Friday, as all the best days do, started off with Chase Carey’s moustache. Well, there was something else about a race being renewed or whatever, but when you’re in the same room as that thing, it’s kind of hard to focus on anything else.
Of course, that wasn’t the biggest story of the day – hell, it wasn’t even in the top five – with a slew of long-awaited announcements dropping in quick succession shortly after FP1.
Finally, the press room could hit “send” on the articles they’d been preparing for the past few days – Renault splitting with Toro Rosso, McLaren and Honda divorcing, McLaren and Renault hooking up, Carlos Sainz joining Renault, Honda joining with Toro Rosso, and Lewis Hamilton dropping his debut album- … wait, that last one didn’t happen, but the way this weekend is going, it wouldn’t surprise me if it did.
Knowing the chaos that had just kicked off, this seemed like the perfect time to take a stroll through the paddock. Unsurprisingly, most of the TV crews’ attention was focused on McLaren, with a bunch of different presenters conducting hits outside their hospitality suite.
That said, the real sight was a bit further down the paddock, where a perturbed Johnathan Palmer was pacing up-and-down while on his phone – ironically, outside the almost deserted Honda building.
On-track things were spicy too, with Red Bull being a surprising pacesetter in FP2. Coming in this was supposed to be the track where Mercedes would be most challenged… but it was supposed to be by Ferrari.
Instead, the Scuderia was nowhere to be seen, but Red Bull have ably picked up the slack, given their excellent pace on both the long and short runs. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen seem full of confidence, and the way they’re pushing the car they have to be taken seriously for Saturday.
Moving back off-track, the day ended with a particularly unusual team-representatives press conference. The first trio to take the stage was made up of Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost and the Honda pair of Katsuhide Moriyama and Misashi Yamamoto, who had flown in specially for this after the earlier announcement.
To say the presser was strange would be an understatement. Despite the day essentially being a culmination of the biggest failure in their company’s history, the two execs had to pretend their relegation to Red Bull’s ‘B’ team was a positive step. Suffice to say, they struggled to express that excitement, while Tost was, well… much the same as he usually is.
- Sean Gelael’s FP1 debut was certainly one to forget, finishing 3.350s off Daniil Kvyat in the other Toro Rosso
- Fernando Alonso’s response when asked if he wanted more laps in the McLaren-Honda – “No! Please no!” just sums up their situation perfectly
- It looks like the divisive ‘shark-fins’ seen on the 2017 cars could be making a return for 2018 after all, with their continuation being added to the agenda for the next strategy group meeting – just keep away the t-wing, please