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Sports Articles: And Finally... Formula 1

And Finally... Formula 1
Image from: formula1.com

And Finally.....Formula 1

 

As it is the summer and football is taking a break, I thought it was time to look at a few other sports for some anecdotes over the next couple of weeks, starting with Formula 1 motor racing.

Back in 1975, the US Grand Prix was taking place in Watkins Glen, and Jacques Laffite was driving for Williams at the time and not having a good weekend in his Cosworth powered car. Laffite had qualified just 21st, though ahead of his team mate Lella Lombardi (the only woman to get a top ten finish) who was 24th. To make matters worse Laffite managed to enact the kind of scene usually only seen in a comedy film, one of those that you can see coming a mile away but it makes you laugh all the more for that. See, or not see in Laffite's case as it turned out, Laffite had a routine prior to starting a race which consisted of cleaning his helmet visor with a strong cleaning fluid and then, due to his contact lenses, he would water his eyes with lens fluid. I am sure you already know the plot of this one and yes he did get them mixed up and squirted cleaning fluid in his eyes and was forced to withdraw from the race as he was unable to see at all. Just to round out the day for Frank Williams, Lombardi's car had a problem with the transmission and she also had to pull out of the race.

Some of the best F1 anecdotes surround current Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen, who is not known for mincing words, such as when asked live on ITV by Martin Brundle in 2006 at the Brazilian Grand Prix why he had missed a ceremony in which Pele presented Michael Schumacher with a lifetime achievement award. Raikkonen simply replied, "I was having a shite." That was also the year when his McLaren-Mercedes broke down at the Monaco GP and he just went off and straight into the jacuzzi on his yacht still dressed in his racing overalls. It must be said, for Kimi that was a lengthy interview reply, as he is the man who was told in a post qualifying interview that he had set the fastest ever lap in the sport's history and he simply replied, "OK." Kimi once entered a speedboat race dressed a gorilla under the name of "James Hunt".

Possibly the strangest story in F1 motor racing was that of Hans Heyer, a fairly successful touring and sports car racer in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Heyer decided to enter his home grand prix at Hockenheim in 1977 in the second car of new German team ATS. The Penske-built chassis was slow and Heyer had little experience in single-seaters, which meant he failed to qualify, in the days when there were more cars than spaces on the grid. As first reserve, Heyer's car was prepared just in case anyone dropped out. As a regular at the circuit, Heyer knew a few of the marshals and managed to get them to look the other way as he slipped his car onto the back of the grid. The race started with Heyer taking part, but a problem with his gearbox forced him to pull over after 9 laps, just as the organisers realised he was taking part and put out the black flags to disqualify him. He is the only ever driver to get a DNQ, DNF and DSQ in the same race.

Drivers were better known for the sexcapades they enjoyed in the past, when life expectancy was very short and so consequences were rarely considered. For instance James Hunt reportedly bedded 33 British Airways stewardesses at the Tokyo Hilton on the eve of winning the World Championship. He even had a badge sewn on his overalls that read: "Sex, the breakfast of champions", and his career was ended when his driving was affected by being permanently drunk and high on cannabis and cocaine, even while racing. Alain Prost blamed his failure to win the 1984 world championship because he had been up all night taking care of Princess Stephanie of Monaco's needs before one of the races.

Ayrton Senna was the first of the new breed of professional racing drivers, who were more focused on their career than enjoying the rock-star life. He even gave groupies his teammate Gerhard Berger's room number when they asked for his. Berger was extremely happy with that particular habit of Senna's! But they sometimes still do let their hair down, such as when Jenson Button's interviews after the 2009 Australian GP had to be postponed because he was 'busy' with his then-girlfriend Jessica Michibata in the Brawn hospitality unit. There are still a few personalities left on the grid, such as Sebastian Vettel who was asked after his first GP win if it was the best day of his life. He replied: "You obviously weren't there when I lost my virginity."

What is an odd coincidence is that there are only two occasions that a Formula 1 race was intentionally disrupted by someone invading the track and both times Ruben Barrichello won the race. The first time was in 2000 at the German Grand Prix when an upset former Mercedes employee decided to protest against his sacking. His intervention went a long way towards stopping Mercedes-powered McLarens from winning, as a safety car sent out to allow them to get him off the track bunched the field up while they were in a comfortable lead. The second time was at Silverstone in 2003 when a kilt-wearing Irish priest popped up on Hangar straight forcing cars to take avoiding action at 150mph! A marshal tackled him and dragged him away, while Barrichello drove to what is considered the greatest victory of his career.

Speaking of coincidences, the last two British drivers to win the World Championship, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, won their first titles at the Brazilian GP, in 2008 and 2009 respectively. They both drove a Mercedes-engined car with the number 22 to a 5th place finish to clinch the title.

Somehow Giancarlo Fisichella struggled with merely lining up in the correct grid spot. At the 2001 Malaysian GP he arrived after the parade lap and parked up on the wrong side of the grid. When he realised his error he tried to move to the correct spot only to grind to a halt in the middle of the two columns of cars, facing the wrong way entirely! To make matters worse he once again repeated his error at the Malaysian GP two years later, this time he was able to maneuvre to the correct grid slot, only to stall the engine and have to retire from the race. Fisichella finally got it right in 2006 when he took his third and last-ever Formula 1 win at Sepang.

Written by Tris Burke June 18 2019 11:09:20