There’s something wrong with my favourite sport, Grand Prix. (‘It’s boring’, I can almost hear my girlfriend chirp – no, it’s not that.)
It eats away at me every time I manage to find a spare half-hour to slump into an armchair and turn on the telly. I’ve been watching Grand Prix for years, ever since I went to see one at Silverstone circa 1991 and over the years it has grown on me, not because I’m really that into it in terms of remembering who won which race or how much ‘G’ a car pulls round a particular corner, it’s just that it allows me to switch off my brain for two hours.
The thing about watching Grand Prix is, it’s a sport made entirely for television. If you go to watch it in the flesh, you basically spend three hours standing around in the drizzle wearing ear defenders and watching some tiny blurs of colour whizz around a sliver of tarmac – you have no idea who is in what position or even when the race is over, so unless one of the drivers happens to crash on your chosen corner, you’ll get the same level of excitement standing on the road outside your house watching cars go by.
I’ve seen spectators hunched on grass bankings at the sides of Grand Prix tracks watching small portable televisions, which under any other circumstances would be like taking a UV-sunbed to the Costa del Sol.
Anyway, it’s not the thing that annoys me about Grand Prix. The thing that annoys me is team radio. For those who don’t know, these are tiny snippets of banter we’re allowed to ‘eavesdrop’ during the race. It’s meant to be a bit of gossip, except it’s about as racy as a Knitting World expose on Peruvian goat-herders.
We, the viewers, are treated to such riveting team radio titbits as: ‘Come on, try to go faster’ and ‘Driver so-and-so is going to try to overtake you’, or ‘It’s now raining’, none of which in any way add to my viewing experience. They might as well say things like: ‘Use the steering wheel to turn the car through the corners’ and ‘The big pedal on the floor makes it go faster.’
It’s useless. Completely lame. And still the commentators flash to it like it’s the equivalent of red carpet gossip on Oscar night. In a bid to add a splash of drama, they even tell us the broadcasts are delayed by about a minute. As if they contain such world-altering information that to listen to them live would fall foul of the Official Secrets Act.
Of course, very occasionally (and I do mean very) it becomes interesting, albeit by accident, like the time when one of the pit crew told a driver to move over to let a more illustrious team mate win a race or when one of the drivers lets rip with a tirade of expletives at a fellow racer but perhaps the grossest moment of all came during the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix when Australian driver Mark Webber threw up while driving in the rain behind the safety car, which, I think you’ll agree, is about as extreme as it gets. In fact, the only way it could have been more extreme is if he had been ironing a shirt in the cockpit at the same time.
He even apologised (we later learned he was gallantly driving while suffering from food poisoning). The other thing about Grand Prix is that finally, after years of pratting about with commentators, they have finally come up with a winning combination in the partnership of ex-drivers Martin Brundle and David Coulthard, both of whom talk sense instead of stating the obvious, unlike team radio.
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