Tuesday, September 30, 2008

F1 - The Aftermath

I'm on call my first day back from long leave, but feel completely drained due to the hectic weekend.

Am nursing a persistent headache now, but grateful that the queue has finally quietened down, following a sudden surge in ambulance arrivals and drunk patients. Even McDonald's was overwhelmed with orders till 3am ( something I've never encountered before, even during holiday weekends ), so I was practically starving till almost 5am when the food was finally delivered.
What gives eh?

So, read on if you'd like to know what happened on Sunday ( Saturday was pretty uneventful so I'll skip that ). My account is going to be nothing short of effusive, so if a certain someone intends to leave insulting remarks, then I intend to delete them. You've been warned.

The best way to describe my stint is: I really lucked out on this one.

Most of us joined the gig not knowing what to expect, and were assigned roles we never specifically requested. We were then randomized into various posts scattered throughout the circuit, and I can't believe what a good deal I received.

Among all the FIV teams, mine had the most prime positions at the best times. We had access to clean toilets at the track medical centre, while others had to make do with mobile units in the stands. Best of all, we were the closest FIV to the pit lane, where a lot of the action occurred ( like that fiasco involving Massa's pit crew ).

In the space of just 5 hours ( from 6 - 11pm ), the following happened:

1) I literally stumbled upon the entire line-up of F1 drivers strolling out to the pit entry via the medical centre carpark. I'd just emerged from the building after a quick toilet stop, and was wondering why there was a chunk of grid girls standing beside our vehicle. As I crossed over to the car, I realized Felipe Massa was heading in my direction, flanked by a few minders and seemingly oblivious to the mob of photographers surrounding him.
By the time I retrieved my camera from the glove compartment, I spotted Lewis Hamilton coming towards me. He had a huge smile on his face, and was by far the friendliest of the lot, waving to stunned onlookers and giving a thumbs-up to a nurse who called out his name.

Word spread like wildfire, and pretty soon every single medical staff in the area spilled onto the track as the drivers gave short interviews then got into vintage cars for a parade around the circuit. I captured Alonso, Rosberg, Coultard, Piquet, Nakajima and Hamilton on video as the cars pulled away. I was standing just a few metres from the whole procession!

They walked back to the paddock via the same route after the parade concluded, but sadly, I was in the med centre wolfing down some dinner so I missed it. However, those who weren't present during the initial walk-through got their chance to see the superstars, so that was a treat.

2) During the prize-giving ceremony, I sneaked to the pit lane to get a better look, but couldn't venture too far as our driver was pretty strict about the team staying close to the FIV. The atmosphere was exuberant, but the crowd surprisingly orderly. Everyone was packed tight but there was no shoving or stomping -- a fact I attribute to the large group of foreign delegates, who have impeccable manners.
Some of the Caucasian fellows wearing pit lane marshal uniforms even came up to me and asked me to go near the podium. "Come! Come closer!" they kept saying, waving their arms and flashing warm smiles. I was very pleasantly surprised by that nice gesture.

I did manage to get up close to the F1 cars parked at the pit entry. They're really works of art.

3) After the ceremony, the whole lot of us returned to the med centre to change and regroup for a debriefing. As others queued at the toilet, I sequestered myself in the small pantry, dabbing at my face with a wet towel, feeling the fatigue set in after the initial adrenaline rush.
Suddenly, I saw 3 young Caucasian men dressed in bright red pit crew uniforms standing in front of me, in the pantry. Before I could say anything, one of them asked, in a thick European accent ( which might be French / Italian ), "Are you a doctor?"
I wondered why they'd ask me this, since they'd just walked past a whole group of similarly dressed people in the room near the entrance, before encountering me. Plus, I'm one of the few females in an overwhelmingly male team.
"Errr, yes?" I replied, noticing how good-looking they all were -- tall, slender, young, blonde, with flawless complexions and fine features. Looks like they're from Ferrari, I remember thinking.
I received a reply in garbled English. It's so garbled I can't even reproduce it, but I got the gist of what he was trying to say, and when I asked if he wanted to see a doctor, he nodded. I went looking for one of the med centre staff to find a consultation area, then ushered the guys over. I thought they'd followed me, but turns out they'd elected to wait outside the pantry, never once complaining despite the crowds of people brushing past at frequent intervals.
They hurried to me when I waved, then another doctor took over from there. I suppose I could've offered to do the consult, but my brain was pretty much fried at that point, so I decided to take a backseat on this one. Might have been different if one of the drivers had come in. :)

4) This last incident came as a complete shock. Mostly because I'd already experienced more than I could ever hope for, and was on my way out to catch the bus shuttle back to the hospital. An orthopaedic registrar, a fellow A&E colleague and I were allowed to go through the backlane of the paddock as most of the pit crews were packing up at this time and all the drivers ( we assumed ) had retired elsewhere.
The 3 of us looked out of place in our T-shirts and bermudas, especially since there were quite a few snappily dressed figures moving around the same area.
Out of nowhere, we heard a commotion behind us, and turned just in time to see Ferdinand Alonso striding in our direction! He was still in his racing suit ( or perhaps something which looks similar to it ), wearing a cap. I'm quite surprised we could even see him, considering the HUGE throngs of journalists and fans running after him. He came within 1-2 metres from me before the crowd caught up with him and he disappeared into the sea of frenzied activity. He wasn't smiling, but gamely signed anything that was shoved in his face. He then entered a building nearby with the sign "Renault", which I suppose is for him and his team.
The video footage I have is, unfortunately, of the back of his head. The ortho reg was very sweet to grab my bottle of water so I could hold my camera more easily. He looked extremely amused when I returned with a stupid grin on my face. I couldn't help it -- I just saw the race champion up close!

Aside from these unforgettable encounters, I'd also like to give kudos to all my fellow medical team colleagues, who hail from many different departments and institutions but established a strong camaraderie within this short period. Perhaps it's the result of shared suffering -- there were times when we grouched incessantly -- though we also enjoyed tonnes of racy jokes and swapped endless stories about personal encounters with F1 drivers ( one track post doctor practically rubbed shoulders with Kimi Raikkonen as he stood next to her while waiting to be picked up by his crew ).

The medical team leaders did a fabulous job keeping morales high and ensuring that we received sufficient training. F1 officials at race control were very impressed with our radio communication skills, and the FIA medical instructors ( 2 lovely Frenchmen with white hair ) bestowed female team members with kisses on both cheeks after the last medical inspection lap concluded.

It's absolutely true that we were all "taken out of our comfort zone", as one of our leaders aptly remarked. But I think I speak for everyone when I say that there're no regrets, and we'll gladly do it again next year if we're able to. Some of us may not be around for the next race ( I, for one, will be away on overseas attachment ), but others will learn about the amazing time we had, and I hope more will come forward as volunteers in 2009.

In closing, I'd like to relate my gratitude to my FIV driver, Ron, who taught me everything there is to know about F1 races. I also had a great time hanging out with 2 team members for 2 days each. I'd never met them before this, but we clicked well and I'm happy to have made a couple of new friends ( one male, one female ).
The guy is one of the nicest people I've ever worked with. I think he's rather cute actually, but have no idea whether he's single. Since I have no energy left for going out, maybe I'll set him up with a nice girlfriend of mine. Just say the word. :)

And if this spiel doesn't sell, bear in mind that future plans include training medical team members to drive the FIVs in subsequent races. This means you get to zoom around in those BMWs, and maybe transport stranded F1 drivers if you're lucky.
I'm interested in assuming this role, but have no idea whether females will be entrusted with the task. Plus, I don't think my mom would be too thrilled about it, since she hates it when I speed.

Haven't downloaded the photos yet, but will post them once available.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mini Update

I've got 10 minutes, so this will be a quick one.

Day 1 at the inaugural Formula 1 night street race was nothing short of exhilarating. The excitement began after lunch, when the various support races began their practice runs around the circuit. This was followed by the high-octane F1 practice sessions after dinner.

A few things I noted, and which were pointed out by our friendly Fast Intervention Vehicle driver ( who hails from Australia and has 10 years of experience under his belt ):

- what you see on TV is nothing compared to what you experience at the track
- the F1 cars are so fast, it's positively terrifying
- the decibel level is completely off the charts, even though you get hit by the engine noise for only seconds at a time
- seems as though good looks is requisite criteria for being part of an F1 team ( this includes the crew )

We had a full-day shakedown on Thursday, during which my FIV was among 4 chosen to do high-speed full-circuit laps. Our BMW hit 140 km/hr at one stretch, and we were literally burning rubber, since we took turns so quickly the tyres screeched, emitting plumes of smoke at some points. I was in the front passenger seat, and loving every minute! :)

Yesterday, we were situated at various prime vantage points, like the pit exit ( where we got to see all the racing cars line up before taking off on the track - this happened right outside our window, woohoo! ), along the track turn ( where we got out of our car to stand near the circuit and really find out what the noise level is like ), and near the pit entry ( where we bumped into Mark Webber from the Red Bull team, as he supervised the transport of his damaged vehicle - I was just a couple of metres away, but of course there's no way any of us normal earthlings can approach to say hello ).

Webber's really gorgeous up close. Not that I wasn't already aware of this, haha.

Slept a total of 4.5 hours since we only returned to the hospital at 1am due to bus shuttle delays and such. But I'm glad to be a part of F1 history - we were right there when the first support race car ( a Formula BMW ) launched itself onto the track for a practice run. And we were among the first few to do a lap around the circuit, even before the race cars got a chance. It's a beautiful experience, and our city landmarks look amazing from the track.

Not sure if I'm allowed to post any photos, but I'll ask and see.

Till next time...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Back From Vacation

And what a vacation it was! :)

I'm exhausted, sunburnt, with a warped digestive system, but have zero regret about visiting the Land of the Pharoahs.

Here're a few photos taken at Giza ( click to enlarge ), obviously the highlight of the tour. Many more spectacular shots will follow at a later date.

Closing impressions of this magnificent country:

1) It is a MUST for any female traveller -- the men are so gorgeous, it's mind-boggling! ( Not every single one of them, but definitely a significant - and large - proportion. ) Local men pale severely in comparison ( sorry, it's true ).

2) The people are wonderful. Maybe it's because I'm clearly a foreigner -- they keep greeting me in Japanese, heh! -- but the children are especially endearing. Nothing like the brats we have here.

3) The historical sites are to die for. This sort of thing appeals to me, so if it bores you, don't even think about going there. I visited the Egyptian Museum twice. An awesome place!

4) Met many great people on the same tour - there were 55 of us in 2 huge coaches, hailing from America, Australia, Canada, Ireland and Puerto Rico. There was a judge, a hotelier, a NASA
engineer, a retired math professor, people who
work for Chevron, Energizer and other prominent companies.

Grew very close to a Singaporean couple who currently reside in Melbourne. They have an only daughter who sounds like my twin sister, who's currently based in the U.S. We had a lot of fun together. :D

I also met an Irish lady whose sister attended school with Bono from U2 -- she has nothing good to say about the guy, btw. That was hilarious!

5) My mom and I rode camels at Giza, but I can't post pictures for the sake of privacy. Friends who'd like to see them can email me. They're beautiful. :)

That's it for now. I've got a busy week ahead 'cos of the F1 race, so the next entry may be posted only after that.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 04, 2008


A quick check with the Singapore Airlines website's Krisworld page brought a huge smile to my face.

One of their featured blockbusters this month is none other than Indiana Jones 4.

"How appropriate," I thought, grinning. After all, Dr. Jones has visited the country I'm heading to ( and, might I add, that particular film is my favourite from the franchise so far ).

Paperwork's in place, payments are settled, and errands in the process of being completed. This trip is considered brief by my standard ( the USA was a marathon compared to this ), but I'm sure it's going to be the most exciting to date!

:) :) :)

In Other News...

Lots going on at Perez Hilton's website, with loads of coverage of the Sarah Palin scandal. I didn't catch her speech though -- wonder if she's really as good as they say?

I have a bad feeling that McCain's going to win. Possibly because the majority of Americans may not be comfortable with a black President ( my parents keep saying he may be assassinated ). But then, conservatives may reject Sarah Palin and vote for Obama.

Suspense, I love it!

Have to log off now. I have no idea whether I'll blog again before my flight, but get ready for some amazing photos when I return, 'cos I intend to take hundreds of them! :D

Monday, September 01, 2008

Ready For Liftoff

It's 8am Monday morning, just before I start my shift ( which I expect will be super-crappy ), but I'm feeling good, 'cos I'm outta here in 5 days, and will be on leave for 3 whole weeks.

2 of those will be spent overseas, and the last, having some fun ( for free ) at the Formula 1 race.

Having to wait so long for a holiday has made me realize I need at least 2 vacations a year -- one short trip plus another longer one. But I had to cut back a little this time round 'cos of my extended stay in the U.S. in 2007, so my bank account could recover.

Maybe I'll post something from the airport -- my flight's at 2am, gah. Care to hazard a guess about the destination? :)
( those of you who already know - shhhhh )