Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Billy on the Box: Button swoon... F1 is great

MONTREAL, CANADA - JUNE 12: Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren celebrates on the podium after winning the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 12, 2011 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

First there was the Queen, then there was Tom Elliott and now it’s my turn. I’m not apologising, but can I say I’m sorry for any hurt in saying that Formula One racing was the most boring thing on the planet.

Now, I’m sure the Canadian Grand Prix was purely a temporary blip and normal tedious, boring, monotonous service will resume in a couple of weeks time at the disconcertingly vague European Grand Prix, but if I was Bernie Ecclestone I’d stay over in the land of the moose.

Clearly he has taken my suggestions on board for races to be held in a monsoon, although the mooted move to Larne had to be put on the backburner as there isn’t enough Inversoft in the world to mop up the rain there.

What a day, unforgettable stuff, and that was just the BBC team who finally came of age when forced to fill three hours with pictures of puddles.

You knew it was going to be good when Jake Humphrey was talking about bravery of drivers, but nothing to Eddie Jordan as the camera panned down to see he’d turned up in white jeans. That’s brave.

In the McLaren garages, Jake told us Lewis Hamilton has always done ‘traditionally well’ in Canada but after a disappointing practice they were pondering what else they could do to the car — what about big bumpers right around it and maybe a flashing light?

The clouds were looming more than Martin Brundle on his pit squelch saying ‘we’re going to be as welcome as a toothache on the grid today’ — just as well your molars were in working order because they were going to be well used and as the cars made their way onto the track, Eddie confidently predicted “I think the clouds have just lifted.” I think Angie Phillips and Cecilia Daly will sleep soundly in their beds.

“The national sport here is ice hockey, but one weekend a year something else arrives that’s equally ferocious and equally exciting,” promised Jake just before the start — and leaves you wetter than a snowman sitting beside a Superser.

And so we were off. Slowly. Martin had to apologise that the race started behind the safety car. It’s okay, we’re hardly likely to see it again. Or indeed anything, because there was more spray than a slurry-spreading convention.

Lap five and Hamilton tangled with Mark Webber. He learned his lesson though, he won’t do that again. Well, not until lap eight when he clipped Jenson Button. You’d almost think he didn’t want to be there and went back to the garage where Rihanna (with her umbrella) was waiting. Hmmm, suddenly things become clearer.

But not on the track, McLaren were expecting ‘low intensity rain’. From where I was it was, as they say in Ballymena, not low intensity but passion aplenty.

Lap 20 and we were off the track again, this time for over two hours. “Health and safety gone mad?” pondered Brundle. No, Martin, they can’t see, as the rain reached intensity level two and Montreal ark builders reported an upturn in business.

And so began some of the best telly of the year, Brundle and Coulthard talking nonsense, with the occasional interjection from Eddie, who also felt the safety car was getting far too much use.

“People sitting at home wondering if these are the best drivers in the world, why are they not out there, well as far as I’m aware none of them are stunning potential America’s Cup captains,” Coulthard added helpfully as boats kept sailing past the side of the track wondering if they should switch course.

Back to the garages where Hamilton was giving his excuses about why he’d hit Button, saying he was almost past him.

“If that was halfway, I’m not sure I’d want to share my chocolate bar with him if we were going halfers,” added DC before we had one of the more surreal exchanges between a commentary duo with pictures of a blackbird with a red bit.

“That looks like the red-shouldered blackbird to me,” announced a confident Coulthard before being corrected by ‘people twittering in saying it was a red-winged blackbird. Do birds have shoulders?”

“The grey-shouldered seagulls are loving it,” added Brundle helpfully, as Bill Oddie swore at the TV.

And then a miracle. No, not a blue-shouldered bird, action resuming, albeit with a few more safety cars before the final 10 laps that were just like how Formula One used to be, fast and furious over-taking manoeuvres, commentators going mad and a last lap mistake by a German giving a brave Brit the win.

Carlsberg don’t do F1 races, but clearly Labatts/Molson (other Canadian beverages are available) do.

Any wonder that Eddie said at the end he was ‘stuck to the seat’. Thankfully the camera didn’t pan down again.

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