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Paddock Life

Behind the scenes at Monaco
AUTOSPORT's group F1 editor Jonathan Noble brings more tales from the paddock after the Monaco Grand Prix weekend

  By Jonathan Noble

After a few years when the bite of the global recession meant it was not the 'done thing' to be wined and dined in such glamorous settings, the Monaco Grand Prix returned to its full glory in 2011.

The harbour was packed with the mega yachts of the world's rich and famous, the bars and restaurants of the Principality buzzed late into the night as fans flocked to the event and F1 was treated to one of the street circuit's best races – even though there was a general feeling of having been robbed because of the tyre swaps allowed after the red flag.

McLAren motorhome
McLaren's motorhome was not completed until Wednesday © LAT

Even so, if the Monaco Grand Prix provided a snapshot of the health of the sport – both on and off the track – then it bodes well for anyone who has a passion for it.

For the second year running, the Monaco Grand Prix formed the second part of a double-header with the Spanish GP.

And while the logistics of getting everything packed up at Barcelona and readied in Monte Carlo had not caused too many headaches 12 months ago, things were not quite so straightforward this time around.

Due to the narrow confines of the Monaco paddock, and the tight and twisty streets that run down to it, team trucks have to be sent down in a strict order so they can unpack their loads into the right spot in the paddock.

Unluckily for F1 teams, it just so happened that the last of the team trucks to arrive in Monaco after Barcelona, Mercedes GP, was the one that had to be first in – as its motorhome was going to be at the far end of the paddock.

While that started off the woe of delays, to add to the trouble a lorry unrelated to the event caught fire and burst into flames at Ste Devote – causing chaos on the Monaco roads and resulting in even further delays for the motorhome crews who had been hoping to get their freight into the paddock.

After a lot of thumb twiddling by the other teams as the delays mounted, everyone else eventually followed down – with McLaren and the FIA the final crews allowed into the paddock as they would be at the nearest end to the pits.

Jenson Button 2011 Monaco grand prix mclaren
Button avoided forklift © LAT

With Monaco traditionally running a day earlier than other grands prix, it left a race against the clock to try and get the motorhomes ready for the opening day of practice – and meant that a lot of them were far from ready during Wednesday's preview day.

The paddock was full of motorhome parts as McLaren, Pirelli, Virgin and the FIA came up as F1's tail-enders to get their structures in place – and it meant a weird day for everyone trying to get around the paddock dodging trucks, steel beams, stacks of chairs and portable cranes.

And it was Jenson Button who nearly had his first collision of the weekend, as he and a forklift truck nearly came to blows in the busy paddock.

"I was walking along talking to the guys," he said. "I was looking but he wasn't as he was reversing," he said. "I was never going to be injured seriously. He wasn't going to kill me. He would have bumped into me. They are doing all they can but when it's back-to-back it is very difficult.

"The guys are working non-stop to get it built. It makes it a bit difficult and dangerous – maybe we should be wearing hard hats in the paddock!"

The Monaco Grand Prix would not be F1's blue riband event if it was not for the glitz, glamour and celebrities.

And nothing summed up the brilliance, decadence and opulence of the celebrity world better than Friday night's now traditional Amber Lounge Fashion Show.

The event has become the precursor to the popular Amber Lounge parties, and features a host of Formula 1 drivers strutting their stuff on the catwalk suited and booted in some nifty suits.

This year almost half the grid got dressed up for the show, with Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Vitaly Petrov, Jaime Alguersuari, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Jerome D'Ambrosio, Sergio Perez and Heikki Kovalainen showing they were not just talented on the racetrack.

amber Lounge fashion show Monaco 2011
Humphrey and Kardashian hosted the Amber Lounge fashion show ©

Yet on this occasion, even the drivers proved to be the sideshow for the paparazzi, who crammed into the venue for some snapshots of the celebrities who popped down for a peak of the Friday night fun.

American socialite Kim Kardashian may have missed her slot on the main stage, but she pleased the photographers with her stunning cream dress – while the snappers were delighted to get pictures of a host of stars including Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock, Boris Becker, Victoria Silvstedt, plus Tamara and Petra Ecclestone.

And all the females present were left weak at the knees when pop sensation Taio Cruz sang his hit single 'Break Your Heart' on stage – prior to his set on stage at Saturday's night Amber Lounge.

David Coulthard knows a thing or two about the downside of the paparazzi, having been snapped recently losing his footing as he left a nightclub in London.

While some figures in the paddock may have done everything they could to steer clear of talk of the incident, Coulthard proved man enough in Monaco to turn what happened into a joke about himself.

On Friday, Coulthard launched his new officially-endorsed TW Steel watch on a yacht in the harbour – and couldn't help himself when he was asked to say a few words about the qualities of the timepiece.

"This watch fits very well with the exciting journey I've had through Formula 1," said Coulthard, as a grin emerged on his face. "I wanted to make sure that this was a watch that would reflect the flashes of the paparazzi if I am out on a Saturday night.

"I wanted to make sure that it could withstand the occasional tumble that does come when you've had a great night out enjoying yourself – this watch is crash-proof, flash-proof and scratch-proof."

Yet the last laugh went to Nick Heidfeld, who quickly shouted out: "And it's square – like your head!"

Monaco, Singapore, Delhi and Abu Dhabi... find out more about Amber Lounge

2011 Monaco Grand Prix
Why Vettel's dominance is no turn-off
By Jonathan Noble
Behind the scenes at Monaco
By Jonathan Noble
Stat Attack: Monaco (post-race)
By Michele Merlino
The complete 2011 Monaco GP review
By Matt Beer and Jamie O'Leary
Five themes to watch for in Monaco
By Edd Straw
Why Red Bull is under pressure
By David Coulthard
Monaco's all-time top 10 qualifiers
By Edd Straw
Jarno Trulli on his Monaco victory
By Edd Straw
Why Monaco is a big tyre gamble
By Mark Hughes
Setting the scene for Monaco
By Edd Straw
Stat Attack: Monaco
By Michele Merlino
Zoom In: Monaco Grand Prix
By LAT Photographic
The Monaco Grand Prix preview
By Edd Straw
Less is more in F1, but Monaco is the exception
By Jonathan Noble
  OTHER FEATURES FROM MAY 26, 2011 - JUN 1, 2011
Formula 1's looming engine debate
By Dieter Rencken
In the magazine: In-depth Barcelona review
Indy 2011: The story so far
By Matt Beer
Indy 500 runners and riders
By Charles Bradley
Buddy Rice: Back where he belongs
By Jeff Olson
How Cosworth aims to be a force again
By Jonathan Noble
How frustration got the better of Hamilton
By Tony Dodgins
How the Monaco Grand Prix was won
By Adam Cooper
Bamber's Week
By Jim Bamber
How GP2 was made a mockery in Monaco
By Glenn Freeman
Searching for Hirvonen's missing mojo
By David Evans
Why the Bahrain GP decision comes too late
Having won the prestigious Sir Williams Lyons Award for young journalists in 1991, Jonathan Noble started his career working for news agency Collings Sport.

Working across a number of sports, including motor racing, football and rugby, he was a contributor to a wide range of leading national and international publications including Reuters, the Press Association, the Daily Telegraph and The Independent.

He accepted a job at AUTOSPORT Special Projects at the start of 1999, and a year later became F1 Editor of AUTOSPORT magazine – moving across to the website at the end of 2004.
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