• Chinese Grand Prix

F1 paddock worried about leaving Shanghai

ESPNF1 Staff
April 18, 2010 « Button well poised for a wet race | »
Planes parked up at Munich airport after all flights in northern and eastern Europe were suspended © Getty Images

As the European air chaos continues due to the Icelandic volcano cloud, there are concerns the F1 paddock might not make it back in time to prepare for the Spanish Grand Prix.

With airports throughout Europe still closed, the Formula One circus in China is distinctly worried about how to get its staff, equipment and cars back to base. The biggest concern is the F1 freight and - most importantly - the cars which need six 747s to get them from race to race.

Red Bull's Christian Horner thought he had dodged the chaos with a clever air route via Dubai, Rome and Glasgow, until it emerged that the Rome airport is also closed. Horner said: "Fortunately, we have three weeks until Spain", while McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh is worried that some Barcelona developments will not be possible unless the cars are returned to Europe within a week.

"We haven't had any word from the freight yet and we've got to get the cars back," Whitmarsh said. "We've been rotating chassis' but the cars and equipment have been away for some time and we're looking forward to getting them back in the factories as quickly as possible and servicing the cars properly. We have a range of upgrades that we hope to put on for Barca that could be chaotic if we don't get the freight back. As for the people, they are incredibly resourceful and we'll find a way back, it just might be more tortuous than usual."

Lotus team members are the lucky ones: as employees of the AirAsia supremo Tony Fernandes, they will all be holidaying in Kuala Lumpur to await the rescheduling of European flights. Many of the drivers have simply booked a few more days in their five-star Shanghai hotels, aided by the race promoters who have been passing out forms for extending Chinese visas.

"I am going to stay," said Williams' Nico Hulkenberg. "Even if you can fly again [soon], no one knows when you will get a seat,"

Nico Rosberg is going to holiday in Thailand, Mark Webber to his native Australia, and Bernie Ecclestone's private jet is flying to Bangkok on Monday morning where he will "wait until I can get back to England".

Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, is cursing his decision to leave his own plane in Europe, after using it for the trips to Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia. Even the seven time world champion is now at the mercy of the commercial air industry.

The Times correspondent Kevin Eason is due to get married in the UK next weekend, and some of his colleagues are looking into the Trans-Siberian train. Others are talking about flights to ports and trying to get onto boats, like the Sauber team, who are investigating flights to Dubai, boats to Marseille and buses back to Hinwil.

Niki Lauda is another who could not get a flight to China this weekend. An airline owner himself, the Austrian criticised the ongoing decision to have airports closed. "According to my engineers the [ash] particles are no longer a problem," he said in Vienna.

All UK airports remain closed until at least 1800GMT on Sunday.