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