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THE PROOF FORMULA 1 IS DEAD
Reviewed by PAUL ROLFE
I was in the Greek resort of kos on holiday and desperate not to miss the race. I had laid the foundations several days before we left for our annual holiday.
I had told my wife that for three hours or so on the Sunday afternoon she would have to look after the kids, put up with their constant requests for ice-cream and nagging to accompany them on the water slides.She was not happy but she understood.
Every year I have put my foot down and insisted that whatever else others have planned for my time, I'm watching the Monaco Grand Prix. Nothing else is more important. It is set in stone.
Once we arrived at the resort I started to do my ground work Where would be the best place to watch it? It needed to be kid-free, serve alcohol and have a good sized television with a good picture. Preferably with English commentary. I was surprised to find that as I asked around the local hotel no one seemed to know what I was talking about. I tried sign language and even resorted to high pitched sounds of a revving racing car. I think I just confused them!
I decided to venture outside the hotel and headed off down to a Tavernier that advertised football, golf and, joy of joys, F1.
I asked the bar owner if he would be showing this great sporting event and he just shrugged and said he would try to see if he could get it on his TV.
By now it was obvious the Greeks do not share the rest of Europe's appetite for the premium event of the motor sport calendar. As the clock ticked towards the start of the race I began my search in earnest for a place to watch. I returned to my Tavernier, he recognised me but shook his head "sorry my friend we cannot get it on this TV".
I began to panic. It was now just half an hour before the start of the race and I could not find anywhere that was showing it. I returned to the hotel and I wandered aimlessly around the bars within the complex when, out of the blue, I spotted a ray of hope. Some Greek chaps seemed to be struggling to get a cable to the big television in the cocktail bar. I stopped and watched. As I did I knew I'd hit the jackpot.
People started to come into the room. First just a few but then ten, twenty, then fifty. Eventually, with just fifteen nminutes to go, over 100 people were pulling up seats and staring at the white noise on the television. then w
With just seven minutes left a cheer went up as we finally saw pictures of the drivers lined up on the grid, covered by umbrellas and surrounded by their colourful teams. I used this opportunity to glance around the room and assess the make-up of the crowd. I realised that the majority were Italians who were in the hotel for some kind of security conference and had slipped away from whatever they were supposed to be doing to watch the great event. There were maybe twenty English, fifteen Germans, ten Spanish, ten Belgians and a couple of French. Also, of course, there were the rather uninterested Greek bar staff.
The tension was building with only two minutes to go it was a real buzz to be amongst a crowd of knowledgeable Grand Prix fans whose excitement was about to explode with the screaming engines and the frantic grid activity. "5-4-3-2-1-go-go-go" as Murray Walker used to say. They were off. Everyone was glued to the screen waiting for the drama that can only be replicated at this great street circuit.
It was just after the first corner that the room seemed to deflate. There was no drama ,no action, not even a wheel touching incident. Not to worry; our new man Hamilton would push Alonso to the limit; this was going to be a cracker! - but within just a couple of laps the procession started to become boring, I found myself looking around the room observing how the rest of our European friends were enjoying the spectacle. Already I noticed a few of the crowd had started to slip away looking uninterested and bored. Surely not the Italians though? Alas, they seemed to be talking amongst themselves, occasionally glancing at the screen but gradually one by one, then in groups of two and three, they started to leave.
The race was only seven laps old and already the room was half empty. My thoughts turned to my wife. I wondered how she was coping with the demands of the kids trying to drag her into the pool and knew she would rather be engrossed in her book. I decided to compromise and leave for a few moments to give her some relief, planning to return very shortly to retake my seat right at the front by the television.
Once I hit the sunlight the urgency of my return seemed to recede. I spent the next twenty minutes playing with my offspring in the pool and another twenty drying off.
Time to return I thought, it should be about time for the pit stops and this is where it all changes. Suddenly thinking I may miss something I started to rush back to the cocktail bar, I need not have bothered, nothing had changed, Hamilton had fallen further behind and there seemed to be no change at all to the running order although this was difficult to establish from the monotone Greek commentary.
However the most disturbing thing of all was the fact that the room was virtually empty - just three people remained. A chap in a Lampard England shirt, his mate who was talking to him and not even looking at the action and a German chap who was confined to his wheelchair and was now able to take up pole position in front of the screen with no obstructions from anyone or anything.
It was at this point I knew Formula 1 was dead. There is no longer anything that can be done to revitalise this once great but now dying sport. I fought my feelings for a moment, guilty that I could even think that it was true.
I tried to watch a few more laps but I was missing out on my tan and I really felt that I knew what was going to happen anyway. I left and returned to my sunbed by the pool Later that evening I spotted the German chap in the wheelchair and asked if he had stayed to watch the result.
"Yes, just me," he said.
"How did it finish?" I asked.
"Alonso" he replied.
"Hamilton?" I asked".
"The same as it started," he said and wheeled himself off looking distinctly uninterested.