It's that time of year when I suddenly feel like I have a purpose. Like I have emerged from the hopelessness and immensities of life afresh and anew. A magical time when I feel like gathering my children lovingly into my arms, looking them in the eyes and saying yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus, and he is big, fat, wearing a stupid red suit, and about to adorn you with lots of useless gifts...
Okay, that's not quite true because if that happened my children would scream in terror, squirm to break free and say "get away from me you freak, and who the hell is Virginia". But the POINT is, it's GRAND PRIX TIME IN MELBOURNE!!
What can be better. Friends arriving from interstate and overseas, action, parties, and that most beautiful of God's creation....those magnificent hybrid beasts bonded together by engineering genius, hopes, dreams, carbon fibre, alloy, sponsorship signage and shitloads of wasted money...Formula One cars.
Formula One racing is basically a quagmire of surreal escapism. It is perfect for people who are genuinely able to ignore the fact that the world is full of poverty, famine, corruption, human injustice, pollution and limited natural resources...then spend squillions of dollars on lots of unneccessary shiny things which are dangerous and smokey, and burn fossil fuel at the rate of ten litres per second . But for some reason I totally love it.
I also get to work trackside as a marshall, which is the best seat in the house. On a good day, that means you might be pushing a stranded F1 car off to the side of the track whilst in the firing line of oncoming F1 cars driven at up to 300km/h by men who are paid to ignore the flags warning them to slow down because you are on the side of the track pushing a stranded etc etc....
Some formula One mechanics, yesterday. Note the use of surgical-style rubber gloves whilst cleaning shiny bits with silvo.
Formula One mechanics (pictured above) are a special breed. In almost quarantine-like garages, they work with dedication and passion. With state of the art equipment, tools and years of qualifications they meticulously assemble the machines by hand, tenderly and carefully ensuring that even the smallest part is correctly in its place, to the nearest thousandth of a millimetre. Then these hardworking talented individuals stand in front of TV screens watching their overpaid, oversexed egomaniac drivers try to smash the living crap out of this delicately beautiful piece of engineering until it lies in a billion smoky little shards.
Then, outside the garage, the driver explains to a thousand grovelling media people and supermodels how serious the crash was, but that risk is a part of his job and he bravely accepts it. Inside the garage, the mechanics work with dedication and passion, meticulously reassembling etc etc...
This year is special because, in the pre-race buildup, everybody is confident that Michael Schumacher won't win. He drives for Ferrari. They are typified by being red, Italian, and having millions of loud annoying fans all over the world (the tifosi- which is where the word typhoid comes from, an insidious and painful fever). The tifosi secretly wish that their star driver wasn't German but will never admit that...until he starts losing. After the first three GP's of 2005, you can already hear the Italian's stinky tabloids warming up...
It's also the dawn of a new era. Qualifying now involves aggregate times spread over Saturday and Sunday, because it was apparent that F1 fans were starting to understand what was going on too much and this had to be stopped, because knowledge is power. Tyre changes are no longer allowed so as to provide more overtaking. So, at the end of the race, the person with the least buggered tyres will not fall off the track as often and go less slower than everybody else. And finally, teams are forced to make the same engines last for two races instead of just one, in the interests of costs. That's right, the teams now have to spend three times as much money to develop an 18,000rpm engine that will go just as fast as last years' engine, and for longer. Then it explodes. Then the mechanics (see above) are paid even more to pick up the one billion smouldering pieces.
Maybe that's why I like F1. Every year, the administrators try to completely bollocks up a perfectly good sport, and the engineers still find ways of making it entertaining. Enough of my blab...more piccys....
or maybe it's this way (cue hilarious Benny Hill- type music)
Mark Webber (or "Webbo" as I affectionately call him, usually before he hits me in the face and says, "stop calling me that, you annoying little man") pokes his tongue out at me. At me!!!
I'm smiling because nobody noticed that I shoved a fuel rig into the back of my pants.
Mmm...shiny things. These are the front wing thimgummydoodads. They provide downforce to the front which increases grip from the blah blah blah. They must work better when you stack one on top of the other.
Advertising signage is strategically placed to subliminally inform the thirsty driver to drink the right product after the race. Since F1 drivers are not known for their intelligence, some have been seen sipping on an ice cold Mobil 1 on the rocks
Post race socialising. Here's me with Richard Burns, legendary British rally champion. Burnsy and I go back a long way, don't we Martin? Er, I mean...Richard...Burnsy