The paddock is a long avenue, an empty boulevard where masked and mysterious personnel walk. A carnival of passersby distinguishable only by their colours. A variety of face masks, synthetic or woven in cotton; bright, patterned, black or gleaming white. Resignation and determination rule, rather than fear. There are the usual trucks, but they are stripped of their sideshows. There are fewer people and muted gestures; there is distance, stewards camouflaged with superhero masks, exhaustive controls and QR codes, a medical app - credentials on the phone, temperature checks.
Virus warnings are the most viewed messages in a paddock where it is important to refill soap dispensers and surface disinfectants alongside motorcycle tanks
Alongside the sponsors’ stickers, in each truck, at each step, a poster advises on the use of masks and the careful application of alcoholic solution to disinfect. Virus warnings are the most viewed messages in a paddock where it is important to refill soap dispensers and surface disinfectants alongside motorcycle tanks. In the afternoon, ozone vaporisers whistle through the garages and every single panel is cleansed to erase the virus, wherever it might hide..
The virtual press conferences have left journalists on the other side of the world, contact by internet for those who have access; the race seen on television, interrogation at a distance, capturing impressions in the air. We cannot guess at emotions or interpret gestures; masks hide feelings. As for the performances, only the fatigue of the rider is exposed, with the exhalation of breath in the air. The press room is a vast, uninhabited area, featureless, soulless, emotionless. An app for virtual conversations has become the ideal tool to outmanoeuvre the virus.
The food is served in compartmentalised trays. Healthy sustenance - to provide energy, to fight the strength-sapping, extreme heat of Andalucia in the middle of July. Food in recycled cardboard boxes that serve a whole meal. Each opening a tasty surprise. Everything is remote in Hospitality. Plastic gloves to open the refrigerator, pedestrian signs show where to stand, table signs show where to sit...
The grandstands: Empty of horns and revelry, cheers and applause. Empty of motorcycling pilgrims who dream of riding that track, who idolise those who perform in the tarmac arena. The hills are bare and Peluqui and Nieto no longer thunder with the roar of spectators when the colourful ‘snake’ winds through those famous curves.
There are no glitzy celebrations, and social distance has become a barrier to emotions. Feelings are held in check, contained under masks. The technical meetings, held behind the barrier of transparent visors, become like surreal encounters in a cosmic spacecraft. The paddock has been filled with sound - blowers, tool drawers, polishers, electric screwdrivers - noises that previously went unnoticed under the buzz of the crowd. There are no autographs, no children seeking them. The shouts for the heroes soaring through the air are silent.
The new world has come to MotoGP. But we are here to fight and win…