Chinese Grand Prix: McLaren hope race is plane sailing after dust clouds disrupt plans
Date published : 16 Apr 2010 - 17:22:46
Millions of viewers will have to do without the unique insight provided by BBC pundit Eddie Jordan, who remained grounded in the UK on Friday.
While if either one wins the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button would both have reason to be grateful for the "miraculous" journey undertaken by one McLaren team member who drove to France and managed to catch a flight from Paris in time to bring crucial parts to the track.
Related ArticlesF1 podcast: Chinese Grand PrixSchumacher up for the fightBuemi 'unfazed' by crashBuemi survives horror crashLewis Hamilton wants 'uninterrupted' weekendMassa tips McLaren to shineTeam principal Martin Whitmarsh revealed that a mixture of quick thinking, coupled with a stroke of good fortune, ensured his team have everything they need for the weekend.
"We had people coming yesterday with bits but they couldn't fly," Whitmarsh said. "It was quite a miraculous story in fact as someone then jumped in a car and drove five hours to Paris to catch an 11pm flight last night.
"That flight was brought forward to 10pm but then took off at 9.50pm, but he made the flight and the airport was shut at 10pm.
"It is a great story and the parts were delivered here. We have everything we need to perform this weekend."
McLaren enjoyed a pleasing day of practice on Friday as world champion Jenson Button clocked the fastest lap in the morning session before team-mate Lewis Hamilton went fastest in the afternoon.
Whitmarsh believes his drivers can have every reason to feel confident of performing well this weekend.
"After the two practice sessions here I think we seem to be reasonably competitive," he added.
"We had some competitive long runs and we seemed relatively competitive on the shorter runs as well so hopefully we can have a clear and straightforward qualifying session, be at the front, race well and win."
Red Bull also made use of the French connection to ensure they had their full quota of staff in Shanghai. An engineer and a mechanic, carrying six boxes of kit, had their flight cancelled but they, too, managed to get to Paris in time to catch a flight.
The question now is whether anyone can make it back.
Formula One's ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone normally likes to strike for home midway through a race but with the travel chaos set to continue, he could find himself stuck.
One thing is for sure, he is unlikely to remain in Shanghai after giving the race promoters a bit of an ear-bashing on Friday.
Asked about the vast but empty grandstands at the Shanghai International Circuit, Ecclestone was unequivocal.
"They are not promoting it properly," he said. "The people that run the place ought to do a bit more. If you were in Shanghai you wouldn't even know there is a race here."
The 79 year-old insisted, though, that the race would stay on the calendar despite the lack of local interest.
"We're happy with everything," he said. "No dramas ... the contract is ongoing here and it will go on. It is a rolling contract. It is just a shame because the whole venue is super, everything is good."
Turkey is another race under scrutiny due to poor attendance figures but Ecclestone is likewise adamant that the Istanbul Park Circuit will remain a fixture for the foreseeable future.
With India likely to join the calendar next season, that will mean an exhausting 20-race season, although not, apparently, for a man who turns 80 this autumn and who is eyeing up even more key markets with Russia and New York both in the pipeline for 2012.
"We are not dropping anything," Ecclestone said. "It's 20 races getting ready for 25."