M a Formula 1 season begins with the second race in Kuala Lumpur. It's my first real one. I was allowed to accompany my two colleagues on test drives and as the third reporter at the GP Spain 2014 on the track, but somehow it only feels like a real starting gun now. Finally, I'll be traveling to seven Grand Prix in 2015.
Shocking news shortly before landing
Our trip to Southeast Asia starts on March 24th in Stuttgart. It goes via Frankfurt and Dubai to Kuala Lumpur. We have to get up early. The first plane takes off at 7:00 a.m. In Frankfurt I take the first photo for our diary. The object: a Boeing 777-300. The flights are running smoothly. The food on board Emirates is tasty and I can even get some sleep. Shortly before landing in Malaysia, I check the news on my little seat monitor. One of them is shocking. A Germanwings plane is said to have crashed on the way from Barcelona to Düsseldorf.
The report later becomes a sad certainty. All 150 inmates are killed in the tragedy. Despite our large daily workload, the misfortune will preoccupy us a lot in the coming days. Even more than 9,900 kilometers away from home, the details are crumbling in. The terrible puzzle is gradually added. My colleague Schmidt asks me every evening in the hotel about the latest findings. This can be done faster with a cell phone that he does not have himself than with his own PC. After all, it has to be started first.
We land on March 25th at 9:00 am in Kuala Lumpur. In contrast to Michael Schmidt, I have no Malaysian money in my pocket. I get 1,000 ringgits from the ATM. At that time the equivalent of around 250 euros. As it turns out in retrospect, far too much. The food is quite cheap. At the end of our trip, I'll have about 600 ringgit left. I exchange most of the money back, and I keep a few bills as a memento. That's how I set out to do it. I have to bring something with me from every country.
After we have picked up our rental car, we continue on the route. You read that right. Nothing to shower, nothing to freshen up or rest in the hotel. We'll give full throttle right away. The drive from the airport takes only ten minutes. The sun is already burning down in the early morning hours.The high humidity doesn't bother me as much as I had feared before.
Fernando Alonso is making his comeback
In the press center we move into the seats reserved by our Swiss friend Roger Benoit. I'm going straight out to take the first shots of the structure in the paddock and the pit lane. It's a great feeling when TV images become reality. While I'm looking for beautiful motifs, Michael Schmidt is looking for the first people to talk to.
The big topic in the paddock is the comeback of Fernando Alonso. After his serious accident during the test drives in Barcelona, the two-time world champion is returning to the GP circuit. The new McLaren driver had to skip the season opener in Australia.
McLaren only allows questions about the accident at the official FIA press conference on Thursday. The journalists punctuate Alonso. And he snubs his team. Alonso pushes the buck to the steering. For its part, McLaren does not claim to have recognized any technical abnormalities in the data. According to Alonso, it should not have been due to the wind either: 'At this speed, not even a hurricane could have moved the car.' The course of the accident remains a mystery. There is still no conclusive explanation. Whether it is the driver or the technology that is to blame: we will probably never find out.
Playing with the mechanics
Speaking of technology. Formula 1 is a very technical sport. This not only fascinates us journalists, but also the fans. We notice this in our calls. A new baffle here, or an additional wing there, no matter how small, ensures good click figures. However, the teams want to hide their cars. Sometimes I have the feeling that they would like to pack their racing cars in boxes and then get them out to the GP first. So that nobody sees anything.
I'm not yet known to the mechanics. So they think I'm potentially a spy. One who was hired by another team and is now taking photos of technical details. At Mercedes and Lotus, a mechanic asks me for my paddock pass. Only then can I take photos halfway freely. At Ferrari and Red Bull, people put themselves in front of my lens. It doesn't matter which corner of the car I'm at. Nevertheless, it works with good photos. You just have to wait for the right moment. And then be quick.
It is a privilege to be able to travel to a Formula 1 race. As the saying goes, you get around in the world. Even if you don't see and hear as much of the country as outsiders might believe. For example, I can only see Kuala Lumpur from the air. The schedule is too tight for a trip to the Malaysian metropolis. Nico Rosberg does it against it. He even boots the 2,170Step up the Petronas Towers.
We always leave our hotel around eight o'clock in the morning. We won't be back before eight in the evening. Most of the time it will be later. On Sunday we don't turn our backs on the press center until 1:15 a.m. Only three brave Frenchmen and a Japanese reporter can take it longer.
Vettel is playing a prank on Mercedes
From my point of view, the race is a blast. Because Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel can, contrary to expectations, keep up with Mercedes. Even on a dry track. In the rainy qualifying, the Ferrari newcomer was able to push himself between the Silver Arrows. But it was also wet there. In contrast to race Sunday. About an hour before the start, I ask Ferrari press spokesman Alberto Antonini whether he would prefer rain. A clear answer: 'If you have a fast car like us, you want it to stay dry.'
Ferrari and Vettel take advantage of an early safety car phase and take the lead. Because, unlike Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, they stay outside. A strategy mistake by Mercedes, as it turned out later. By the time the two take the positions behind Vettel, the Heppenheimer has already hurried. The four-time world champion drives perfectly on that day. He caresses the tires on the asphalt, which is almost 60 degrees Celsius, and makes two stops on the lap. His speed: top notch.
After 56 laps he celebrates his first win in red ahead of Hamilton and Rosberg. Kimi Raikkonen races up to fourth place despite a puncture in the starting phase. Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa deliver a remarkable duel for fifth position. With the better end for the Finn. For Red Bull only places nine and ten jump out. The subscription world champion from 2010 to 2013 is panting behind like in the previous season. Incidentally, I was on the starting grid with Dr. Helmut Marko collided. But he is not resentful and will answer all my questions later in the paddock.
MotoGP to finish
Mine I don't see bed until three o'clock in the night from Sunday to Monday. Before that, Michael Schmidt and I have dinner. In the restaurant opposite our hotel. Fortunately for us, the restaurateur will broadcast the MotoGP season opener in Qatar. And luckily, my favorite driver Valentino Rossi wins an exciting race.
I get up late on Monday before I join the others at the pool. My battery is not enough for a trip to Kuala Lumpur, around 50 kilometers away. All I have left of Malaysia is the excerpts around our hotel and the drive to the race track. But I've already seen a little something. I remember one picture in particular. How a sweaty Malay in rubber boots walks past a Ferrari F430 at over 30 degrees. Working class and millionaire car in onePhoto.