Tomorrow was still a long way off for the team principal, however, with further commitments that would prevent him from leaving the circuit until well into the evening. Having spent the time between practice and qualifying in the usual obligatory meetings with sponsors current and potential, discussing the potential for amalgamating the Asia Series back into a single GP2 championship and mulling over qualifying and race strategy with the engineers, he also spent time in the F1 paddock in a bid to attract attention to his drivers.

"Sponsors are the lifeblood of any race team," de Orleans acknowledged, "but it is also important that I do the best for my drivers. The more drivers that go from Racing Engineering to F1, the better the team appears, and the more drivers we have wanting to drive for us in future. We're never short of options, but it is good to have the pick of the best drivers interested in our seats."

The sponsors did not go unattended, meanwhile, with dinner planned for one of the area's premier restaurants that evening. There was no time to change from team attire, however, as both de Orleans and Koschutnig headed direct from the circuit, but there was also no hard sell over a table of local delicacies. All the while, however, the cell phone remained hot.....

Saturday's business began even before the pair reached the track, with a breakfast meeting in a hotel once fought over by F1's top teams owing to its proximity to the circuit. That would prevent de Orleans from reaching his team until late in the morning but, under Couyotopoulo's watchful direction, preparations continued for the first race of the weekend. The sporting director had already attended the usual team principals' meeting, a source of technical and administrative topics such as travel organisation and test planning, before returning to the transporter to plan the afternoon's strategy with Clos and Parente.

Saturday always presents a long wait for the GP2 teams, with two sessions of F1 - including qualifying - and more for the other support series before they are back on track. The feature race, however, is the biggest payer of the weekend, but also longer and with a mandatory tyre change providing greater opportunity for things to go awry. With the Circuit de Catalunya's reputation for being a hard place to overtake, the importance of qualifying is closely followed by the need to start well and employ a solid strategy in order to get the best result. Starting from sixth and 15th, Clos and Parente would have different goals for the feature event, with the Spaniard eyeing a potential podium and his team-mate hoping to reach the top eight and, with GP2's policy of reversing the point-scorers at the front of Sunday's grid, a decent starting spot for race two.

Both Racing Engineering cars made good starts, with Clos surviving a four-abreast moment to gain a place into turn one, and Parente moving up three before the safety car appeared to cover the clean-up of a start-line accident. While the field trundled around in its wake, there appeared to be a degree of confusion over Clos' position, with the young Spaniard being advised that he needed to allow the following Marcus Ericsson back into fifth. The Swede, however, seemed reluctant to accept the position, no doubt for fear of being penalised, but that did not stop him taking an aggressive look down the inside of Clos at the final turn while the safety car was still on track.

The misunderstanding effectively determined Clos' race, with his attempts to allow Ericsson through only serving to extend the gap to fourth-placed Romain Grosjean by the time the safety car retreated to the pits. Unable to catch the Frenchman ahead of him, Clos ran in fifth for the next few laps, before Ericsson finally came through. Pitting on lap 16, the Spaniard then suffered a problem with one of his wheels and, when the field had sorted itself out after a second safety car intervention, had lost another place to Davide Valsecchi.

Parente, meanwhile, had run twelfth until his stop, then eleventh until Fabio Leimer managed to find a way by the Racing Engineering car. Despite keeping pace with those around him to the end, Parente was eventually classified twelfth.

"After the race, it's easy to make conclusions, but I think we should have pitted a bit later as my tyres were really fine at that moment," the Portuguese veteran commented, "After the second safety car, it was weird as I had higher tyre degradation. Maybe I was not conserving them enough but, overall, the race was going well until this safety car period."

With the cars held for scrutineering checks, there was a brief respite for the engineers, while the drivers, once they had made their way back from parc ferme, disappeared into the bowels of the transporter to debrief, reviewing the race, their strategy and what could be done for the second outing on Sunday morning. There was more good news, too, for Clos, when it was announced that Grosjean had been excluded for a technical irregularity, promoting the Spaniard to sixth, albeit, ironically, at the expense of a front row start in race two. Parente, too, moved up, and would start eleventh on Sunday.

It probably would not have mattered where Clos finished in the eyes of his biggest supporters, who had adorned a grandstand at the end of the main straight with a large banner urging their hero on. As soon as the Barcelona native was free from team responsibilities, he was commandeered by members of the fan club, who swarmed the paddock in their vivid yellow shirts, asking for, and getting, both autographs and photos.

The cars did not return to the paddock until early evening, and with a lengthy job list following every outing, a late night beckoned for the mechanics if Clos and Parente were to be competitive on Sunday. Nothing could be left to chance, and little could be left to the following morning, with the sprint race getting underway at 1035hrs. While his team worked on, de Orleans managed a relatively early getaway, although he still felt the need to check in with Couyotopoulo, conducting a lengthy conversation in French as he drove home after dinner.

The global recession has taken a strong hold on Spain, and even 'Alonso-mania' does not appear impervious to its effects. Where, just a few years ago, the roads would have been thronged with cars, and fans faced with hours of queues before reaching the circuit, de Orleans and the team are able to sail, almost unimpeded, to the car parks on Sunday morning. Final preparations and a quick briefing with the drivers follow, before the distinctive red-and-yellow Racing Engineering cars are once again wheeled from the tightly packed support race paddock through to the pits.

Clos again made a storming start to the race, this time capitalising on a poor getaway from front row man Bianchi to claim second well before the opening turn. That kept the young Spaniard clear of the chaos that erupted in his wake, with Bianchi leaving van de Garde no room and ending both their races in the barrier, bringing out the safety car once again. At the restart, Clos quickly found that he was unable to keep pace with poleman and leader Leimer, but was equally comfortable in second and under no threat from Ericsson. Likewise, Parente had moved up to ninth, but was mired in a battle for position for much of the race.

Although the Portuguese benefited from a tangle between Coletti and Josef Kral as the latter attempted to wrest the final point away from his rival, he came up just short of adding to Racing Engineering's tally, but the team could still celebrate its first podium of the season with Clos coming home in second. de Orleans admitted later that both drivers had been told that gathering data was as important as attempting to gain an extra point, and the team could reflect positively on its weekend.

"I am really happy with the results," he confirmed, "Dani did two great races and showed that our hard work is paying off. He drove very well here and deserves today's podium finish. As for Alvaro, I have to say I am amazed! He hasn't driven a single-seater in eight months, never even touched the new GP2 car and had no experience with the Pirelli tyres. Taking all this into consideration, I think few others could have done the job as well.

"A big thank you also has to go to our technical crew for the continuous hard work and great preparation of the cars. The engineers worked tirelessly since Istanbul to come up with a good set-up for Barcelona, and the first point was to get a good grip on understanding the tyres. All the hard work paid off and the drivers liked how the car was. I won't go into any details, but we made quite a few changes that were quite successful at increasing the life of the tyre. We obviously have some more work to do to get it perfect, but we are definitely on the right track."

Once the podium celebrations had been completed, and the necessary media interviews conducted, Clos and the team were able to return to the paddock to begin preparations for the next round, in Monaco, just a week away. The impressive silverware and accompanying champagne bottle were discarded in favour of another debrief, while the mechanics, once the cars had been returned from their technical checks, set about stripping down and building up ahead of the trip around the Mediterranean coast.

While de Orleans and Koschutnig left for Monaco even before the Spanish Grand Prix was halfway through, the team would remain in Barcelona overnight, giving themselves time to fettle the trickier internals before everything was loaded onto the transporter. As with the livery, Racing Engineering has produced its own travel kit, with carbon fibre cases custom-built to save weight and space, and these were gradually filled as the working area was broken down around the cars. The next time they would see a race track would be at the most glamorous F1 event of all, but only after emerging from the multi-storey car park that serves as the support race paddock in the Principality.

For de Orleans, meanwhile, there was the ongoing uncertainty over both the tyres and his line-up, bringing the Barcelona weekend full circle.

"I have to admit I am a bit worried about the super-soft tyres for Monaco since no one has ever run on them before," he confessed, "We'll have to wait and see what Monaco brings, but it will definitely be a challenging weekend."

And, with Vietoris still a doubt, there were still decisions to be made, even before things got underway in Monaco.

"Alvaro was available at very short notice, something I would like to really thank him for," de Orleans said in praise of his stand-in, "He did a really great job this weekend, helping the team to make a step forward. Now let's get ready for Monaco and more great results. The championship still has a long way to go....."



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