It cannot have come to this. We're so much better than this, really, we must be.
Yes, there are terrible things happening in the Middle East, but let that not destroy us from within.
I wish I could be witty and satirical at this point, but it would only serve to sound a little bit jaded. A fellow rig guy said to me once: "the things is, you can make a terrorist joke...but we don't know if you're kidding or not."
However, instead, I choose to focus on the fact that even though there is a lot of misinformation and hatred out there (which does not deserve traffic from my blog, no matter how meagre, so won't be linked!), there is also a lot of good.
It is that feeling you get when something so amazing happens that you can't believe it ever happened at all.
The weekend of the Malaysia Grand Prix was my first foray into the world of Formula One journalism. Writing for Richard's F1, I spent four days in the media centre, walking the paddock, scratching out articles, attending press conferences, laughing (loudly and often) and generally being in awe: in awe of the calibre and influence of the journalists in the room, in awe of the experience, in awe of the history.
Honestly, being able to speak to and joke with people whose work I have read and respected for a long time was surreal; being able to discuss the very issues that were pertinent to the sport in real time was ridiculous! How I have been so fortunate (Alhamdulilah) to stumble into this world, I can only wonder. Alhamdulilah, and a big shout out to Richard Bailey whose has been a staunch supporter, mentor and sponsor in this space.
It's the small things that create the strongest memories really.
The reporters from all around the world, writing and talking in different languages;
The nicknames given to the different drivers by the journos;
Learning about the various cliques - who hangs out with who, who do you ask for this, where to go for that;
Richard and I walking up and down the paddock with the aim of meeting people and scoring interviews (Richard loving the drivers and my interests lying with learning more from the technical directors, engineers and principals). Walking up and down the paddock sounds fine, until you experience Malaysia stifling 90+ % humidity and mid-30 temperatures...
Sharing in the junk food (sugar always seems to help the writing process, no matter how seasoned a professional);
The rush after an announcement to figure out what this means and write it up;
The build of up excitement at the start of the race: I must say, probably the best group of people to watch and F1 race with because literally, everyone is glued to the screen and taking notes. Once the race started and the *gasps* and murmurs died down (the starts are always great to watch), the room was as serious as it had ever been all week. Of course, this is the business end of the weekend. This is what we are all here for...
Terrible, terrible jokes;
Being the new kid on the block. Everything is fun and exciting and there are hundreds of new people to meet! Making new friends :)
Learning amazing history about the sport from people that were actually there;
Making Niki Lauda smile (yay!);
Technical conversations with guys who actually write the regulation and design(ed) the cars;
Realising that these are the people who tell the world about Formula One, and they are just as cool and interesting as their writing is.
I still can't believe it (have I said that before yet?). What surprised me was that although it is a place where you have to earn your stripes like any other, by and large people were quite friendly. If you showed your keen interest, people were willing to help. I guess that's like anywhere really: you only really get out as much as you put in.
It is a bit of a drug though; I am not sure how I would fare attending an F1 in the near future and sitting in the grandstands.
I'd want to know what the stewards are saying, what the word on the street is regarding the latest controversial topic, what new distraction Bernie has concocted, what new challenges the engineers are facing. So who knows.
I'm but no means formally qualified, but if there is one thing I like doing, it is asking questions. It would seem that some of the best people at this job are the ones who know the right question to ask...
(Oh, and being an engineer doesn't go down too badly either. It's an engineer's playground!)
Hopefully, inshallah, I will get the opportunity to do this again in the future.
Hey all! Check out my first interview with a real Formula One driver, Marcus Ericsson. A rookie on the grid with Caterham, Richard and I had a chat to him yesterday to see how it's all going...
Read the piece on the site here!
So, the adventure begins!
To be honest, I will be doing my gushing here :) The official business is happening on RichardsF1.com so head over that way to check out the reports and actual journalism that I will be doing with Richard over the #Sepang #MalaysiaGP but here...well here is where I let it all hang out :P
It is a pretty interesting crowd. Definitely a 'who you know' world, but that is motorsport. The fun part is, I don't think they have too many African-looking hijabis wondering around the paddock (covered head to toe in the sweltering Malaysian heat #likeabaws) so it's always fun to be the one to mix things up a little...
F1 Chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is once again in the news regarding his financial affairs, with a British MP calling for a ‘Serious Fraud Office’ probe into the billionaire.
The call by Labour Party MP Emily Thornberry comes as the civil case against him for $100 million in damages concludes in London’s High Court in a few weeks’ time.
The results of such an investigation combined with the results from the courts may have the potential to loosen the tycoon’s almost four-decade-long grip on the sport.
The MP commented: “We cannot just walk away from this case. It does seem to me that we have a duty to investigate this. What is the Serious Fraud Office for if not for investigating cases like this?”
Ecclestone has been embroiled in a number of accusations across a variety of affairs over the past few months. This most recent case alleges he made corrupt payments to a German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, to undervalue F1’s commercial rights owned by the BayernLB group and allow him to maintain control even after it was sold to the private equity group, CVC Capital Partners.
CVC has stood by Mr Ecclestone through all of the court dramas, however its co-founder Donald MacKenzie did not rule out firing the Chief if he was found guilty.
Ecclestone denies this and says that in fact he was a victim of blackmail, alleging that Gribkowsky in fact threatened to report Ecclestone to the British tax authorities over false accusations of tax evasion. Although Gribkowsky called it a bribe and was jailed for eight-and-a-half years for the corruption, the F1 Chief continues to deny this version of events.
In July last year, German authorities made noises about having the billionaire on trial but have yet to decided if he will take the stand. Furthermore, Ecclestone faces damages claims from a firm in the US, Bayern LB, as well as proceedings in Switzerland.
Ecclestone has also indicated that he would step aside if convicted in Germany.
What do you think? Does it matter that the F1 Chief has doubts over his financial credibility and actions? Is this just part of the F1 world that we accept or just turn away from and pretend doesn’t exist?
More importantly, where does that leave F1 if Bernie is removed from his post?
So it would seem the F1 online world is abuzz with the news that Sebastian Vettel – a four-time World Champion, no less – fears that Formula 1 will lose its ‘excitement’ in 2014.
Firstly, it has to be said that the epitome of ironic is that Vettel – the man who has spent most of the last four years at the front of the pack, relegating most fights to ‘who will get second place’ – is complaining about F1 becoming boring.
Vettel’s comments were made at the AUTOSPORT Awards ceremony on Suday night:
You all know I deeply, deeply love motorsport. So when the opportunity to check out the newest Formula 1 cinematic masterpiece came along, I jumped at the chance! Check out my review of 'Rush', released earlier this month, with Josh Kruse (a fellow journo at Richard's F1)!
The intake heaves, urgently drawing every inch of air and oxygen into the cylinders.
The camera zooms in, past the smooth movements of the pistons, while your senses are overwhelmed by the roar of the intake.
The new Formula 1 film, Rush, is an adrenalin filled, cinematographic feast. It is a motion picture that should, and will be appreciated by fans of the sport, but you don’t have to love the world of Formula 1 to appreciate this particular piece.
Ron Howard’s Rush is set in the 1970s, two conflicting personalities progress through Formula 3 to Formula 1, where they would create one of the most extravagant and memorable seasons Formula 1 has seen. It’s a story that can literally tell itself.
Rush focuses on the infamous rivalry of Austrian and British drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt during the early 70’s. It is an era that as young Formula 1 fans, neither of us had heard and read much about, but was truly brought alive by actors Daniel Brühl (Lauda) and Chris Hemsworth (Hunt) on the big screen. The atmosphere of the 1970s racing world – no safety, loads of scantily clad women and drivers with actual (visible) personalities – was so convincing, we felt nostalgic for an time we had never even experienced.
Lauda is the man whose methodical and meticulous approach to his career earned him the success he yearned for in Formula One. Lauda is a perfectionist, involved in every aspect of the car and tunes his ride to faultlessness. Niki, unlike James, calculates and plays the odds consistently.
Hunt is the glamorous English playboy whose fearless bad-boy persona makes him irresistible to women. He, on the other hand, lives like he drives: emotionally with no holds barred and little regard for logical details like odds and risk. He is chaotic, charismatic and larger than life.
The events of the 1976 World Championship make for heart clenching watching: Lauda’s harrowing crash, his painful – truly painful – recovery and Hunt’s desperation for the title are all depicted brilliantly.
Neither driver is a hero or a villain, although the film makes you love and hate both in equal measure. These were two very different men with wildly different motives for racing who were eventually brought together by the sharing of a title and the development of a mutual respect.
The casting for Rush could not have been better. Hemsworth does a fantastic job of playing the party boy role, while Brühl’s spectacular depiction of Lauda is remarkably accurate down to the accent, earning high praise from Niki Lauda himself.
The excitement of engines roaring to life before they take on the graveyard, The Nürburgring, will send deep chills down the spines of F1 fans, as they know of the unfortunate events that occur. Although one step ahead of us, Howard makes the entire scene so tense you’ll be gripping the arm rest waiting for it to happen. Then it does, Lauda’s Ferrari suffers a mechanical fault and smashes into a barrier, the car erupting into a ball of flames as the fuel tank is punctured.
Cue Hans Zimmer.
A well-balanced mix of cinematography and musical composition make Lauda’s fiery crash entrancing to watch. You’re so absorbed by the emotional scene that’s supplemented by a dramatic orchestra it becomes easier to picture the real event.
It’s not just this scene where Zimmer’s musical talent presents itself; all throughout the film the music that accompanies it is outstanding. Not since the amazing compositions from Antonio Pinto’s work in Senna have we rushed home (pardon the pun) and bought the soundtrack.
There are times where Hollywood steps in and depicts Lauda as the villain and Hunt as the hero, but you must remember that this is a movie, not a documentary.
Of course there will be those who lived through the era who remember the events of the day, and the relationship between the two drivers quite differently. That is not the point of Rush.
What you do have is a film that brings to life the beauty of the sport, the excitement of the race and the tension of the personal drama. It gives an inkling as to why people like us crave the race weekends, why the screams of a V8, V10 or V12 make our hearts beat a flurry. It is a film about the exquisiteness of the sport that we all love, and for that Ron Howard and all his team should be duly thanked.
Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we award RUSH (out of a possible five)…
RUSH is currently in national release in Australian cinemas. Check your local cinema for listing and session times.
Postscript: It is sad that on writing this piece, the news that Sean Edwards, a Porsche professional driver involved in the making of Rush was killed at Yassmin’s home racetrack, Queensland Raceway. Our thoughts are with his family, and it is a sombre reminder that even though we think the dangerous days of motorsport have past, it is still a sport that occasionally draws blood in the worst way possible. RIP Sean.
I originally wrote this piece on the day of the Bahrain GP for the International Political Forum - check it out here!
The F1 world exists in a bubble of its own. Although highly political, its politics are usually internal, and as such the domestic politics of the host nation rarely rates a mention. Granted, (by and large, with exceptions of course) most of the races are in stable states, and so voicing of political concern is either verbal or doesn’t make the international news.
That is why the case of today’s race in Bahrain is very interesting indeed.
Just briefly – the Bahraini race was the result of the work of King’s son, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who thought it would be a great way to put Bahrain on the international radar. It worked wonderfully in doing so, and its first race in 2004 was a huge success (according to the BBC at any rate), both domestically and internationally.
The problems only really started appearing in early 2011, when the island nation got swept with Arab Spring fever, and the Shia majority began protesting in earnest against the ruling Sunni minority. Their main issue is with the human rights record of the government (which, as the Bassiouni report showed, is a spotty record indeed).
The race was cancelled that year. A brief roundup of those events by the BBC can be found here.
So where does that leave Bahrain and Formula 1 now?
Well, media stories are filled with visual depictions of angry protestors holding anti-F1 signs and chanting slogans such as “Your race is a crime,” and “No, no to the blood Formula.”
Bahraini leaders are downplaying the unrest, with the Crown Prince insisting the event will be safe for teams and spectators. However, MP’s within the government requested that the event again be cancelled. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain said: “We request you cancel the Grand Prix. It is likely to attract as much negative publicity as last year.”
The world motorsport’s governing body the FIA and the promoters Formula One Management (FOM), caught in the middle, have simply said the event will go ahead.
CEO of FOM, the infamous Bernie Ecclestone, wants to keep the sport as far away from the politics as possible, saying to the BBC: “We don’t want to see trouble. We don’t want to see people arguing and fighting about things we don’t understand, because we really don’t understand. Some people feel it’s our fault there are problems.”
“We’re not here, or we don’t go anywhere, to judge how a country is run”, although he did also mention that he thought the government was “stupid” to put the race on, as people will use it [emphasis added] as a platform for protesting.
Bernie is right in a way; trying to figure out which side is right or wrong never ends well. There are too many shades of grey.
What the true question is about though, is how much of a role as Formula 1 plays in domestic and global politics. Much of the media focus has been around the protests, whether Formula One as an event should be in Bahrain, trying to figure out if there is a “morally” correct side to be on.
The sad fact of the matter is if Formula 1 hadn’t come to Bahrain, the country wouldn’t rate a mention in any international paper. It certainly doesn’t appear to have done so, especially not alongside the even more unfortunate tragedies of Egypt and Syria.
Formula 1 is both a sport, and a business. From a business sense, no, it isn’t desirable to be associated with or seen to be friends with a government that is denying its citizens human rights. But sport is a common language. Like music, sport has an uncanny ability to transcend politics and bring people together. Granted, this isn’t the Football World Cup, but it is a huge international event, with lots of focus on a nation where the battles are usually forgotten.
It is understandable that protestors are upset that the Formula 1 circus is coming to town – they are likely to be upset at many of the ruling party’s initiatives. But the race can be seen as an opportunity for their nation to bring their issues to the attention of the international media. Not that this is what Bernie Ecclestone wants, but Formula 1 doesn’t have to find the answers. It is only a sporting event after all, not the mediation arm of the United Nations.
No, Formula 1 doesn’t have all the answers. What it does have is an amazing capacity to draw the attention of millions of people towards various places, and in doing so, highlight the goings on in that state.
It is that opportunity, that captive audience, that international focus. That is the power of Formula 1.
Some might see sport as a frivolity, but it has an important role to play – in its own unique way – in the journey of every nation.
After all, the Formula 1 coming to town is one the main reasons we are all talking about the plight today anyway, isn’t it?
Named after the famous text “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu, Adam Parr’s fresh, comic strip style memoir is a fascinating glimpse into the murky world of Formula 1 that fans rarely get an insight to.
“The Art of War: Five Years in Formula One” chronicles Adam Parr’s half a decade in the sport as Chairman and CEO of Williams F1 from 2006 – 2012, a tumultuous time for the sport and an era of even more political manoeuvring and intrigue than usual (and that is saying something for Formula 1!).
Those who follow the sport will recall the shock at Adam Parr’s resignation announcement in early 2012, and this book goes some way towards explaining that decision and the events that culminated in the end of his short-lived era. This includes the creation and demise of FOTA, the various teams and manufacturers that left the competition and the effects of the global financial crisis on the sport, among others.
The illustrations, drawn by the talented Paul Tinker, bring unexpected life to the story of the intense Formula 1 competition – not on the track, but at the meeting room tables, where every man (just like on the track) is looking after their own interests. Contemporary F1 politics at its finest…presented in black, white and red for your viewing pleasure.
It is interesting to see how Parr paints the relationships between the teams and where suggests “things went wrong”.
The thin volume – numbering 80 full pages – isn’t heavily narrated by Parr himself. As Max Mosely states in the foreword, Parr presents the story in a way that encourages the readers to draw their own conclusions about the events of the last 5 years in the sport. This is all part of the charm of the book however, which is filled with unlikely delights - the neat gallery of “main characters” (named “Debts and Lessons”) at the beginning of the book, coupled with a sentence or two on that character’s philosophy was a pleasant addition (For example: Bernie Ecclestone: Self deprecation, Lack of interest in material things, sense of humour and patience – who would have thought?).
The book does leave the reader craving for more however – Parr only briefly touches on the main events and it does feel a little light on detail in areas. Rather than an intense analysis and expose, this is more a peek behind the curtain, a run through the back of house dealings…a preview of something more perhaps? I hope so.
Nonetheless, given the beauty of the book itself, and the interesting insights presented by an outsider who came into the industry with the stated goal to “change the culture”, this is a must for all F1 fans. It is a fascinating, absorbing and insightful read that is highly recommended as an addition to any collection. I am certainly a proud owner of a First Limited Edition printed copy myself!
In fact, using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, “The Art of War” is awarded …
OUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE.
Awesome because it was – contemporary, innovatively presented and a rare, honest insight.
Could do with – more detail, more insight…it was too good to be this short!