- The Inside Line
Behind the scenes at a controversyKate Walker May 24, 2014
Controversial ends to qualifying sessions and races are not uncommon in Formula One. This season has already seen a long night in Melbourne while the F1 world waited for news of Daniel Ricciardo's exclusion from the race, while in recent years the press room has stayed full long past midnight thanks to Lewis Hamilton's exclusion from Barcelona qualifying in 2012, and Sebastian Vettel's similar exclusion in Abu Dhabi later that year.
From a journalistic point of view, such controversies are both a blessing and a curse. There's nothing quite like the smell of a story brewing, with all and sundry scampering around the paddock trying to track down information, or making whispered phone calls to contacts in race control, hoping to get a jump on the competition.
But after a long day at the coalface it's also something of an irritant to see one's evening go up in smoke, secure in the knowledge that dinner will be something of a distant dream.
Such is the situation in the Monaco press room as I type, with journalists sending their more junior colleagues out to the local supermarkets for provisions that will see them through the night if needs be, and looking up the regulation governing reversing onto a live track to see just what a likely penalty might be if Nico Rosberg is found guilty of such an infringement by the stewards.
It's early hours yet, of course, with qualifying not long finished. And by far the best delay stories come from the early hours of the morning, when all and sundry have cabin fever from having been cooped up far too long while waiting for news of a decision.
The FIA media delegate finds himself surrounded by press in such situations, with dozens of reporters hanging around his office door in the hope of being the first to hear when news comes. But in the interest of fairness, all announcements are made over the press room tannoy system, ensuring that all those present get the news simultaneously.
Of all the delays I've sat through over the past few years, by far the most entertaining was Vettel's 2012 Abu Dhabi exclusion. The very fact it was a night race meant that everyone present was already tired when the day should have ended, and by one o'clock in the morning it had all got rather silly.
Those colleagues who had elected to shirk their journalistic responsibilities in favour of attending the Nickelback concert taking place elsewhere at the circuit returned to the press room as smug as could be when they learned that no news had emerged while they had been making merry, taking full advantage of the food and drink on offer.
And those of us who remained? The press corps divided itself into three key groups: those who stationed themselves outside the stewards' office, hoping to get a read of the outcome from the body language of those emerging; those who elected to camp outside the FIA hospitality suite in case Charlie Whiting and Herbie Blash spilled the beans; and those who stayed in the press room, ears tuned for the tannoy. Texts went back and forth like wildfire between the three factions, everyone afraid that they'd picked the wrong place to be and were missing out as a consequence.
By the time the verdict finally rolled in, those of us in the press room had started a mini dance-off, the only way we could take our minds off bladders that by that point were full to bursting. Only an amateur would risk missing the announcement for the sake of a little personal comfort. And when we heard the FIA media representative confirm SebVet's disqualification? There were two consecutive races on: be the first to tweet the news, and then the first to make it to the loos.
Formula One. It's all about the glamour.