Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Billy on the Box: Not such a happy day for Martin in Monaco

It's all fun and games in Monaco until someone loses a microphone

You know that a commentator is struggling to inject life into a dull event when he has to resort to constantly mentioning the weather.

David Croft, Sky’s F1 man with the microphone, was to fall into this trap on Sunday as the Monaco Grand Prix went round and round the streets of Monte Carlo like a wee silver ball unable to find somewhere to park on a roulette wheel.

Like gardeners across the land, Croft was desperate for a bit of rain to try and bring the green shoots of recovery to a spectacle that was withering away but with no Cecilia Daly or Angie Phillips to be found, he had to resort to Plan B — B for bovine.

“What you need to do is find a field of cows and stand in the middle of it and see what they’re doing,” he said, as you sensed Martin Brundle having had to endure the madness of the grid, was in no mood for cattle.

“The trouble is the weather’s coming over the sea at the moment and you’re not going to get a load of cows on a boat here in Monaco,” Croft continued, although his last comment is a moo-t point. Apologies for that.

There may be no cows but there are bulls, red ones, and they were to dominate proceedings thanks to the efforts of Aussie racer Mark Webber who clinched victory by grabbing pole position the previous day and it’s easier to take a cow upstairs than try and overtake in Monaco.

You just can’t get them off the pedalos.

Not like in the good old happy days of Grand Prix, back in the Seventies where the action was much more exciting, although in fairness there was a good chance an overtaking manoeuvre could end up with you in a fireball, but health and safety has just gone mad.

Natalie Pinkham (surely she could have changed her name to beef?) met up with Ron Howard, who is currently making a movie of the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda and wasted no time in plugging it, as heifers on Hugh Hefner’s yacht in the harbour grew restless of any friend of big Al’s being in town.

But Richie Cunningham soon made way for the main man all dressed in black, as Brundle, minus leather jacket, took us onto the grid for the usual mayhem and madness.

“This place has the highest life expectancy of anywhere in the world at 90 and the lowest unemployment rate of 0 per cent — although there are a few unemployed racing drivers here I thought,” he started. Don’t be silly, they’re all on Sky.

And the stars came and went — Antonio Banderas, Eric Clapton, Jools Holland and Martin Fassbender, the only time a bend was taken fast all day, until the rain came and for eight brief laps things got interesting.

Croft, cows safely sent off to see, switched to canines as “Lewis Hamilton, like some very keen police dog, is sniffing all over the back of that Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel as he picks up the scent of fourth place,” but the German safely shepherded his car home.

Team-mate Webber took first though and what a nice touch by the people of the principality to appoint a Princess Charlene to honour their Aussie winner although celebrating by spraying everything with Fosters was a step too far.

But even more unwelcome moistness was to come for Brundle, sent onto the bovine-free Red Bull boat to speak to Webber by the pool. What could possibly happen next?

Yes, in he went, microphone and all, although he expertly lobbed it out to Webber who then proceeded to interview himself as Brundle clambered out looking a little less Fonz-like and ready to throttle someone.

“Eddie Jordan offered me a shirt but I said I’d rather have pneumonia,” he concluded leaving us all to wonder if the water was Friesian.

I’ll get my coat.

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