Formula 1, rat poison and Dutch chat-up lines...

Formula 1, Malaysian GP 2000

Formula 1, Malaysian GP 2000 


This year's Formula 1 media packs have each featured amusing photographs which take the expressions used in Formula 1 and put a little spin on them, playing on the words to create an absurd image. Earlier in the year we had Michael Schumacher riding a horse in full racing overalls (Yes, he really did do it) to create "Horse Power". Johnny Herbert and Eddie Irvine were pictured strangling one another for "Throttle Control" and a large tank was somehow put into a pitlane (I think it was one of those blow-up dummies used to mislead photo-reconnaissance planes) and surrounded by mechanics in overalls to create "Refuelling Tank".

The best was saved to last. It was a picture of Bernie Ecclestone in a white laboratory coat, standing in front of a blackboard covered with complicated scientific formulae. Mr. E was peering into a test tube, filled with a pink liquid: "Formula 1". In a few years one can be sure they will all be collectors' items...

When you stop and think about it, it is not such a strange idea. Formula 1 is a mixture of weird and wonderful things and people. Everything is inter-acting frantically like the supposedly secret ingredients in Coca-Cola and the result is a sport which somehow or other always manages to produce a bit of fizz.

But all this is in danger... Medical people have discovered the Formula 1 equivalent of Mad Cow Disease. It is called Economy Class Syndrome and I stumbled upon it while sitting in a departure lounge, reading the paper. This affliction will not affect those sitting at the front of the plane, quaffing champagne and making improper suggestions to stewardesses but it could have a very nasty effect on the ranks of the people in F1 who actually do the work. The people who travel in the back of the plane.

Economy Class Syndrome causes airline passengers to drop dead as a result of spending too much time sitting in the same cramped position in an economy class seat. It struck the other day on a Sydney to London flight when a perfectly healthy 28-year-old lady dropped dead when a fatal blood clot formed after she had been sitting for too long, motionless in her seat.

The medical types will tell you that this is actually something called DVT which may sound like some advanced transmission system but is actually an ailment called Deep Vein Thrombosis. If you travel a lot you probably do not want to know what it is, but basically a blood clot forms in the legs and then floats along in your veins until it arrives somewhere it can do real damage and then "Blam! Out go the lights."

Trembling slightly, I concluded that from now on whenever I go near an airplane I will wriggle a lot and I will not care whether I annoy those around me. And then I remembered some advice from Formula 1's eminent doctor Professor Sidney Watkins MD, FRCS - otherwise known as Sid, who is a sage in most things but particularly useful when it comes to medicine. Sid has an answer for all known ailments. The cure consists of a combination of a large glass of whisky, half an aspirin and a large cigar.

I have often wondered how one cures a wobbly tummy with them but I guess it has something to do with the cigar. Actually I am not sure I want to know because I know that Sid is quite capable of telling people where to stick it.

Half an aspirin a day is highly recommended for those of a jet-set temperament although Sid says that rat poison is just as good a cure for them. And if you think I am joking you should perhaps go out and buy some rat poison and have a look at the ingredients because it is used in a lot of trauma surgery. There is this stuff called warfarin which thins out the blood to avoid clots forming. But before you start writing to airlines asking for the stewardesses to walk down the plane saying "Chicken, Beef or Warfarin?". I should perhaps warn you that if you polish off your tray and then eat your neighbor's lunch as well the only terminal you will be going to will be a state of health. One has to be a little careful with the doses... and I would avoid suggesting the idea to Niki Lauda's airline (known as "Rat Air") because if you kill "The Rat" you may find a stewardess walking through the plane asking if there is a pilot onboard...

Which brings me, by a roundabout route, to the subject of stewardesses. This seemed to be a favorite subject among some of my pals at Sepang. Being near the airport, the hotels around the circuit were all filled with stewardesses who, folklore will tell you, are simply good-looking, healthy, single girls flying around the world testing out chaps to see if they are husband material.

My hotel was full of girls in (and out of) KLM uniforms. A Dutch colleague of mine thought that this was a fine idea and proceeded to turn his devastating F1 charm on one of these lucky ladies. I listen to them gabbling away like a pair of geese for a while and then, having sensed something from the body language, concluded that the conversation was anything but dull. And so when Hostie Van Holland went sliding away across the room, with more wiggle than a jelly on springs, I asked for a translation of the conversation.

"Oh," he said. "Well. I said: 'My room number is 752 and if you fancy some sex later on, drop by and I'll sort you out'."

And what did she say? I asked.

"Well she thought I was being a little direct."

So what did you say?

"Well, I said that I was only being nice and I might just have walked off without asking her and she would not have felt like a really attractive woman."

During the week I kept an eye on how "the romance" was developing. On Sunday morning I found a very crestfallen Dutchman. No, he said, she had not fallen for his killer charm. She had gone off to a big Boeing 747 instead and sailed into the sunset - without so much as a "Coffee, Tea or Me?"

Oh well, I said. Perhaps you should work on the opening line a bit...

There is a wonderful confidence about Formula 1 people which I have always found to be completely fascinating. They think they can dance like Fred Astaire, sing like Bing Crosby, cook like Auguste Escoffier, write like Scott Fitzgerald, fly like Eddie Rickenbacker and walk the tightrope like Charles Blondin. The frightening thing is that a lot of them do have remarkable talents. If you need an expert on any subject there is someone in the paddock who is qualified to talk about the subject. And that ranges from brain surgeons to sculptors, stunt pilots to musicians, steeplechase jockeys to missile designers, accountants to chefs. We did have some trouble the other day identifying aircraft. I simply asked if anyone knew what the noisy jets doing their display at lunchtime on Sunday had been. Half the press room insisted they were MIGs, the others reckoned they were F14 Tomcats. And then there were those who thought they were probably F111s... F15s, MIG 19s and so on.

It was the kind of argument you could only have in Formula 1.

All these crazy people came to the end of another F1 season on Sunday in Malaysia and, as usual, it was time for farewells. Bernie Ecclestone's Flying Circus was going on leave.

There are 118 days until the next race.

When all is said and done the circus has done a good job this year. There has been too much public back-biting and bitching but at the end of it all the sport is healthy. People are human and apart from that minor flaw, things have gone pretty well. Everyone has had a good time.

Mind you, I am bit worried what will happen when they hear about Economy Class Syndrome. However I have an idea. Could I suggest that if you want to go on reading Globetrotter columns you should all send in a few dollars, pounds or yen so that the author can avoid this fearful fate and travel up the front with the beautiful people, sipping whisky, munching aspirins, smoking cigars and nibbling caviar from the naked bodies of KLM stewardesses...

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