THE MAN IN THE PUB

At last, something on the telly

Now it may not quite have the attractions of a Jerez or a Portimao, but Kemble Airfield in Gloucestershire is currently the UK's F1 test venue of choice (showing what little choice there actually is) and that's a good enough excuse for us to leave the haven of the pub now and then.

Think about it. Where else can you enjoy a quiet beer in a country pub and then, after a quick game of darts, nip five miles down the road to watch an F1 car belt up and down a runway for seemingly no good reason whatsoever?

In recent months we have had Williams, McLaren, Renault, Honda (R.I.P) and Force India along with various sports and touring cars and today, the cream on the cake, Fairuz Fauzy testing a World Series by Renault car.

Does it get any better than this?

Unbelievably, people are actually travelling some distance now to see the action and it will surely only be a matter of time before Gloucestershire County Council see an opportunity and start charging for use of the lay-by on the main road opposite the airfield, or close it down for "health and safety" reasons. Knowing them as I do, option two is probably a given.

Sadly however, some of the visitors (or as any local will call them "Outsiders") have started taking close up pictures of the cars prior to zooming back up the M5 to Birmingham and uploading them onto the Internet.

Renault and McLaren were (note the past tense) very obliging and would set up camp right by the fence but on their last visit the boys from Woking moved to the centre of the runway, way out of view, preferring working in the middle of a live runway to having pics of their car published on a forum by somebody who probably has a name like Raikkonen Boy 12.

Still, after what has been an interminably long winter of doom and gloom, life is about to return to normal as the F1 season is soon to kick off and Kemble will once again fall quiet and the gypsies will get their lay-by back.

For those of us in the UK and a good few other countries, after a dozen years, it's all change as ITV are replaced by the BBC as broadcasters of F1. Most people are of course delighted to see the end of adverts during races (and the return of "The Chain") and are giving ITV a far from a fond farewell, but they seem to forget what a dire job the Beeb were doing of covering F1 back in the early 1990s (TV schedules were about as reliable as a Scottish banker) and that the boys from Channel 3 (as my granny used to call ITV) actually did a pretty good job.

Of course, there were a few cock-ups over the years, cutting from a tense finish at San Marino 2005 to a commercial break being the biggest, plus they had the incredibly annoying habit (if the race was running late) of skipping the press conference to go straight to the "Worlds Dumbest Animals" or "Coronation Street" (one and the same surely?) which always went down a treat in this household, with the children learning several new words to try out at school the next morning.

Still, nobody can deny they did give us the commentator supreme, Martin Brundle (sensibly hired by the BBC) and the unintentionally funniest man on telly, Mark Blundell (sadly not hired by the BBC) who's post race observations are now the stuff of legend.

So BBC, it's your turn, technology has moved on leaps and bounds since you last had a go, so show us what you can do. Will your new team and interactive coverage keep us out of the pub on a Sunday lunchtime?

Let's hope so.....

Rob Sinfield also writes for www.grandprixdiary.com.

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