I hoped would be another exciting day.

I was right.

I was on live tweeting duty again for the first (and only) practice session of the day, then decided to have a bit of a wander around before the qualifying. We went to watch the qualifying draws at the podium, and I got some goodies signed for give aways at Overtake Motorsport and e-racing.net. I’ve got some plans for them, so those will be coming up soon.

Qualifying was a little less stressful and a little more predictable on Sunday. There was no rain, which meant e.Dams locked out the front row of the grid. Buemi took pole, meaning he and di Grassi started the race on equal points. Di Grassi was ahead, because he had more podiums, but would be starting third. If they both didn’t finish with any points, he would win.

But really, how likely was it going to be that they weren’t going to finish with any points. It’s hardly as if the two championship leaders were going to take one another out on the opening lap, was it? When has that ever happened before?

Ok, so maybe I spoke too soon. Di Grassi and Buemi crashed on the first lap. Both managed to limp back to the pits and then get into their other car. As there was still points for fastest lap up for grabs, both went for that, but it seemed like Di Grassi was trying to slow Buemi down. Meanwhile the actual race was going on. Prost walked away with it, again, whilst the drivers battling for third all ran out of energy on the last lap and Jerome d’Ambrosio took the final step of the podium. Buemi got fastest lap, eventually meaning he took the championship win.

20160703_175322Then came the press conference. First it was the podium guys, Prost, Daniel Abt, and d’Ambrosio. It was a reasonably civilised press conference, although a few references were made to some little F1 race a few decades ago when Alain Prost came and sat down.

Then Buemi came. Sebastien wasn’t best pleased with pretty much any of Lucas’ actions that day. From the crash which Buemi was sure was di Grassi’s fault to the apparent holding him up on the fastest lap. He told the story of his race with such passion, hand gestures and facial expressions to go with it. Both his team mate and team principals spent most of the story laughing at him which then had all of us laughing.

It was no laughing matter really as the championship was decided in not the fairest of ways. In the press pen, I managed to join an interview with Buemi, as well as getting Antonio Felix da Costa, one of the drivers who ran out of energy on the closing lap. Buemi was very much unimpressed with Lucas’ actions, still, and stressed this a lot.

After writing up the article, it was time to say goodbye to some of the people who helped me out a lot this season, then time to go home. I managed to transcribe the article with da Costa in a café before my train on Monday morning, and that was my work done for the weekend.

 

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