Singapore Grand Prix: Inside the paddock

© Ubaid Parkar, 29 September 2012
© Parkar

Picture a small room with just a table and a chair and a flickering tube. Two guys in suits, cigarettes dangling from the tip of their mouths, encircling a cowering and sweating suspect parched for freedom in the middle.

Perhaps that was the only way to get answers at the Singapore Grand Prix, most of which were provided less than a week later.

Lewis Hamilton was the centre of attention, with his future set to bring about a shuffle like a domino effect but he remained tight-lipped under the lights in Singapore.

The British driver entered the McLaren hospitality on Thursday for a media session declaring he was there to only answer questions about the weekend, and nothing more.

Good thing he didn’t ask for his lawyer.

His teammate though spoke, but spilled no beans.

© Brad Spurgeon

“I love reading everything. I read the papers, because we all do – even if you say you don’t – and the websites,” Jenson Button said. “I don’t know how much truth is there in any of it – not saying you guys (media) don’t write the truth, anyway.

“Funny thing there are no quotes from any of the people involved. It’s amazing how you write so many stories with no quotes from the people who are actually involved saying yes or no,” the Briton observed.

“It’s interesting to read all the rumours. There’s a lot of guesswork going on for everyone I think,” concluded the 2009 world champion.

One of these rumours was confirmed on Friday after McLaren announced Sergio Perez as the driver to replace Hamilton next year despite the Mexican claiming a week before that none of the major teams had approached him for a 2013 seat.

“Regarding the McLaren rumour, as I said, there are so many rumours around. Before it was Ferrari, and now it's McLaren. Always, when I have a good race, they put me in a different team,” Perez had said referring to his podium at the Italian Grand Prix earlier in the month.

The Mexican driver now has signed a multi-year deal with the British team. But in his defence, maybe he was approached only after the Singapore GP.

But it does clear that he won’t be at Ferrari, although he currently drives in a car with engines from the Italian manufacturer and not to mention being a part of the scarlet squad’s driver academy.

Perez was tipped to replace Felipe Massa, to partner Fernando Alonso, who didn’t have much to say about the “little names” that kept popping up.

Mercedes’ Norbert Haug went about the usual although Nico Rosberg did have something to say when he was asked whether Hamilton could replace him instead of Michael Schumacher.

“That’s not a very useful question but I’ll answer it,” he said leaning forward with a dry smile.

“I did a long-term contract last year with Mercedes, you know,” he reiterated before running through his standard statement. “I am very happy where I am. Very proud to be driving the Silver Arrow and looking forward to many more wins.

Race day: It was steaming hot in the garages © Parkar

“Good answer?” he asked after a glaring pause.

And at the end of his media session, he had a question of his own.

“What's the latest gossip? Jenson replacing Michael at Mercedes?” he asked wryly as journalists prepared to leave the Mercedes hospitality.

It was obviously taxing for drivers to exercise their freedom of speech; no matter how bound they were by their own teams.

Even the outspoken Mark Webber appeared to be sitting like he was at a funeral.

After a disappointing qualifying session on Saturday, the Australian let everyone know how difficult it was for a driver to look back and perhaps relive the ordeal of performing under expectations in three layers of clothing in the sweltering humidity.

“Maybe we should do press conferences where we can ask you guys questions!” he said.

Sebastien Buemi, Red Bull’s test and reserve driver, seemed to be preparing for just that, having spent most of his time in the media centre with a few journalists staring into a laptop, seemingly dedicated to snatch away the livelihood of someone in the press room.

“No, no, no! It’s my friends. I am not going to be a journalist, don’t worry!” Buemi told

Narain Karthikeyan, however, was as inquisitive as any reporter - lost to find the next good story.

When yours truly reminded the HRT driver after Friday practice that the forecast for the weekend was a wet one, the Indian took it for granted that I was from around there.

“Are they building a permanent circuit? You are a Singaporean or…” asked Karthikeyan.

‘No, Indian!” came my firm reply.

Mark Sutton of Sutton Images doing his bit during the Friday practice session © Parkar

“You know India?” quipped Autosport’s Edd Straw smiling at Karthikeyan. “It’s a big country!”

“Oh I thought since you knew that it’s going to rain tomorrow…” the Indian driver reasoned.

As the media session continued, Karthikeyan interrupted it with wrinkles on his forehead and asked curiously, “Which newspaper are you from?”

“Uh, It’s a website.”

“Have I met you before?” continued the curiosity.

“No, not really.”

“Are you staying around here (near the circuit)?”

“In Little India funnily,” I smiled.

“Do you know (manager) Yohhan Setna?”

“Oh I have been in touch a few times, that’s all”

The tables had turned. Or maybe it was just the heat…


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