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DATE News (chronologically)
04/18/10
f1
F1 world worried about closed European airports  UPDATE (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 criticized the ongoing decision to have airports closed.

"According to my engineers the (ash) particles are no longer a problem," he said in Vienna.



04/17/10 (GMM)  While the F1 circus late on a Saturday night is usually fixated on the grid and looking ahead to the grand prix, this year in China many paddock regulars are just wondering how and when they might get home.

Because of the ongoing eruption of the Icelandic volcano and the plumes of ash across the continent, nearly all European airports are effectively closed.

It is said possible the situation could go on for several days at the least, with weather forecasting service Accuweather predicting little change until late next week. zzzz

"Expect ongoing interruptions for the next four or five days," said a spokesman at the Icelandic meteorological office.  "The eruption is still in full swing."

A Qantas spokesman agreed: "At this stage it's highly unlikely things are going to return to normal for several days at least."

Reportedly in the 1800s, the same Icelandic volcano erupted for a whole month.

Indian rookie Karun Chandhok wrote on Twitter that the "whole paddock (is) worried" about the situation, even if the wealthier top-three grid occupants - who could afford to sit out the chaos in a five-star Shanghai hotel - did not sound worried after qualifying.

"You swim (home)," Fernando Alonso joked to Mark Webber.

Amid news the airlines are now starting to cancel scheduled flights from Shanghai on Monday, BBC reporter Sarah Holt said: "F1 is being somewhat overshadowed by worries about planes home".

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