F1 in 1994



Boddy language

In my book, top-class motor racing is the finest sport of all — I assume you are 100% behind this opinion? — and we have only to wait until March 27 for the first F1 race of 1994. Nothing can equal, surely, the moment when the green light flashes on and the pack roars in action? A friend once likened it to a good orchestra tuning-up and then starting a piece of classical music — but not so loudly, of course. . .

After the Rothman-Williams-Renault press conference in Portugal Ian Wooldridge aimed a powerful piece at Senna, in the Daily Mail. Never mind, it is no bad thing to have a prima donna in F1, to keep the news on the boil. Senna was said to regard himself as scandalously underpaid, at a rumoured £10-million for this season. But it’s all relative: actress Julia Roberts is reported as expecting £8-million for appearing in one play. Such bickering reminds me of Donald Campbell’s last bid for the Water Speed Record. He was waiting for favourable conditions. The press became impatient and made disrespectful comments. But as Motor Sport wrote at the time, it was Campbell, not the critics, who would have to get into the boat and go. . . (And how distasteful that the horrific shots of his last moments alive in Bluebird continue to be shown in films, newspapers and books). This recalls another instance of how onlookers in safe places at brave events often underrate them. When the RAF’s Hawker-Siddeley Harrier took-off from a London coal-yard in the 1969 TransAtlantic Race some of those watching claimed compensation for clothes dirtied by the slipstream! — as I wrote at the time, they couldn’t see the prestige for the coal dust. For the Harrier was a very significant aeroplane, which served well in the Falklands War.

Wooldridge noted that “. . . rule changes, including obligatory refuelling stops, promise a campaign freed from single team, technical domination”, in this year’s F1 contests. I dislike any rules restricting racing-car development but surely the return of refuelling stops will favour these with the more potent engines, unless they muff the pauses for more fuel their power advantage necessitates? It is a return to the days when Dick Seaman challenged the more fuel-thirsty ERAs with a ten-year-old Delage that was able to dispense with pit-stops for petrol, and when the highly-boosted Alfettas ran against the bigger-engined, less fuel-demanding Ferraris. But it is surprising that the FIA, which in recent times has banned refuelling as a fire hazard, is now permitting it again. Not, I hope, as a sop to TV producers hoping for more dramatic racing?

Let us hope sincerely that the changed rules — especially artificial bunching by pace-cars or other means — will in no way take the edge off the finest sport in the world.

Likes & dislikes

I was surprised to read that a Gallup Poll shows that 1-in-4 men and 7% of women admitted to being a danger to other road users. I thought the theory was that every driver believes that he or she is near-perfect and it is the rest who cause the mayhem? And how on earth does Gallup keep these views from those interviewees’ insurance companies?! It used to be the other person who drove too close, signalled too late, flashed at you when you knew your overtaking had been perfectly safe and no danger to anyone. Remember the “tenths” method of comparing driving ability? When to try to emulate Senna or Prost at “10/ 10ths” would have implied a coffin for the District Nurse?

I am dubious about one person being able to judge the driving ability of others, in view of differences in experience, reaction time, eyesight, judgement etc. So much for police evidence, IAM tests and the like! As for the other driver being always in the wrong, never you, I remember when I was very young being much impressed by an ex-Army officer who actually stood up in his Clyno (whether the better to make his point or to obtain more purchase on the brake pedal I know not) and shouted “My road!” at an approaching motorist.

So let me confine my dislikes to drivers whose cars are stationary. Those who block the pumps at filling-stations with plenty of forecourt space while they shop in the garage supermarket. And those who park in the middle of two-car lay-bys, preventing other cars from using them. You encounter such selfishness every day. . .

The Things They Say

“On Sunday, emphasis will be on powerful Sports Cars, together with Edwardians, Aero-engined Cars — some of 200-litres — and ‘Shelsley Specials’. . .” — The Midland AC’s announcement of attractions at Shelsley Welsh on July 3. Gad sir, they get bigger all the time!

“Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to paint Aston Martin DB7” — A press handout from Rolls-Royce. Their Managing Director of Operations commented: “This contact will provide a major boost to Rolls-Royce and is testament to our outstanding capabilities for motor car finishing”. — A sensible marque mix-up, no doubt, but surely the first time an Aston Martin has been cited as giving a major boost to “The Best Car in the World”? W B