Paddock Nights: Spanish Grand Prix

After the opening four flyways, Formula 1's return to Europe brought with it the return of motorhomes, some evening fun and some familiar faces - as Kate Walker explains in her new regular column for Motorsport.com

The start of the European season means one thing and one thing only for members of the Formula 1 circus: and it's not the end of jet lag.

Early morning budget flights lead to more exhausted faces than flyaways spent travelling in the semi-luxury afforded to frequent flyers.

More than one person at the Spanish Grand Prix could be overheard asking how they'd managed to get jet lag without changing time zone.

It is in fact the return of the team motorhomes that puts a spring in the step of even the most hardened F1 cynic. The mobile hospitality units mean a chance of breakfast, lunch, and the occasional post-work cocktail.

As has become tradition, Red Bull kicked off the summer season in style with a Saturday night Sunset Station, a chance for media and teams alike to relax in the warmth of the Catalan sun, enjoying an impressive selection of tapas while speculating on the likely outcome of the following day's race.

Less traditional but still very welcome was Force India's Mexican cook-off on Thursday night.

Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg dished up a storm under the guidance of celebrated Mexican chef Ruben Boldo Villegas, and the press pack resembled a plague of locusts as it hoovered up the delicious results.

New kids on the block

Despite rumours of visits from the likes of Neymar, the Barcelona paddock was rather bereft of celebrity faces familiar to anyone ignorant of Spanish television.

But for those who regularly scour the business pages, the Spanish Grand Prix was a hotbed of big hitters with a role to play in motorsport.

Gene Haas and Gunther Steiner could be found doing the rounds of the paddock ahead of the 2016 arrival of Haas F1, and the sport's incoming American team boss was accosted at almost every turn by journalists keen to pass on their advice for F1 success.

Haas Automation also took over a sizeable hospitality suite in the corporate boxes in the main grandstand, a gentle reminder of the future entrant's budgetary potential.

Elsewhere could be found familiar faces in the form of ex-Mercedes vice president Norbert Haug, Daimler chairman Dietrich Zetsch, and former Minardi boss Giancarlo Minardi.

The Mexican Grand Prix contingent was out in full force too, and with them could be found an impressive roster of the country's most influential businessmen.

Also representing the world of businessmen seeking to expand their involvement in Formula 1 was Canada's Lawrence Stroll, the retail billionaire father of F3 driver Lance Stroll and a man often connected with rumours of buying both F1 teams and the sport itself.

Secret meetings

Inside the corridors of power it was a weekend of alliance-building, with unlikely relationships being formed in advance of this week's F1 Strategy Group meeting.

Team principals and finance directors could be spotted having 'covert' meetings in the spaces behind motorhomes, as those with no influence in the meeting pleaded their cases with those in a position of power.

Before the weekend was out it was clear that the fifth engine plan was set for the scrapheap, that proposals to allow the teams to choose their own tyres were both unlikely and ill thought, and that the notion of a wind tunnel ban was far from being dead in the water.

With the big decisions still to be made, the discussion and speculation that surrounded the FIA's clarification of fuel-flow monitoring proved a welcome respite for those influencers keen to avoid giving too much away to a curious press...

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Spanish GP
Track Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Article type Special feature