The show must go on… despite the downpours
So it rained in Malaysia. Of course it did, it always rains in Malaysia and I often think that the easiest job for any TV Presenter would be to become a weather forecaster for one of the stations in Kuala Lumpur. Every day it would be a case of…“Well it’s going to be hot today, with rising humidity and a high chance of thundery showers in the mid to late afternoon.”
So it’ll come as no surprise to you all to learn that for the third year in a row it rained in qualifying on the Saturday in Sepang and that had the race started at 5pm instead of two hours earlier, we’d have had rain during the Grand Prix as well.
And when it rains at the track, it comes down hard. Unwelcome in the race and even more so in qualifying as it invariably leads to a Red Flag. Which means that for Martin Brundle and I, we’ve got a bit more talking to do, Not a problem, after all, there’s always something to say, and when you’ve got the marathon Canadian Grand Prix of 2011 on your CV, nothing’s going to be as long as that in the future, surely? I was with Karun Chandhok that day on Radio 5-Live whilst Martin and DC were talking over on BBC TV. During the long break we could see one of the more surreal F1 moments as Lewis Hamilton escorted Rhianna around for an exclusive tour of the McLaren garage and yes, I do believe she brought her Um-ber-ella with her.
I actually get a lot of questions from fans asking whether we struggle when we get long delays because of rain, or an accident, and the answer is always no. The reason for that is because whilst it’s Martin and I doing the talking, behind the scenes we’ve got an army, or in really big thunderstorms, flotilla, of brilliant producers making sure we don’t fall off air. In the case of Malaysia that extends to our technical staff who were all sporting, so I’m told, some concerned looks on their faces the minute the forked lightening started coming down.
They weren’t the only ones worried by the thunder and lightning. Even Fernando Alonso was a touch startled as a particular big clap struck overhead whilst he was talking to Rachael Brooks in the media pen.
Meanwhile back in the Commentary Box, Martin and I were now in full swing, keeping viewers informed as to just how bad the conditions were and how likely it was that we were going to get any action in the next few minutes. We reflected on what we’d seen so far, McLaren losing both cars in Q1 for the second race running, Kimi Raikkonen getting held up by the Sauber and missing Q3, we had a feeling that was going to be pretty costly for the race even at that stage.
From time to time we’d head down to Ted Kravitz, busy getting all the stories in the pit lane as usual and by this time wearing his new trainers rather than the usual Sandals. He’s a fashion statement all of his own is that man and trust me, has feet that look like a Zebras stripes after wearing them in the sunshine of Malaysia for a week. And just as you’d expect us to be running out of things to say, we’d hand to an interview with one of the drivers already knocked out. Remember that army of producers, well they’d all been very busy and now we had lots of interviews to see whilst the rain continued. It’s one of the beauties of working with a broadcaster of the standard of Sky, you instantly know you’re in good hands in situations like this.
It wasn’t the first time of course that Martin Brundle and I have been called into action to wax lyrical whilst the rain falls. Only once has there been anything resembling a problem and that was all my own fault. I basically forgot one of the unwritten rules of a Commentator, the one about making sure you go to the toilet just before you go on air. Otherwise you might just get caught a bit short. Which I did and with my best apologetic face on I had to inform Martin he was on his own for a few minutes whilst I legged it as fast as I could to the nearest gents.
Talking of running quite quickly, nothing could ever compare to the downpour at Monza that punctuated the weekend of Sebastian Vettel’s first race win in 2008. It was during the biggest one of all on the Friday afternoon that we discovered the BBC Radio Commentary Box had a hole in the roof, through which many litres of water were now flooding through. It was when that water had started to form a pool around 3 inches deep all around our technical equipment, all plugged in of course to a power socket that was badly in need of a wet suit, that we decided ‘live’ radio was fun, but we weren’t prepared to go ‘live’ in that moment.
But back to Sepang and as you can see Simon, Johnny and Bruno were enjoying some pineapple based fun at Pirelli. We crossed over to the guys before Q3 started, just to give us a couple of moments to prepare for the final part of qualifying. A Q3 that with Sebastian Vettel reaching the front row alongside Lewis Hamilton, set the scene for a brilliant race to come.
Which of course you’re fully aware of, unless you’re one of the few that tweeted me to say that they were done with Formula 1 and were never going to watch it again. Those that mourned the death of Formula 1 after Australia were forced to eat their words after 56 laps of breath taking excitement. It never surprises me, although I suspect that it should, that this sport has the capacity to deliver some of its best races just at the exact moment the vultures are circling predicting the sports demise. Remember Bahrain last season? Of course you do and I’m sure the image of former Ferrari President leaving the track in search of a piece of humble pie hasn’t been forgotten either.
The evidence from the weekend is that F1 is not dead yet and Sebastian Vettel’s first win for Ferrari might just have kick started a season long challenge for Mercedes that will push both teams to the limit. Commentators then should have plenty to talk about, whether the sun’s shining or not.