The comedy of embarrassment was to the fore in 2011, with many comic situations arising from the drivers, the team bosses and not surprisingly, the broadcasters. Comedy home furnishing award has to go to David Coulthard, because when the trio of BBC broadcasters – Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard - assembled in the lounge of DC’s apartment to review the Year in F1, it looked like it had been put together by the T.K. Maxx home department, with a massive bison’s head sticking out of the wall. Anyway, here are the best comedy bits from 2011. In reverse order, of course.
10. Slips of the tongue and malapropisms have always been Eddie Jordan’s strong point and we’ve already mentioned a few in the Best of Eddie Jordan. When he mistook Vijay Mallya’s new commercial partner from the Sahara group for his brother it was painfully embarrassing but also very funny for those who love Ricky Gervaise’s style of comedy.
Calling someone the wrong name is an easy thing to do, we’ve all done it, but when that person is the most recognisable living pop star and you call them by the name of one of the other band members who died 10 years ago, it becomes a broadcasting moment. However we’ve reserved 10th place for the greatest F1 broadcaster of his generation. Working with Murray Walker for all those years clearly rubbed off just a little, because at the Brazilian Grand Prix we got this.
Martin Brundle: “Barrichello’s been on pole three times here - and so has his uncle, Ayrton Senna.”
9. More embarrassment, this time on one of DC’s track walks with the very likeable Sergio Perez. As DC is one of the most recognisable figures in F1 he can instantly gather a crowd and as they were starting out, close to the pitwall, they encountered the kind of leggy blonde that stumbles around the grid at Monaco, not really sure what an F1 car is. When introduced to the smiling Sergio she looked down on him from about 1’6” taller and said with undisguised incredulity: “Is HE a driver?” If you had a button on your TV that could deliver an instant custard pie, everyone would have pressed it.
8. There was a moment at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix when Mark Webber was cruising to an easy win under no pressure, yet for a bit of fun he had just set a new Fastest Lap – of 1:15.487. His engineer was NOT amused. “That’s another fastest lap Mark,” came the headmasterly voice on the radio, “we don’t want any more of those.” Mark then set another one, a 1:15.480 Fastest Lap and you just knew he was doing a Sebastian Vettel with two cheeky fingers up to the other side of the garage. In fact you could hear him inside the helmet going: “Reckon I didn’t hear that last radio transmission…” Then on the final lap he set a purple fastest first sector, a green Personal Best middle sector and when he flashed across the line it was a 1:15.324 Fastest Lap of the race. The timing screen isn’t normally very funny, but in Brazil it was.
7. Lewis Hamilton colliding with Felipe Massa all season long was a serious business for some and pure comedy for others. It was Massa’s (rare) turn to be penalised at the Indian GP when he failed to leave enough room for Lewis Hamilton. After the race, when Alonso, Vettel and Button met up for pre-Podium drinks – all right, water – and be given their Pirelli hats and official watches, Fernando asked what happened to Lewis. When told that he’d hit Massa, the faintest of smiles crossed his lips. However this was nothing compared to the reaction of Rowan Atkinson, who being a guest of McLaren was stood in their garage with a camera on him when the two made contact. All of a sudden Mr. Bean possessed his body and he was contorted into a model of agony and despair. Probably the same one he pulled when he wrote off his own McLaren.
6. We couldn’t have a Top Ten without Eddie Jordan featuring a couple of times. Eddie can ask long questions and short questions. Some of his long questions aren’t particularly funny, they’re just bewildering. Here’s EJ posing a question to Timo Glock after the qualifying session in Brazil: “Timo, trying to be putting a positive spin on these things at the moment what I want to ask you is – your new technical ability going forward, what are you actually going to do in design next year and the people who are in place to bring this team up to you?”
However, EJ’s best interchange was a short pithy one with Anthony Hamilton after the Indian GP.
EJ: “Anthony, I’m very confused about Lewis’s new management. In fact I’m disappointed in them. They’re not here. They should be here.”
AH: “They are here.”
EJ: Are they here?
EJ: Well, I take that back…Well…they’re not very evident.
5. Jerome D’Ambrosio didn’t make too big an impression in 2011, but he did make the second-worst pit-stop of all time, spinning his car in the pitlane at the Hungaroring as though he were a stunt driver doing a handbrake turn into a tight parking space. He didn’t lose a podium place as a result.
4. One of the most dramatic interventions in F1 in the last ten years happened at Monza for the Italian GP where Michael Schumacher didn’t want to move over and let Lewis through – or give him any kind of a gap. It was the kind of extreme defending that he’s been known for in his career, and that has got him into all kinds of trouble in the past.
Now, being a power circuit which suited the Mercedes car very well, boss Ross Brawn was hoping to pick up some good points at the Italian Grand Prix. He’s also a good mate of Race Director Charlie Whiting, so when Charlie got on the phone and said his boy was heading for a penalty if he didn’t stop horsing around, Ross could see those valuable points slipping away. It’s very rare to hear an F1 team boss take over the radio from his engineer. Even when Felipe Massa was reluctant to accept that he was slower than Fernando Alonso in Germany, it was his engineer Rob Smedley who spelt out the message. At Monza it was hilarious to hear Ross Brawn have to come on the radio twice to tell Michael that he was being a bad boy and he had to leave room.
3. Everyone loves an F1 fight, the chance of a bit of driver fisticuffs. We almost got it one year at Spa when Michael collided with David Coulthard and turned his Ferrari into a three-wheeler and came striding down the pitlane intent on having it out with the dallying Scot. Drivers in F1 are so immensely professional that road rage is rare and limited to a few sweary moments on the radio. Indeed F1 has yet to introduce a ‘bleeping’ machine on radio transmissions, so one way to make sure that your message doesn’t get broadcast to the world is to say: “My rear tyres are ****ed, I’m ****ing coming in next lap.”
Rob Smedley made a serious mistake in the controversial 2010 German Grand Prix. He should have said: “Fernando is ****ing faster than you. Do you ****ing understand? Good lad.”
This year the closest we got to a fight was a bit of manhandling between Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton after the Singapore Grand Prix – where Massa grabbed hold of Lewis and said “Good job, bro!” and Lewis replied “Don’t touch me, man!”
If only they could have been given handbags. The guy who hands out the water, watches and Pirelli caps to the podium guys after races is surely under-employed. They should get him down at the interview area to hand Luis Vuitton-sponsored handbags to any driver who’s had a bit of a contretemps and let them sort it out.
2. Norbert Vettel doesn’t strike you as a wild man, the kind to go crazy at parties, but after his son won the Monaco Grand Prix he helped create a dunking frenzy around the pool at the Red Bull hospitality unit. With the immersible Norbert around, no-one was safe, and once he was soaked in water it was just like feeding a Mogwai after midnight. Knowing what can happen around a swimming pool after a motor race Eddie Jordan must have applied an industrial strength level of adhesive to his hairpiece as a precautionary measure. Sure enough EJ was hurled in the pool and an admiring David Coulthard commented drily: “It’s holding in place amazingly well” and then all you could hear was the sound of Jake Humphrey choking back the laughter. Funnier still, EJ went to clamber out of the pool and had just reached safety when the effervescent Norbert grabbed him and hurled them both back in again. Thus confirming that Norb and Ed are ‘Barry and Paul’ the Chuckle Brothers of F1.
1. No question about this being No.1. Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel arrived in the Shanghai pitlane line astern, when to the amazement of the Red Bull mechanics, the McLaren driver decided he liked the look of their pitbox better than his own and made for the Red Bull guys. We’ve seen it happen in the past with Giancarlo Fisichella going back to the team he drove for in the previous season, but that happened in practice at the first race of the season. This was a real live race. Thankfully the Red Bull guys were able to wave him through and no harm was done. In fact Vettel gained a place as a result, so Jenson didn’t need to see the stewards about unusual tactics. It wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as two men in their 60s hurling each other into a swimming pool, but in terms of racing embarrassments it was way up there with the sainted Andrea de Cesaris.