F1 teams still stranded, but Ecclestone insists Spanish GP is on
Just in case the constantly changing weather conditions of the Chinese Grand Prix didn't produce enough excitement for the world's top motor racing teams, they now have the added uncertainty of just how to get themselves and their cars back to base thanks to the volcanic ash cloud which has grounded flights across Europe.
The Formula One teams all need time to service their cars before the Spanish Grand Prix in three weeks, but most are currently stranded in Shanghai. There seems to have been a lot of wartime, Dunkirk-esque spirit in the pit lane following the race, but questions were still being raised about whether the F1 circus would make it to Barcelona.
However, Bernie Ecclestone moved to quash that rumour this morning, insisting that the Spanish Grand Prix would go ahead as planned.
"I am sure everything will be all right," said Ecclestone in Shanghai. "There is no question of cancelling the Spanish Grand Prix. Of course, it is causing everybody problems, but we will find a way to get everyone home."
F1's supremo is used to getting his own way, but even Ecclestone will be praying for the wind to pick up in the skies over Europe. Formula One freight is flown on six chartered Boeing 747s and is therefore not subject to the whims of the airlines, but they still require the same clearance from air traffic control to land in the UK.
Autosport has reported that should the delays continue there is the possibility that the cars might be shipped directly to Barcelona. This would certainly not be ideal for the teams – especially for those hoping to fit new aerodynamic packages in the extended break – but would at least guarantee that the Spanish Grand Prix goes ahead.
The teams' personnel have proved slightly easier to move, and efforts have clearly been buoyed by a 'we're all in it together' mood.
While some have chartered their own flights, Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes said a few have decided to fly on his Air Asia airline to Malaysia before waiting for UK airports to reopen.
McLaren was even prepared to offer places on its own plane to the other teams trapped in China.
"We took the flyer and said that if it is half empty then we will bear the premium, so as long as we have got our team on it then we are happy for it to be full. I think some teams were hesitating this morning but they are now jumping on board pretty quick," explained team principle Martin Whitmarsh.
For those without a seat, the Trans-Siberian Express could still be beckoning.