Sunday, June 26, 2011

Glamour and controversy in Monaco

I'm writing this blog in the BBC's scorching production office in Monaco. It has huge windows and has been warming up all day long. Thankfully, EJ has just given me a very soggy cuddle and that is starting to cool me down.

The other positive is that after no lunch, the food Pete has bought for the production office is very welcome, and the cheese is awesomely tasty in the warm sun.

Anyway, I'll carry on munching and typing. My jeans are stuck to my legs with sweat, my feet ache and my forearms feel a little sunburned after being out in the heat since midday. It's now 6.50pm.

Incredible, isn't it, that for a race that lasts around two hours, we have been outside for the past seven. That's due to heading to the pit lane half hour before going on air to ensure our technical equipment is working. We then do our pre-race show, the Grand Prix itself, followed by the BBC1 post-show and the F1 Forum.

The whole idea of the F1 Forum is to give you guys the kind of insight that we simply don't have the time to give you on BBC One. Also, it's nice that it retains a little cult status by remaining behind the Red Button and online, only being accessed by those that really want to see it.

And this week I think regardless of your love for F1 it's worth a little watch: DC pleading, EJ diving (hence the soggy cuddle), the three of us walking, and Lewis complaining. Hopefully, as well as generating some headlines, it also made you laugh along the way. Take a look and do share your thoughts on here.

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One of the most controversial moments of this week's Forum was Lee McKenzie's interview with a clearly frustrated and angry Lewis Hamilton.

I'm not condoning what Lewis said specifically, in the heat of the moment, but I will say I'm always pleased to see drivers speaking their mind and being honest. We moan and groan when they are as bland as possible to avoid any potential controversy, so we mustn't be outraged when they share their honesty.

I'm sure you've had bad days at the office. Imagine leaving your desk and having a microphone being shoved under your nose. Not easy to deal with.

Anyway, back to the track. Only last week I was commenting how clean and respectful the racing has been this season: no safety cars, very few incidents and accidents. And then we see two ambulances on the track in two days.

I was very relieved to hear that Sergio Perez and Vitaly Petrov were OK. The timing screens we have at our disposal give us the drivers' timings for each sector of the lap, and for a very long time on Saturday, Sergio's simply stated "STOP" where there should have been a sector time.

It was quite a powerful image to see on the screens and a little eerie if I'm honest.

Cars are so safe these days that young drivers in the sport are sometimes accused of not being as aware about the potential dangers as they should be, and sometimes taking a more blas� attitude to the danger element compared to the era of Moss, Stewart, or even Coulthard.

However, it is quite clear that the sport itself, along with the FIA, have made huge strides in making sure the cars are strong, and the infrastructure and marshaling around the circuits is of the very highest calibre.

I must admit to being concerned that, whenever a corner generates a few incidents, some immediately question its place in a modern Grand Prix circuit. My opinion is that the sport should do all it can to make it as safe as possible without sanitizing the racing or taking away a huge part of the sport - risk. Take away the risk element and what would we have left?


The previous few paragraphs were written in the office, I've now walked to our bus, trundled to the airport, eaten some fast food (whoops!), and now I'm 493 miles and 90 minutes from home.

The plane is packed with British F1 fans whom have all had a good weekend, judging by the smiles and sun-blushed red faces all around us. We are such TV geeks on our team that I'm sitting with Robin - one of the editors - and we're listening to potential songs on our iPods to use at the end of our coverage over the next few races.

Talking of music, it was already pumping, and the dancing was in full swing as we left the Principality. One of the coolest things in Monaco is that the track by day, becomes a two-mile-long nightclub once the sun sets. Chicanes become soft-seating areas, Tabac corner turns into a cocktail bar, and Le Rascasse becomes VERY loud as party animals keep the action going 24/7.

In fact, just before we took off, EJ told me he was heading there to play on the track with his band tonight. I think I'm better off heading home for an early night tucked up in bed rather than partying with EJ.

Eddie and David were great sports on the Red Bull barge, I thought, once it was clear they were going to get wet. I particularly enjoyed David squeals as his former colleagues lobbed him in the pool, and EJ's attempted duck-dive for his glasses will live with me and the F1 Forum viewers for a long time.

I saw a few comments questioning why we were at Red Bull after the race. My answer to that is that we're there to report the stories, and that was where the story was. I promise you, standing outside a different motorhome with nothing to see but the crews packing up after a frustrating day wouldn't make such great TV. Remember when Lewis won in China? We were right with him on that day too.

Anyway, with Adele's new album (brilliant!) helping to remove the considerable adrenaline from my bloodsteam, and an airline G&T starting to take effect, I'm beginning to feel a little weary. It's time for a power nap.

I'll first sign off by saying, on behalf of the whole team, how proud and delighted we were to win a Bafta last Sunday.

I know the job looks glamorous, and it certainly can be at times. However, there are plenty of airport queues, late nights in the edit and hairy moments behind the scenes as we try to push the envelope of live TV to the limit.

Plenty of the BBC crew travel to each race and never even see a car on track. For that reason, the Bafta is very much dedicated to them, their professionalism, companionship and talent.

Have a great week, thanks for the Tweets and see you all in Canada.


Hermann Lang Claudio Langes Nicola Larini Oscar Larrauri GĂ©rard Larrousse Jud Larson Niki Lauda†

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