Life in the Fast Lane - Part 8
Published February 24, 2010
The vote for part seven was interesting because the conservative approach was winning to start with, but then all the rebels appeared and gave us the answer we now have:
I had to explain the difference between the two qualifying approaches to my mother who said she can’t wait until I have a less motorsport related story going on. For now, though, we’re about to qualify in Monaco.
“Just wait,” Mitch said. He could see Bob anxiously hopping from one leg to the other beside the car.
A nearby mechanic pulled the timing screen down so Mitch could see it. They were a couple of minutes into the session, and everyone was out on track bar Mitch and one other.
“Is Haldon waiting?” Mitch asked.
Bob moved to peer down the pitlane, and returned a moment later. “Front wing’s off, looks like a problem.”
Bruno pulled in to the box in front of them, the pit crew swarmed his car, changing the tyres in seconds.
“You should head out now,” Bob said.
“Just wait,” Mitch repeated.
“You’ve left it late, you don’t have to be a hero,” Bob said. “There’s a gap coming up, you should hit it.”
“There’s clear air after that, too.”
Bob shook his head, and moved away from the car. Mitch waited. He watched the track map, and finally, he pulled out of the garage and began his outlap.
“Thank God,” Bob muttered under his breath.
Monaco is beautiful when the sun comes out. The water in the harbour sparkles, the people on the hotel roof don their bikinis, and everything is bright and cheerful.
Monaco is not quite so beautiful when you burst from the tunnel at 180mph, plunged into a sea of white after the gloom undercover.
Mitch blinked rapidly, his eyes adjusting to the light just in time to make his next braking zone. Round the chicane to the 90 degree left of Tabac, and then towards the swimming pool.
“No one here this time,” he breathed.
The radio crackled. “A tenth down,” Bob said.
“Come on,” Mitch said, “Come on, come on.”
He chanted to himself as he made the Rascasse hairpin. Down into the very first gear, it felt agonisingly slow.
Now he was round the final turn and straightened up to climb the hill to the finish line. He crossed it, the last driver to complete a flying lap. A moment to take a breath, then his eyes fell to the readout on the steering wheel.
He let out a yell of frustration.
“Second,” Bob confirmed in his ear. “It was close. Mason ahead. Bruno behind. You did good, Mitch. It was a good call.”
Mitch followed Mason into the small press room. Bruno joined them, and they sat in front of the gathered media.
“Congratulations Mason,” a voice came from the back of the room. “Another pole position for Mortimer GP. Tell us about that last lap.”
Mitch tuned out as Mason discussed how good the car was and how hard the team had worked. He poured himself a drink and sipped at it, glancing around the room. When his turn came, he talked briefly of the decision to leave his lap until the last minute, and he deflected questions on whether they would report the Thompson to the stewards.
Main questions completed, and the floor was thrown open to the journalists. Melissa put up her hand straight away.
“Bruno, you’re third behind Mason and John. Are you worried about the championship?”
Mitch looked sideways, past Mason, at his teammate. Bruno blushed a little, then composed himself. “I’m confident we’ve got a good strategy,” he said.
Another journalist began to rise but Melissa continued. “Just on the same theme,” she said. “John, will you be able to help Bruno out from your position?”
Mitch absorbed the question, then offered up a smile. “I’m confident we’ve got a good strategy,” he echoed.
Melissa’s face fell, and she sat down. The interrupted journalist stood up again, shooting her an icy glare, before offering up his own benign question to Mason.
Mitch hung around in the garage for a lot longer than he needed to. Most of the engineers had gone back to the hotel after the debrief, and just a few scattered mechanics remained. They checked the tyres, the refuelling systems, the radio communications. Anything that they had control over whilst the cars were in parc fermé.
They tolerated Mitch meandering around beside them, but he started to feel in the way, and returned to the motorhome.
Bob came down the stairs, carrying his requisite stack of books and folders, and spotted Mitch sitting at a table by the window. Bob crossed the room and put his folders down on the table, perching on the stool opposite.
“You know what’s going to happen,” he said.
“I know what you all want me to do,” Mitch replied. “Funnily enough, Mason told me it would happen months ago.”
“Sorry,” Bob said. “It’s how the game is played. Bruno suggested a dodgy start.”
“I’m great at starting,” Mitch said. “I’m the best starter out there!” He sighed. “I was sure those rules had changed.”
Bob nodded, picked up his stack of papers, and stood up. “No one can tell you what to do. It’s your call. But remember, it’s a team game.” He waved goodbye, and left the building. Mitch watched him walk down the paddock towards the exit.
What was he going to do?