Formula One Handbook 6
The Times, 8th March, 2003
Transcribed by Daragh Breen
© 2003 Times Newspapers Limited
Never Mind The Bollards...
by Alex Rees
He may be an unlikely Formula One fan, but John Lydon is in love with the thrill of Grand Prix racing.
priest of punk, pillar of the anti-establishment, the man who spat out
the words to Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen, is a fan of the
world's most money-gobbling, quintessentially capitalist sport in the
world. And he means it, maaan. The former Sex Pistols frontman's love
affair with football and, in particular, Arsenal is well known, but his
recently-discovered interest in Formula One has, until now, been less
well advertised. "Formula One makes perfect nonsense sense,"
Lydon says. "The first time I watched a race, it was that the outcome
of the race was determined by strategy and pitstop delays that was so
Lydon - perhaps still thought of as Johnny Rotten to fortysomethings around the world - is a recent convert to Formula One, having only switched on in 2001. "I was watching the Speed Channel, when I stumbled across the coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix," he explains. "I think it was the qualifying session that got me interested. "It was Jordan's yellow shark car that caught my eye," he says. "It seemed like an excellent fairground attraction, tinkering amongst the dead-pan seriousness of the rest of the teams."
From admiring the Jordan team on TV, Lydon, who now lives in Long Beach, California, has struck up a friendship with Eddie Jordan, the charismatic team owner. "We first met on a sort of blind date situation. We met at an Irish pub in Indianapolis in 2002. We talked about music all night like complete anoraks. What I like about E. J. is that he is a real person. He has a professional attitude, but he has managed to avoid becoming what I call "a professional arsehole". He means business, and like any Irishman, he doesn't miss out on the laughs along the way... but he doesn't get to call me mate until he buys me a ship as big as the one he owns." The US Grand Prix at Indianapolis last year was Lydon's first visit to a race, where he based himself with the Jordan team. "I made sure that I saw everything and made myself known all over the place," he laughs. "I was quite pleased when E. J. hunted me down after the qualifying session to show me a video of him performing Pretty Vacant with his band at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He also introduced me to Nikki Lauda as the 'person that turned the music industry on its head'. Nikki just nodded and said 'good'. "I thought Indianapolis was a brilliant race and a great venue.
In the USA, Formula One is not a main-league sport, and it is seriously underpromoted, so you have to catch it when you can on TV, or go and see it live, which is well worth it. "I think Monaco is the ultimate race to see live, and I definitely want to experience it. Malaysia is the maddest airport car race in the world, all under the shade of a big umbrella. I'd only attend that race if it rained. It would be too boring in the dry." His friendship with Jordan meant he was invited to the team's HQ at Silverstone, where he sat in Takuma Sato's car. "The car had obviously had Sato's seat fitted in, but it still seemed like a good idea that I had a go in it, despite the fact that he is a very small man," Lydon explains. "I got in, looked at all the gadgets, but once I tried to get out of the cockpit, it became apparent that I had become wedged in to the seat. Sato's seat deformed my bottie! I had to be crane lifted out. "Sitting in Sato's car is the closest I have got to being a racing driver, though. I've raced go-karts a few times, and I have my PlayStation 2.
Last week, I raced Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack and CART star Brian Herta on my PlayStation 2 - that seems real enough for me right now." With the significant changes to be introduced in the sport, Lydon is well aware that this year is a significant one for Formula One. "Schumacher is an exceptional man," he said. "It is not simply his driving, but his engineering abilities and his calculating style that has no fault. It is as if he is part of the car, part of the engine itself. "But, as good as Schumacher and Ferrari are as a team, Formula One needs the changes that have been put in place. Qualifying will be more interesting, and the remote-control racing that has basically taken over the sport will be all over and the parade will become more of a spectacle.
The drivers and engines will be able to excel... or they'll be relegated to join Arrows." "Ferrari, McLaren and Williams win and win, but Formula One mustn't overlook the importance of the minnow teams. We need teams like Minardi. A one-horse race is a hard thing to sell. "Formula One was and perhaps still is, in danger of losing all its character. I think Eddie Irvine will be seriously missed this season. Real characters are the backbone of the industry. And despite the fact that he's a mate, Eddie Jordan and his team and their ethos are essential to the welfare of F1. It would have been awful to see the Formula One 2003 season starting without them. Without out the Eddies Irvine and Jordan, and without teams like Jordan and Minardi, Formula One becomes a bit pointless to humans. It loses all its personality and is simply mechanical."
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