One of the parts of Formula One I never fully appreciated till I worked my way up to the right frequent flyer status was just how much of the schmoozing takes place in airport lounges.
After last year’s Australian Grand Prix I befriended a former driver and current broadcaster when the two of us whiled away the hours in the Emirates lounge pranking a mutual friend. It earned me the sobriquet ‘Trouble’ and a great piss-taking relationship with one of the friendliest people in the paddock. As the season progressed I found that lounges where were the professional relationships turned personal, everyone letting their hair down after a long, hard weekend.
But this year, the Emirates lounge in Tullamarine Airport was a very quiet place. It was still packed to the rafters with paddock people, but the 3.35am flight meant that the background noise was more snores than it was giggles. Which meant that when we all regrouped around the baggage carousel in KLIA the F1 mob were full of energy.
In particularly good form was Lewis Hamilton, who just couldn’t stop smiling. That boy is a sponsor’s dream – while playing with his phone and showing off photos of Roscoe he talked up an incoming Blackberry (model soon to launch, but I’m stuffed if I can remember the name…) and probably pre-sold a few handsets in the process. I’m more of an HTC girl myself…
Lewis was keen to talk about the weekend to come – after a good race in Melbourne, the Mercedes driver is convinced he’s got a strong car and stronger team behind him. But whatever we saw in Albert Park was only the beginning – the W04 is a car that can win races, and one that the 2008 world champ was convinced would only be better in Sepang.
The difference between the 2012-spec Hamilton and the 2013 model is like night and day. The tension was gone, the racer is back, and all signs point to a man confident in his unpopular decision to move from McLaren to Mercedes. But whatever jokes we made about regretting missing out on the chance to drive what looks to be a very shonky McLaren, Lewis wouldn’t be drawn.
You can get personal, but even a happy Lewis with his guard down is a consummate professional.