Dull? Don't be silly. Formula 1 is wonderful

Not many people have more interesting lives than F1 folk

Not many people have more interesting lives than F1 folk 


We all like to whine and whinge about life, don't we? "Oh, it's not fair," we say. "Everybody else has a much nicer life than I do!" The rich and the famous complain that they are pursued by the media and by people begging them for their money. They cannot go shopping without being mobbed. And the landing fees for executive jets are so expensive!

The beautiful people complain that the rest of the world does not look beyond their good looks. The intelligent complain that people are scared of their intellect.

Everyone thinks they have more stress than others.

I read the other day that Gwyneth Paltrow (who I happen to think is rather gorgeous) was complaining that English men never ask her out to dinner. Hell, I didn't know. Gwyneth, I don't know where you are, but if you would like to have dinner please send me an e-mail and we can compare our diaries and find a date: London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, I'll be in all of them in the next few weeks at some point or other. You can wear a big hat and no-one will know it's you and I won't tell anyone because no-one would believe me anyway... No-one ever believes me when I tell them I once had Elizabeth Taylor on my arm and Richard Burton walking along behind us.

I can handle it.

Most people think that being a Grand Prix reporter is a really great life, but we like to complain too. We travel too much. We have to eat foreign foods, sleep in foreign beds, struggle through foreign airports and spend out lives mixing with multi-millionaires and racing drivers.

On Sunday at the Hungaroring I heard a lot of people complaining about what a waste of time it had been, travelling all the way to Budapest to see a Formula 1 race that was not very interesting. For those of us who pay our own expenses it was not a great weekend because Johnny Magyar likes to make sure that we leave town with a lot less money than when we arrived.

But, when I stopped for a moment on Sunday afternoon, pondering what on earth to write about a very dull motor race, I found myself looking out of the window across the Hungarian countryside and I was reminded of the words of an old editor when I was a new boy in the business.

Dinner? Any time, any place...

"Never tell the reader that you're having a bad time," he said. "They don't want to hear that. You are living their dream life and in dreams things like traffic jams and Delhi Belly do not happen. Readers think that we travel to and from races on executive jets, sipping pink champagne with the drivers while supermodels pamper us."

Well, that was the gist of what he said anyway.

And so I thought about good days and bad days "at the office". I remembered May 1, 1994. It doesn't get much worse than that. I remembered the countless times at three in the morning writing when one can no longer focus on the keys.

But then I remembered the time when I was reporting European Formula 3 racing in the mid-1980s and spent my afternoons when practice was over lying in a hammock, slung between two trees, and the drivers came to me to tell me about how their days had gone.

There were days when we went from one end of Italy to another, leaving behind the flowers of Sicily and passing beneath the great Mount Vesuvius and on to the seven hills of Rome to Florence and the North. I remembered the quiet evenings with friends and colleagues at Bellagio, where Lakes Como and Lecco meet.

These were a working days not holidays.

Motor racing has taken me to Timbuktu and I remember standing out there in the desert, marvelling at the insignificance of humankind. I remembered being left speechless at the sight of 400,000 people on their feet at the start of the Indianapolis 500.

I remembered a few days in Fiji between races.

There was a day when, before breakfast, I visited four major countries without going near an airplane. And, as I recall, I spent that evening at La Scala in Milan.

Formula 1 people never cease to surprise

Normal people do not do this stuff... and we must never forget how lucky we are to be able to be bored rigid in Budapest.

A lot of people have to put up with being bored rigid in a dreary suburb, working in a job they do not like to do. Their dreams are our lives... OK, there are times when we have to deal with dishonest and scummy people or those who should have pneumatic valves fitted behind their ears so that the air can be topped up but mostly we are surrounded by good people, interesting people who have chosen to not make compromises in life. People who never cease to surprise.

And we should enjoy it.

In Budapest we watched the greatest drivers in the world, driving amazing machines absolutely on the limit. We may have seen them too many times to appreciate just how magnificent is the spectacle of a Grand Prix.

"At the next race," I said, while arguing that motor racing is never dull, "don't look at the cars when the green lights go off. Look at the faces of the people in the grandstand. They are open-mouthed. They are jumping up and down. They have their hands over their mouths in surprise. They won't forget what they are seeing. They will be talking about it for weeks to come. They will bore their friends rigid with stories about what they saw and what they did.

Formula 1. Boring? Never.

What more could we ask for?

...except dinner with Gwyneth, of course...

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