“‘Will you do a pho­to­shoot for our front cover, wear­ing a Union Jack suit?’ asked

F1 Racing (UK) - - FINISHING STRAIGHT -

I’m a ham at heart, so I said yes. That was in April 2000, four years af­ter F1 Rac­ing had launched and gone on to achieve in­ter­na­tional suc­cess, sell­ing in 15 coun­tries in ten dif­fer­ent lan­guages. How­ever, that it would ring the sales bell with enthusiasts all over the world was by no means a fore­gone con­clu­sion, so hats off to its pub­lisher, Hay­mar­ket, for hav­ing the courage to en­ter such a spe­cialised and com­pet­i­tive mar­ket with a glossy monthly mag­a­zine.

I’ve been writ­ing this col­umn with its long dead­lines for eight years, and I can tell you that in to­day’s world of in­stant on­line in­for­ma­tion, fol­lowed up at length by the full story in weekly mag­a­zines, I’ve spent many an hour ag­o­nis­ing about find­ing some­thing to say that won’t be old news or in­cor­rect by the time it is be­ing read.

But F1 is never short of ex­cite­ment and there have been plenty of sto­ry­lines for me. Num­ber one with­out a doubt was the bril­liant day I had at Sil­ver­stone, be­ing driven in the one-off twoseater F1 Mclaren by my ITV com­men­tary-box part­ner Martin Brun­dle. The unique Mclaren had been built to give peo­ple an ex­pe­ri­ence of what it is like in an F1 car at gen­uine rac­ing speeds and, boy, did it do it! When the big day came, I was strapped into a space be­hind Martin, be­fore un­der­tak­ing three mind-blow­ing laps of the great cir­cuit which has been so much a part of my life. Over 190mph down the Han­gar Straight, mas­sive G-forces around the cor­ners, and ac­cel­er­a­tion and brak­ing that were lit­er­ally gut-wrench­ing. It was wet and when we came in Martin said: “That wasn’t very ex­cit­ing. If it’s dry af­ter lunch we’ll go out again.” And we did. For an­other five laps, at the end of which I was com­pletely shat­tered. Those five laps, dur­ing which we were alone on the track, took about seven and a half min­utes, whereas an ac­tual race of wheel-to-wheel com­bat lasts for some 90 min­utes. F1 driv­ers re­ally are su­per­men.

Not all my F1 Rac­ing ex­pe­ri­ences were as happy, though. I once brashly wrote that Sauber were there to make up the numbers and that I wouldn’t know their de­signer, Willy Rampf, if he rode through my study on a uni­cy­cle. It was a silly and un­jus­ti­fied thing to say and to this day I don’t know why I did it. It gave great of­fence to the charm­ing Peter Sauber, who went around the pad­dock at Sepang col­lect­ing as many copies of F1 Rac­ing as he could find, and putting them in the bin, and who had a frank and fearless dis­cus­sion with me about his point of view. I felt about two inches tall and bit­terly re­gret­ted what I’d said. Can’t win them all, I sup­pose.

But what a roller coaster of a ride it has been for F1 Rac­ing read­ers. You’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the dom­i­nance of Michael Schu­macher and Fer­rari, the rise and fall of Re­nault, the un­ex­pected down­fall of Mclaren, a pri­vate team in the form of Red Bull dom­i­nat­ing them all, the amazing Brawn story, the emer­gence of Fer­nando Alonso, Lewis Hamil­ton, Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Max Ver­stap­pen, and three Bri­tish cham­pi­ons – Da­mon Hill, Jen­son But­ton and Lewis Hamil­ton, plus the crush­ing su­pe­ri­or­ity of Mercedes.

All this and the cut and thrust, hurly-burly and po­lit­i­cal shenani­gans of For­mula 1. You might think that it is dif­fi­cult to fill over 100 pages 12 times a year, but such is the va­ri­ety of hu­man and tech­ni­cal ac­tiv­ity in For­mula 1 that this mag­a­zine does it – and I’m proud to be a part of it. So very well done to the F1 Rac­ing team, past and present. Happy Birth­day!

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