Monday, 22 June 2009

The British GP at Brawn GP

Unable to attend the British Grand Prix this year, I was fortunate enough to get to spend the day at Brawn GP’s HQ in Brackley, just down the road form the circuit.

Brawn put on a family day for their staff, so that we could all enjoy the race together on the big screen, with entertainment for the children, a buffalo spit roast for dinner, and other necessities such as a bar and an ice-cream van!

Two locations were provided for watching the race; outside on a big LCD TV provided by Eddie Stobart (who run the Brawn GP trucks), or inside on projectors where a live timing screen was also available. Fortunately the weather was nice enough for most of us to sit outside (though unfortunately not quite warm enough for Jenson’s tyres), and we all sat around tables drinking Pimms while children enjoyed Punch & Judy, Scalextric, and a Brawn car colouring in competition!

We were following the BBC feed for the race so were still able to enjoy the excellent pre-race show and interviews whilst discussing Brawns chances for the race. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get what we were hoping for with Jenson getting boxed in at the start, and Webber getting the better of Rubens in the pit stops. However, we still cheered when Rubens’ third place became more comfortable after the final round of pit stops, and it all became very exciting when Jenson found some pace in the closing stages!

We may not have got the win we had hoped for, but Rubens still got a big cheer on the podium, especially considering he drove so well despite suffering from acute back pain all weekend.

With the race over it was time for lunch, the previously mentioned spit roast buffalo, provided by Laverstoke Park, Jody Scheckter’s organic/biodynamic farm in Hampshire. It was very tasty, as any of you who attended the Honda open day a couple of years ago will know.

After lunch the children were treated to a disco and bouncy castles while the (supposedly) grown-ups competed against each other on a bungee run! The sun came out, the drinks and the ice-creams flowed, and we all started to turn a bit red while we waited for the race team to return.

From about 6pm-7pm they gradually started to arrive back from Silverstone on a variety of forms of transport; bicycles, motorbikes, cars, and trucks. And then at 7pm we were all ushered inside to watch a short DVD put together by Mercedes, featuring some fantastic shots from the Monaco weekend. One that stood out for me was a slow-motion shot of a bird flying away off the track ahead of the approaching front wing of the car!

When the DVD finished with a congratulations message from Mercedes, Ross Brawn came out onto the stage. He initially got a bit of feed-back from the mic, but decided to have fun with it by swinging the mic around and making a truly awful noise! He seemed very relaxed and thanked all the families for putting up with the hard an uncertain times of the winter months, a message that was echoed by Jenson when he was introduced on stage after a slight delay because according to Ross he was enjoying a beer!

Jenson was quite jokey, and when we were told that Rubens was stuck in traffic Jenson quipped that was him for most of the race! Rubens then arrived and got an even bigger cheer than Jenson when he appeared on stage, and became even more popular when he informed us he was staying on to enjoy the party with us.

We then proceeded to that great British institution; The Raffle! Tickets had been sold to help fund future family events and there were a number of great prizes including Rayban Sunglasses, BTCC and Superbikes tickets, Spa & Golf days and a football prize that Ross announced as Manchester United if you’re lucky or Liverpool if you’re not! The three of them drew the tickets and some of the female winners were lucky enough to get a kiss for Jenson (which Rubens seemed to find highly amusing). Rubens even fancied one of the prizes himself so announced that the ticket he had drawn was ‘Number 23... Rubens... Barrichello..!’

After the raffle there was then a bit of an autograph scrum with both drivers signing anything put in front of them. I got quite close to Jenson before he was whisked off in a different direction, but Rubens was who I was really after and I duly managed to get his autograph on my new iPhone! When I put the shiny white back of the phone in front of him he looked at me to ask if I really wanted him to sign it. When I said yes he took a little more care signing it than with the posters, caps and t-shirts!

It was then announced that the drivers had to leave, but in reality it was only Jenson who left. We all went back outside and my phone enjoyed a moment of fame with many suggestions about how to protect the signature. We then noticed the Rubens was stood very near us chatting to Nick Fry. Chris (my husband) told me that Rubens would have his photo taken with me if I asked, and so we approached with me saying ‘you ask him... you’ve met him before!’ It was at this point that Nick spotted us and tapped Rubens on the shoulder. He was very happy to pose for a photo with me and I thanked him again for signing my iPhone and congratulated him on his podium. A few other people then joined us and I discovered that I had set a trend for iPhone autographs... I believe there are now three in existence!

We then noticed that Ross was not far away, also signing autographs and having photos taken. So off we went to get our phones signed by him too and have our photo taken again. I think Ross must find it quite strange getting almost the same amount of attention as the drivers, and one staff member did get made fun off by the others when he had his picture taken with Ross!

On the way back to our group we then spotted little Antony Davidson, of F1, Le Mans, and Radio 5 Live fame. He was also very happy to pose for a picture, which I tweeted to @5LiveF1 the following day... they replied that he never lets Crofty get that close to him! I think the only opportunity we missed was John Button when we were all clambering for Jenson & Rubens!

After all this excitement we then welcomed the Race trucks back in what must have been a record pack up time, and had a chance to catch up with some of the race team. One guy even said that if I took the back off my iPhone he could take it to the next race to get Jenson to sign it for me! Now you may think me crazy, but I decided that was a bit too risky for the 3G S!

As the sun got lower in the sky we decided it was time to head for home and Top Gear, which turned out to be a rather nice piece of icing to cap the day, with my F1 hero making a surprise appearance!

If you would like to see some pictures from the day visit:

Sunday, 7 June 2009

My F1 Story

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted a blog entry, and sorry again for being so lazy that this entry is a duplication of what I posted on last week, but it works quite well here too:

My Formula 1 story starts with a young girl who thinks that motorsport is boring and very annoying when her dad is watching it on the TV instead of something she wants to watch. That little girl turned into an F1 addict.

On the 1st May 1994, when I was only 14 years of age, I was spending Sunday at my grandmother’s house, as I did most weekends. I did not like Formula 1, but it was usually on the TV because my Nan liked to see the start and the finish of a race. I usually sat there doing my home work or something more creative. So, on that dark day in F1’s past I saw the race and the events that unfolded in one of Formula 1 greatest tragedies. This had quite an effect on me.

I remember that day being quite warm and sunny, and after my Dad came to collect me and take me home later in the afternoon, I went and sat by myself in the back garden on a tyre ring that hung as a swing from an apple tree. Thus stationed, I contemplated the events of Imola. I came to the conclusion that Formula 1 was stupid and dangerous, people had died… and what for? Some silly sport? It was totally unnecessary and a waste of life. I just didn’t get why the drivers wanted to race when such things could happen.

By the end of 1994 I was becoming addicted to F1.

It started not too long after the tragedies of Imola. One of my school friends had a bit of a thing for Mika Hakkinen, so when the race was on I would pay a bit more attention to note how he had done so that I would know whether I could tease her about it on Monday morning in class. The rest of the country was getting obsessed with Damon Hill.

As I watched I began to notice that it wasn’t Hill who was the stand-out driver, but a young German by the name of Michael Schumacher. He was clearly the better driver, but because Hill was British and Schumacher was German, the UK fans were all for Damon and all against Michael. I had never really been one for watching sport and had therefore never cared who won and the whole supporting someone just because they’re British passed me by. It seemed to me that the better driver deserved the support, so I secretly started to root for Schumacher.

Before long I was getting up early to watch races live. I remember at the time of the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix I was on a school trip to Paris, but I made sure to wake up early so that I could watch the race on French TV. My best friend and room-mate wasn’t exactly pleased! By 1996, when Michael has moved to Ferrari, I refused to spend a race day without wearing something emblazoned with Ferrari.

Formula 1 had always been about Michael Schumacher for me, and I had supported and defended him through the good times and the bad without fail. I worried about what would happen to my relationship with F1 when he retired. The day he announced his retirement I was at Gatwick airport getting ready to go on holiday. We had listened to the grand prix in the car, but by the time of the post-race interviews I was stood outside departures with my little personal radio, my head in Italy whilst people bustled past.

2007 was a bit strange for me, adjusting to a Schumi-less F1. I was still supporting Ferrari, but had never been much of a Raikkonen fan (it was a McLaren thing), so it was odd cheering the team rather than the driver. 2008 was much better as I liked Massa and the Brazilian grand Prix was probably one of the most emotional I’ve watched. By this time I also had an interest in the fortunes of Honda, as my husband starting working there in 2007, and I also liked Barrichello from his years at Ferrari. Being at Silverstone in the pouring rain (we were in an uncovered grand stand) and seeing Rubens come third in such an awful car was rather special.

My long support of Schumacher also gave me great admiration for Ross Brawn, so when it was announced that he was joining Honda I was very excited for what he could do for the team. It seemed so wrong that he may not get that chance when Honda pulled the plug at the end of 2008. The winter was very strange, with so many different rumours, and then supposed deadline after supposed deadline passed. The night that the Brawn GP announcement was made was quite a late one. I had stayed up waiting for the news, and then when it finally came I was too excited to sleep! I think my bouncy excitement the next day at work was probably a bit on the annoying side for my work colleagues. And Brawn GP just got better and better, as we all know.

So now I am still a Ferrari fan, but one who keeps getting very annoyed with them for somewhat losing the plot so far this season, but also a Brawn fan. However, it all links back to seeing that young German driver beating Damon Hill back in 1994.