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Spy Games: China

April 21, 2014

Hello, Spy here. Well, hasn't it been an interesting few days? Spy is rather worn out...

Stefano Domenicali departs Ferrari to be replaced by a bloke who wears sunglasses inside the garage. Mercedes slip out news that technical director Bob Bell is spending more time with his garden and the powers in Paris have decided Daniel can't have his trophy back from Australia – which is the F1 equivalent of seeing a happy little puppy gambolling cheerfully around with a bone and then taking it away.

The big news we're digesting is that the playful scamps at Merc decided to have a good old sticky-beak at our appeal and requested we receive a three-race ban. There's a few pursed lips from our management at that but they've decided to rise above it and not comment – but down here at the coalface you can be sure we're telling out mates in the next garage along where they can shove that three-pointed star.

Actually it's quite reassuring: it means we're getting close enough to get them rattled and sweating a bit. Back in February that looked pretty unlikely. At least that's what Spy thinks: it seems we've undergone a change in the last couple of weeks. It's going to be a long time before we completely understand this car but we've gone past the stage of just trying to get it to work and are now into the stage of trying to make it go faster.

At the track that translates into cases of new bits – which is interesting because we're just getting used to the bits that we've got – but it's not exactly a new situation. The design department back in Milton Keynes is this remorseless machine that converts tea and biscuits into a never-ending stream of upgrades and go-faster stripes. At the head of that particular operation is Rob Marshall, our chief designer, sketching on napkins and wandering the floor handing them out and saying "can you make me one of these?" Rob does have a very whizzy computer but that's not really the way he rolls. He's much happier with his box of Buzz Lightyear colouring pencils and the back of an envelope.

We reckon he's gone through a lot of envelopes this week 'cos we've got lots of new stuff – it's just a shame that the weather in China isn't really playing along. The sky is what could generously be described as 'opaque'. Even when it's not raining the effect of this is very much like being inside a giant ping-pong ball. Apparently quite a lot of it is smog. In years gone by we might not have noticed but now half the garage has contracted the running bug, air quality is suddenly a big talking point.

Not that anyone needs to go for a run here. There's plenty of exercise is simply dodging the showers on the sprint from the garage to the hospitality unit. The Shanghai paddock is enormous with the buildings on stilts above a lagoon that's criss-crossed with little bridges. Even after a decade it's pretty confusing. We're thinking of handing out maps.