- A funny thing happened on my way to the grid
A funny thing happened on my way to the gridMaurice Hamilton June 5, 2013
Sometimes, it's better not to listen to the boss. Adrian Newey should have ignored Dietrich Mateschitz when the Red Bull owner started banging on about F1 tyres rather than fizzy drinks. 'This has nothing to do with racing anymore,' moaned Mateschitz. 'This is a competition in tyre management.'
So, Newey takes himself off to Silverstone last weekend to race a Lamborghini for fun and forget about F1's latest tyre squabble. And what does he do? Shunts the thing into the wall on the parade lap while…er…managing his tyres.
How embarrassing must that be for a man who really cares about the flowing lines of a racing car, only to trail into the pit lane with a smashed nose in the air and a metaphorical tail between his legs. When he talked in the past about reprofiling aerodynamic surfaces, I don't think this is what Adrian meant. And I can hardly bring myself to mention that the car was running on tyres made by…yep, you've guessed, Pirelli.
Newey is not alone in screwing up on the way to the grid. Adrian was in residence at Williams in 1995 when David Coulthard managed to spin during the parade lap at Monza. And no less a pillar of prudence than Alain Prost came pirouetting down the hill and into retirement at Imola while heading for the grid in 1991.
Mind you, none of this compares to an incident at the Phoenix Park races in, I think, 1977. Before describing events that day, let me put a bit of perspective on this temporary circuit in Dublin by telling you they stopped practice because the Papal Nuncio, who resides inside the splendid park, wanted to cross the track and go about the Pontiff's business. And I do believe they actually used a white flag for the imperious moment when the Holy vehicle purred across the racing line.
On race day, it so happened I was visiting the commentary box, perched high on perilous scaffolding, when a Boy Scout messenger scaled the ladder and handed the commentator a scrap of paper. On it was scrawled a note to the effect that a pair of spectacles had been lost in the paddock and asking, if found, that they be returned with some urgency to the driver of car 25.
At which point, I noted with some alarm that car 25 was actually on the grid below in readiness for the start of a Formula Ford race. With events in Ireland moving at what you might call a leisurely pace, we could only hope that in the intervening period between the reported loss and the message being recorded and arriving in the commentary box, the spectacles had been found and returned to their rightful owner. Then again….this was Ireland.
It was back in the days of the dummy grid, a device that did what it said on the tin by having the field gather in formation and then roll forward to the grid proper, the better to avoid having a stalled car in the middle of the pack. This, not unreasonably, assumed that each competitor would be in full command of his faculties at such a high-risk moment.
So, we have the starter wave a green flag as a signal to advance, prior to the dropping of the Irish Tricolour once the grid is finally and properly formed. Whether the driver of car 25 was colour blind or took the green to mean 'Go!' - that's assuming he saw a flag at all - I really don't know. Perhaps, in all the excitement, it was the increase in engine revs all around him that did the trick. Whatever the reason, our man gave it full wellie - and launched himself clean over the car in front.
For a moment it looked like we'd need the Papal Nuncio to make an unscheduled trip and perform unfortunate duties on the grid. How no one was seriously hurt I'll never know. And, no; I've no idea if the poor guy ever found his glasses.
Perhaps Mr. Mateschitz is right. Managing your tyres and spectacles has got nothing to do with the actual racing. Particularly if you fail to make the start.
Maurice Hamilton writes for ESPN F1 in the build-up to each Grand Prix.