I had a most enjoyable time in Trafalgar Square (and its environs) yesterday with the F1 Live event. It was a great success, despite the requirement of total security which meant that it could not be announced more than 24 hours in advance and, for reasons that escape me, the organisers were not allowed to announce the names of the bands playing, presumably to stop the square becoming overcrowded. To be honest I only knoew one of them – The Kaiser Chiefs – as I don’t listen to the radio much and I don’t live in England.
I was around from fairly early in the day and my biggest problem was actually parking as my favourite car park in London (apart from the price) is just off Trafalgar Square and access was somewhat difficult as a result. However, after asking a series of different policemen I discovered that things were complicated buy the fact that there was a state visit in the morning by the King and Queen of Spain and the police from all over the London region had been called in to line the route. There were a different set of road closures to those in the afternoon… I was staying in the area but I could, I suppose have driven out of town and taken a train back in, but it did not seem a sensible use of time. In the end, an act of God intervened and I found an empty parking space above ground, with an easy escape route from the area and having gone through the process of paying by phone I felt comfortable that the money-grabbing Westminster City Council would not be able to charge me. The last time I was in London, they slapped a parking fine on me at 01.19 on a Sunday morning when I was parked in what I believed to be a perfectly legal space. I wrote back to them saying that it was clear that road safety was not their priority at that time of day and any council that employs people to dole out parking fines at that hour is clearing not doing it for any reason other than revenue-generation. I pointed out that there was no indication of the suspension of the parking signs as they claimed and asked them to prove the hour at which the suspension sign had been posted. That one went away…
Anyway, once that was done I could relax and enjoy the show and wandered around the various displays and bumped into lots of F1 people, including the former driver Perry McCarthy, who had turned up to have a look. The Mayor of London was there too and I sneeked into the VIP area and saw that the place was filled with race promoters from all over the world. There were in fact 19 different promoters present with only Australia, Singapore and China not represented. Yes, I know that makes 22 races but I guess the 19th was someone with a project…
After a bit of chit-chat and some Heineken 00 I decided to wander down to the F1 Paddock, which was on a back street next to the Old Scotland Yard, where most of the current F1 mob were hanging out. It must have been a nightmare to organise all of this but the pass situation was a little clumsy, although F1 people being good at workarounds, we all eventually ended up where we wanted to be by subterfuge, knowing the right people or simply being as bold as brass and walking past bemused gate people.
The health and safety people were much in evidence, looking important and shouting into radios and thus it was somewhat amusing when René Arnoux set off in the wrong direction on the course becanse the man from health and safety was busy pointing at a marshal to get them to wave a flag, which René mistook for an instruction to drive that way… Later, bless him, Daniel Ricciardo gave the fans what they wanted, which was noise, tyre smoke and doughnuts, despite everyone having beent old that doughnuts were not allowed. I went to congratulate him and he said that he hadn’t done any doughnuts but had done one of those things with cinnamon on top. Besides, he added, what is the definition of a doughnut. A classic F1 response, delivered with a big Aussie grin. Good man!
I am told that Daniel also provided the humours in the driver briefing when someone asked “Everybody here?” and he replied: “Yep, everyone apart from Lewis”.
This was a bit of a black eye for Hamilton because he really ought to have more nous than to go away from an event for his fans. It is was not a smart thing to do and while one accepts that there was a lot of free will going on from the teams to Liberty Media, there will have to be arrangements made if there are going to be seven or eight of these events each year around the world, which I believe will be happening in the years ahead. The drivers get paid a lot of money and I do not think it is unreasonable for them to give a little bit more back to the sport.
Anyway, the event was a triumph and was great for F1. When I giot back to mt car to sneak away, I found the inevitable parking ticket because Westminster Council is incapable of working its own payment system… Class.
Here are a few pictures I took.