F1 paddock still worried about leaving Shanghai

Sun, 18 April 2010, 08:01

Apr.18 (GMM) As the European air chaos continues due to the Icelandic volcano cloud, Lotus has booked its entire race team on flights to Malaysia.

With European 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.

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. Even if you can fly again (soon), no one knows when you will get a seat,” said Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg.

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.

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.

The biggest concern is the F1 freight and – most importantly – the cars. Most teams are planning big upgrades for Barcelona.

“The freight, I can’t see coming back to the UK (before the Spanish GP),” Eddie Jordan, who could not fly to China due to the situation, told Reuters.

Said Horner: “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.

Like Jordan, 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.

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