It is often said that the reason that there have not been more movies about motor racing is that it is so difficult to come up with a script that is believable. In motor racing in general, and Formula 1 in particular, reality is often stranger than fiction… and that was certainly true at the weekend in Barcelona.
It was the start of the European F1 season and thus a gathering of the F1 clans which is second only to Monaco, as those who do not travel to the far-flung corners of the world got their first taste of the sport in 2012. One of the many events that I attended was a surprise celebration of Sir Frank Williams’s 70th birthday, which actually took place back on April 16. It was held on Saturday afternoon, before the FIA stewards sent Lewis Hamilton to the back of the grid, leaving Williams’s Pastor Maldonado sitting on pole position…
One of the presents that Frank received was a trophy from his daughter Claire, who is now the marketing director of Williams F1. Twenty-four hours later, Frank had two trophies, the first he has seen in the last eight years. It came courtesy of Maldonado, a man who has never been very highly-rated in F1 circles. No one ever doubted his speed, but his presence in the Williams team was deemed by everyone to be more because of his vast sponsorship from PDVSA than for his racing abilities. In one weekend Pastor completely changed the opinions of many in the sport. He drove a mature and solid race. He did not buckle under pressure from Fernando Alonso.
Agony after ecstasy
As the team celebrated after the race on Sunday, a flash fire broke out in the garage. A number of people were injured with one Williams team member suffering serious burns. More than a dozen others, from several teams, suffered from smoke inhalation, as they helped the Williams team fight the fire. It was a stark illustration of the ups and downs of Formula 1, which produces its pain, and at the same time, it’s magic. Many in F1 had lost hope that Williams would win a race again.
It is a magical year in F1. Each race is filled with mysteries, excitement and more than a little magic. There are no patterns. One arrives at a Grand Prix today filled with expectation, but with very little idea of what is going to happen.
Who could have predicted a Ferrari, a Williams or a Mercedes winning races? And how long will it be before we see a Sauber or a Lotus winning? This is just what F1 needs to keep attention where it should be: on the race track.
A sport filled with surprises is a healthy sport. We have had five races and five different winners, from five different teams. The sport has been down in the dumps with all the bad publicity in Bahrain and we have now enjoyed the uplifting return of one of the sport's favourite teams. The racing has been spectacular and the World Championship is wide open. These are the good times... Let’s enjoy them.
The writer has covered every Grand Prix for the last 25 years.