A night among the stars

After the race in  Shanghai, we had GP+ done quickly and were soon on a coach which the race organisers arranged for media members to go straight from the race track to the airport. I’m not sure if I can think of any other race where this happens, but it does rather underline the fact that Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) is regarded by F1 people with the same kind of reverence as US marines look at the roof of the US embassy in Saigon when the last choppers were going in and out in 1975.

If you miss someone at the circuit on race day, the chances are you can catch them in the departure lounges. We spent 20 minutes in the immigration queue, shooting the breeze with Nico Hulkenberg, who is a cool and laid back individual, and then rushed onward to the Emirates lounge, which, rather bizarrely, is accessed through a Burger King restaurant. We stopped to say hi to the two Verstappens (père et fils), who were cheerfully surrounded by empty burger boxes. Then we noticed that at the next door table was the unlikely figure of race winner Nico Rosberg, who was looking very cheerful. After a chat we left them all to their junk food and dashed into the lounge, for several quick glasses of wine and some rapid keyboard thumping before the time came to fight the way to the plane. Working on most planes is not easy whether you fly in business or cattle classes. One has space and comfort, but then tiredness gets you, the other has nothing to commend it as a working environment. The last Sunday night stories were filed from the lounges in Dubai before we rushed on to second planes in that Lost in Translation disconnected world that is Dubai international Airport.

I then spent the last seven hours on the way home, sitting behind one of those horrible people who insist on pushing their seats back into your space at all times and are not even civilised enough to sit up at meal times, unless ordered to do so. I know that passengers have a right to do as they please, but there is also a thing called “airline etiquette” which is an informal way to behave in a civilised fashion, given the restrictions imposed with airline seats.  Anyway, there are always a few people who don’t get it, and one is left with a lot of time looking at the scalp of the person ahead of you. As I watched The Revenant, I was sad that sharp knives are not allowed on flights because scalping the person in front seemed, in my state of some fatigue, like a perfectly reasonable response.

In the end I just laughed, felt a twinge of amusement that in a year or two, this person will be very bald, and watched movies through the night, with my Bose earphones cancelling out the world around me. These clever devices are so good that stewardesses have to wave their hands in front of your face to offer you drinks and no baby in the world can be heard squalling. I’ve watched about 20 movies in recent weeks on our various long haul F1 races. I can even remember one or two of them. This is one of the joys of flying, you never need to go to the cinema… I’ve seen pretty much everything I want to see in a number of languages, although try as I might I still struggle to get into Bollywood. The best thus far, to my taste at least, was “5 to 7”, a rather charming story of the differing ideas of morality in France and America.

Anyway, I had saved up The Revenant and the latest Sandra Bullock for the Chinese trip. The former was very good, but not at all my kind of film, while the latter lady is such a good actress that she’s always worth watching. Her latest movie is called “Our Brand Is Crisis”, the story of American spin doctors in action against one another in an election in Bolivia. It’s a George Clooney (Smokehouse) production, so you know that there will be a message that will fly over the heads of those who see Donald Trump as the answer for US politics. It is a good movie in terms of performances, but suffers from its rather too earnest script, although there are some great moments, notably when two campaign buses get into a race on a mountain road. The message, of course, is that politicians will do and say whatever it takes to get elected and will then betray the electorate… and if we are naive enough to believe in causes we must expect the pain and the disappointment that inevitably comes because in politics nothing is sacred and winning is all that matters. I like the fact that Clooney continues to fight for causes, if only because he can help people understand how the world works. I’m with him on that one. If we give up fighting it all just becomes show business. We may not change the world by doing this, but at least we try…

There is some food for thought in this for F1 fans.