Sleep deprivation and F1 gibberish

Jarno Trulli, Brazilian GP 2001

Jarno Trulli, Brazilian GP 2001 

 © The Cahier Archive

Flying over the Amazon jungle, I found myself whiling away time by doing sums. I was working out times distances travelled by the Formula 1 circus in the course of the last month. It was rather alarming. If one went back to Europe between each Grand Prix - as many people did - and you had some testing or some other business to do, you could easily rack up 60,000 miles in a month. My total was 70,000. At the speed that the jets of today travel I calculated that I had spent about 120 hours in the air. Five complete days and nights. Three working weeks.

It has been very interesting to see the effect of such things on life. I have come to quite like the safe cocoon that airplanes provide and sometimes when I do go home I find myself lying awake, missing the gentle lullaby of the Rolls Royce RB211 or the General Electric GE90-90B high bypass ratio turbofan engine.

One day I expect some eminent medical type will do a study of the effects of such things on the human body. There ceases to be anything like jet-lag because the body cannot adapt fast enough to the changes and so one develops an ability to sleep when it is necessary But only for four hours at a time. This is supplemented by what politicians like to call "power naps" now and then when an opportunity presents itself. The diet goes crazy as well and one lives from one craving to the next as the body demands something that is missing: spinach for iron, milk for calcium, bananas for potassium and so on. I am still trying to work out why I have an insatiable desire to eat smoked salmon and drink Chardonnay but I guess it is something to do with "comfort" food. Normally one reverts to childhood at such moments but thankfully I have not been struck by a need for stodgy puddings and baked beans.

Flying has become my social life and I have met some interesting folk. I have read every magazine that was ever printed and have seen Meet the Parents, Charlie's Angels and that stupid film with Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt more times than I care to remember.

Sleep deprivation has long been used as a method of torture to create confusion in a prisoner. It is obviously working with some of the team bosses because on Friday in Brazil Eddie Jordan and Flavio Briatore started gibbering about how Formula 1 is losing its interest. Here is an extract of what was said. (Answers on a postcard please).

"The people looking Formula 1 because is everything together," said Briatore. "is the driver. Is the team. Is the performance. Is the private jet if you want. Is the helicopter. Is the girl. Is the star. This is Formula 1. Is the one big box with all these ingredient inside and we are keeping the keys."

The one word missing from all this is "car" which is what Formula 1 is really all about. It is about cars. They are those things in the garages with a wheel at each corner. They are those things one trips over while walking out to be photographed on the pitwall. The suntans, the supermodels, the boats and the planes are the flimsy wrapping paper that surrounds the sport.

The sport is about competition on the race tracks, not about how many pages one has managed to get in Hello! or People magazine. It is not about the shoes you wear.

And this year F1 has been great. We have a tire war and that is adding a lot of interest. Ferrari has dominated so far, that much is true, but it will not last for long. Just as (hopefully) Benetton will not be struggling to beat Minardis for long.

I have been having a good time this year. I am looking forward to getting back to Europe and the traditional summer time paddocks where one can meet people who have spent their whole time on the flyaways hidden away in the garages behind screens and guarded by charmless security goons. This is a problem because the feeling of community in F1 is being broken up by these barriers. Flavio and Eddie became increasingly incoherent when they counter-attacked that this was impossible because of the espionage that would result. They blamed the photographers for this and then tried not to and found themselves abusing themselves. Photographs are taken because teams want them to see what the others are up to. And, of course, there can be no gentlemens' agreements between the team owners because one or two of them have proved to often that they have the morals of reptiles.

Eddie Jordan was completely buried when a journalist asked whether he had ever bought photographs of other people's cars.

"I personally have never done it, but I am sure my team probably has," he said. "If they did not we would be crazy. We would be the only one not to have done it, so I cannot answer directly that question but I am sure we have acquired photographs of other cars... bla, flail, bla, flail, bla..."

At the end of it all, everyone was wondering what on earth Eddie and Flavio were on about.

Sleep deprivation was the only logical explanation.

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