Five Signs That You Are a Formula One Fanatic

Photo: By Author

Are you worried that you are becoming too obsessed with Formula One motor racing?  Here are 5 key warning signs that you are taking your fan boy fanaticism over the rev limiter:

  1. When sending your kids off to the local comprehensive school at the beginning of term, do you find yourself sewing on name tags with the Christian names “Fernando”, “Mika”, “Rubens”  or even “Nigel” on them?
  2. When the 2009 financial crash brought devastation to the world’s financial markets; the misery of redundancy and foreclosure to millions of innocent people across the globe; instability to the Euro and national budgets with crippling debts that will take decades of swingeing austerity to clear, was your first thought to wonder how the Williams Team would get by without its RBS sponsorship?
  3. Having watched all three Friday and Saturday morning practice sessions; qualifying; Sunday morning free practice, the race build-up show, full race coverage and after-race analysis, do you find yourself still holding on at the end of the evening news broadcast to see the 20 second summary clip of the race?
  4. Do you own any of the following: George Harrison’s “Faster”; the album “Grand Prix” by the band Teenage Fanclub; “Samurai” by the band Grand Prix; any song by Leo Sayer or a CD of Formula One engine noises?
  5. When the overall clad salesman in your local Kwik-Fit offers you a perfectly serviceable set of tyres from a Korean manufacturer you’ve never heard of or a set of Pirellis for £200 more, do you pause and wonder if you could keep the Pirellis up to temperature better than Jenson Button?

If you experience any of the above symptoms, ask your medical specialist to prescribe the following: “A Complete History of Formula One Racing at Valencia” DVD;  the Kimi Riakkonen autobiography “In His Own Word”; and “Facial Hair Grooming” by Lewis Hamilton.  These should have you back on the road to healthy F1 scepticism in no time at all.



Lewis Hamilton, the Fantastic Four, Jenson Button and Spiderman – All Missing from Action

marvel's heroes

marvel’s heroes (Photo credit: thewhitestdogalive)

This Sunday we took our boys to see the new Marvel movie spectacular, Avengers – Assembly.  Pitting Iron Man, Captain America, et al, against the Norse God Loki and some space aliens, it was decidedly not based on a true story.  It was outstandingly loud and violent, but also had some good comic touches and was, overall, tremendous fun.   The movie did, however, prompt a pertinent question from my older son.  If the world was in danger and they were bringing the super heroes together, where were Spiderman and the Fantastic Four?  Surely also, the franchise differences between Marvel and D.C. Comics would be set aside in the interest of human preservation.   At least no one asked Ben Affleck’s less than super,red leather clad Daredevil to join in.

This was the second time in the week when heroes were missing from the action.  With their World Championship in mortal danger from technologically superior alien forces (if you count Austria, Germany and Italy as alien) and an evil genius scientist, in the form of Adrian Newey, where were Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at the Mugello F1 test?  Instead, McLaren chose to send their second-string heroes into the fight, Garry Paffett and Oliver Turvey, Hawkeye and Howard the Duck, if you will.

I’ve seen the arguments that Hamilton and Button don’t know the Mugello circuit and McLaren doesn’t have any major updates (why not?), but then all the other teams sent at least one of their regular race drivers, who have experience of the cars in race conditions.

Jenson Button proclaimed himself “relaxed” about missing the test, Lewis Hamilton was, allegedly, less so.  If it all works out and McLaren lead the way in Spain then all should be well.  If it doesn’t, how long can Hamilton keep up his Bruce Banner impersonation and how long before he is rampaging down the pitlane?  “Is it ‘cause I’m green?”.


McLaren F1 – An Omni-Shambles?

York as Logan 5, with blinking red lifeclock i...

Logan 5 watches another McLaren pit stop go wrong. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the Chinese and Bahrain double header, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton might be forgiven for launching into a few Malcolm Tucker of The Thick of It style, expletive laden, tirades. 

This post is not intended as further criticism of the Team’s unfortunate right rear gun-man.  Almost every TV show I’ve seen over the past couple of decades, with the possible exception of the Antiques Road Show and Songs of Praise, has at some stage run a Formula 1 pit stop demonstration.  Despite this, I still have not the slightest inkling of what it must be like to be a member of an F1 pit crew in the heat of a Grand Prix.  No, the McLaren Team’s problems run much, much deeper than a few fumbled tyre changes. 

Whilst other teams might wax and wane, McLaren, along with Ferrari, is accepted as one of the Formula One royalty.  Yet, the bare facts are that the McLaren Team hasn’t won a constructers championship since 1998 and has secured just one driver’s title since 2000, and then only by the skin of a Toyota’s Bridgestones.  A significant chunk of this period was, of course, the Schumacher and Ferrari era of dominance.  However, lesser resourced teams such as Renault, Brawn and Red Bull have all secured multiple titles in recent years.

Where is the flaw in the Woking Team’s world?  The fault can hardly rest with the drivers.  Of the 6 current or former World Champions on the present F1 grid, 4 have driven for McLaren during the past decade.  The Team can’t be criticised for its engineering ability or willingness to innovate – just look at the F-duct and the turn-around in their 2009 season.  McLaren doesn’t lack first class facilities – the McLaren Technology Centre and circuit Brand Centre are testaments to Ron Dennis’ unbending commitment to efficiency, presentation and silver paint


McLaren is like one of those futuristic utopias in a 1970s science fiction film.  On the surface, all is gleaming perfection, but underneath there is a rotting flaw waiting to undermine the whole edifice.  McLaren is the Logan’s Run of Formula 1.

What all the teams that have succeeded over the past decade have had – whether Ferrari, Renault, Brawn or Red Bull – is a clear philosophy running through from the design to the race tactics.  That may also be the case with McLaren, but it isn’t so obvious to see.

For the sake of a good 2012 season, I hope that McLaren can sort out the problems they have experienced so far this year, post-Melbourne.  If not, they are likely to face some significant criticism.  An attractive car and some funny Vodaphone adverts will only carry good will so far.


Formula for Fun – F1 Driver Hobbies

Model train HO - Modélisme de train HO

Model train HO - Modélisme de train HO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The gap between the Malaysian and Chinese GPs has been filled with stories of what the drivers do in their spare time.  We have seen endless shots of Jenson Button competing in the Hawaiian iron man event, which might have been marginally more entertaining if he’d only worn a hoola skirt.

Past drivers have had more eclectic hobbies. For example, what connects 1980s pop peddler, Pete Waterman and long-serving F1 racer Riccardo Patrese? Surprisingly, they both share an enthusiasm for model railways.  If you think that makes Patrese sound too sedate then watch the super You Tube clip of him scaring the lunch out of his wife at the Jerez circuit.

Not surprising for a sport relying on hand-eye co-ordination, a number of F1 stars have been radio control airplane enthusiasts, including Ayrton Senna, Alex Zanardi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Frentzen’s one-time teammate, Jarno Trulli will have more time this year to produce his now famous wine, although fellow Jordan old-boy, Giancarlo Fisichella might be too busy in the Ferrari simulator to fulfil his passion for stream fishing.

Former World Champion and reformed ‘tash’ wearer Nigel Mansell was a serious golfer, owning his own course and once competing as an amateur in the Australian Open.  In 2003 he just missed out on joining the European Seniors Tour when his golf buggy suffered a massive tyre blowout on the final fairway.

Away from the track, both Jamie Alguersuari and Sakon Yamamoto spin tracks as DJs.  Alguersuari and 1997 Champ Jacques Villeneuve went further by releasing their own albums.  Alguersuari’s Organic Life briefly topped the iTunes chart, whilst Villeneuve’s Private Paradise didn’t.

More daredevil hobbies can get drivers into difficulty.  For example 1970s and 80s French pilot Patrick Depailler broke both legs in a hand gliding accident, whilst Juan Pablo Montoya hurt his shoulder playing “tennis”.

Hell-raising reputations can sometimes belie more tranquil hobbies.  For example, James Hunt was a demon backgammon player and budgerigar breeder.  Similarly, modern day bad boy Kimi Raikkonen apparently enjoys more cerebral pursuits as a computer geek, or at least I’m sure I read that during his McLaren days he was a regular in a laptop club.


Tyred and Emotional

Used tyres (2) At a tyre dealer on Halbeath Ro...

After first practice, Hamilton is despondent to discover that his 220 sets of tyres allowance was supposed to last him all season.

Post the Australian GP, I have been thinking about Lewis Hamilton and tyres.  When Kenneth Branagh finally gets around to making the movie version of the Shakespearean drama that is Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One career, tyres will play a disproportionately prominent role.   Hamilton has had more unfortunate incidents involving rubber than a fire in an Ann Summers factory.

Take his first year in F1, 2007. It was Fernando Alonso’s initial inability to make the

adjustment from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres that destabilised the Spaniard relative to his young apprentice.  But for a delaminated tyre at the Chinese GP that year, Hamilton would have been the first ever rookie World Champion.

Arguably the Brit’s greatest victory, at Silverstone 2008, was at least in part assisted by an inexplicable tyre choice by Ferrari on Raikkonen’s car .  Had Timo Glock been able to maintain any kind of pace on slick tyres on the last of the 2008 Brazilian GP, I’d now have to be telling my children “Yes, that man mucking around at the back in the red car with the yellow helmet really was once World Champion.”

More recently, the switch from Bridgestone to Pirelli, and the prominence of preservation over outright pace, has disadvantaged Hamilton relative to his McLaren teammate, Jenson Button.

How will the story end?  If Hamilton can address his own personal tyre war, then the others might need to watch out, if not, then like a set of 25 lap old options tyres, he may end up losing his marbles.


A post about Lewis and why everyone else should shut up about Lewis

So Bernie Ecclestone thinks that Lewis Hamilton should leave McLaren if he has another crash magnet year.  Mark Webber hopes that the Brit will find some form.  Martin Whitmarsh speculates that he has been destabilised by Jenson Button; Stirling Moss thinks he’s not sufficiently focused and Niki Lauda slams him as a risk to other drivers on track.  Here’s a radical idea for all those keen to offer the Stevenage flier advice, the best thing anyone (present company excepted) could do for Hamilton and his career is just shut up about all the peripheral issues.  Personally I couldn’t care less if Lewis is going out with a surviving member of the Andrews Sisters; has Jerry McGuire as his manager and Snoop Rascal and Dizzee Daddy on speed dial.  I don’t care for speculation about whether he’s in a good place, in a bad place, in a bubble, in the zone or out of sorts.  I’d just like him to drive like he can and clip Red Bull’s wings a little.  I don’t want him to change his style, just get involved in slightly fewer unnecessary kerfuffles.  His clashes with Massa last year were like an average Saturday night at midnight outside the local chip shop, with Nicole screeching “Leave it Lewis, he ain’t worth it.”

Anyway, that’s it, that’s the absolute last I’m going to say on the subject. That said, was Lewis looking a little peaky at the Barcelona test?


The Next Vettel?

Much has been made of there being 6 current or former World Champions on this year’s F1 grid – or 6.00001 if you count Felipe Massa’s 30 seconds as Champion at Brazil 2008.  However, who amongst the current F1 runners and riders has the potential to step up to the plate and be the next big banana, if not in 2012, in some future year.

The various drivers fall into a number of categories.  There are the resounding “no’s”.  Sadly, although he came close in 2010, Mark Webber probably falls into this group.  Even if the RB8, or rather its tyres, are more to his tastes, the Red Bull ‘mo’ is now irresistibly with Vettel.  The ship has also sailed beyond the horizon for both Massa and, again sadly,  Kovalainen.  Nothing that Kobayashi, Petrov, Maldonado and Karthikeyan have contributed so far in their F1 careers suggests that they are on the right side of the Championship  talent curve and Marussia’s Timo Glock will only be World Champion if the Russian People’s Party are in charge of counting the Championship points.

There are then those drivers who haven’t fully had the opportunity to prove themselves, but are definitely teetering on the brink of the ‘no’ skip.  Perez, Senna and, possibly, Grosjean are in this category, although it really would be something special if Senna could perform a resurrection spell on Williams and drag them back into the winners circle.

The rookies – Verge and Pic have to get a “we simply don’t know” marking.  Experience suggests that performance in lower formulae is no indicator of F1 potential.  Given that he was driving an HRT last year, I’d say that we also haven’t yet seen Daniel Ricciardo have the chance to perform in a Grand Prix car.

Who does that leave as possible future Champions?  Despite six years and no wins, I’m willing to keep the faith with ‘Britney’ Rosberg.  It would be cruel to do otherwise.  His performances for Mercedes suggest that he’s at least as good as Michael Schumacher operating at 85% of his previous talent.  Paul Di Resta is entering the “tricky second year”, which often defines a driver’s career and potential.  If he keeps developing and doesn’t drop the ball when in good positions, he might get a move to a leading team.  Nico Hulkenberg sensibly spent his “tricky second year” sitting in the Force India garage.  The only things that any of us remember about his first year in F1 was him securing pole position for Williams in Brazil and being dumped for money-bags Maldonado, neither of which harmed his reputation.  The Force India rivalry looks like one of the more fascinating prospects for 2012. 

Last but not least of the potential recipients of the Champion’s laurels is Spain’s sparkling septuagenarian Pedro de la Rosa.  Assuming he carries on racing until he is 100, he will surely get an opportunity to seize the ultimate prize.


p.s. To be honest, back in his Honda days, I’d have put Button in the past-it ‘no’ category, so what do I know?