The village of Beauvoir lives up to its name. It has a great view across the Pays de Bray, with just a little mist between the gentle ridges this morning. It’s dairy country, a land of celebrated cheeses… and bucolic simplicity.
But on a Tuesday morning Beauvoir is very quiet. The kids are being dropped off at the village school, next to the mairie, but otherwise not much is happening. The old boys are out pruning and weeding their gardens, but the boulangerie doesn’t open on Tuesdays, nor does the épicerie and the cafe shows no sign of life – and no indication if it might at some point provide a coffee and a croissant.
But the little garage is busy, getting my car ready for the next F1 adventure: a 900 km run down to the Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet (pretty much the same as going to Monaco a few weeks ago), followed by 1200km (give or take) along the Riviera and into Italy and then up to the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian and Styrian Grands Prix, and a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing up in the area as the accommodation available is spread far and wide.
There will then be the 1300 km run home, on the first Monday in July. So that will mean another 5000-odd clicks on the trusty automobile, which will take it over 380,000 km in total.
There really isn’t a lot of logic in going home between the three races, unless someone else is paying for air fares and hire cars. The internet pretty much everywhere these days, one can work in the gasthofs in Austria for the free days between each race – and so avoid the rush, paperwork, queues, PCR tests and other hassles of going from airport to airport to get home for very limited times.
So I’m off for 20 days, the penance one pays for a life in F1. Still, there are worse things in life than relatively free days in France, Italy and Austria. The lockdowns are easing in most places and life is less complicated than once it was.
But things are still not easy. Last weekend was supposed to be a Grand Prix weekend, originally in Canada and then in Turkey after Montreal was axed. Then Turkey was cancelled as well and so I ended up having a glorious weekend at home, working in the garden and having a barbecue with the neighbours. It’s hard to plan ahead at the moment. Logically, the British GP will follow this triple-header, but the news yesterday that Britain has delayed its lifting of restrictions on public gatherings because of the of the so-called delta variant (the one from India) means that the British GP may have to operate with a reduced crowd. Everyone is making positive noises at the moment but a reduced crowd means reduced revenues and if the limit is too low, Silverstone cannot really afford it.
It will, no doubt, ask for a cheaper deal if the circumstances require it, but the noises coming from the F1 group suggest that deals are no longer on the table. You pay or you don’t get a race. It’s hard to imagine F1 without a British GP, but the sport is unemotional. It was once hard to imagine F1 without Germany or France, but we’ve seen both disappear in the past. Money makes the cars go around…
After Silverstone Hungary should be fine (things were worse last year and we made it) and then we get to the August break. The second half of the season is pretty unclear as of now, but we know that the “orange belt” races in Belgium and the Netherlands will go ahead as there might be an uprising in the country if the great Max Verstappen cannot be celebrated… then Italy and Russia will likely be as they should be.
After that who knows? The pandemic complicates all things and although we hope we’ve seen the back of the worst of it there are still problems, as the quiet uptick of case numbers in the UK in recents weeks has shown. Last summer things went relatively quiet for a while before the second waves began. This year we have vaccines to add to the equations, but life is still not really back to normal.
But some things don’t change. The church bell is ringing on the hour, as it has done through wars, revolutions and previous pandemics. So I’m off to see if the cafe has opened.
Beautiful views are fine – but a coffee is required.