Belfast Telegraph

A lot of Russian around with authors Hamilton and co at the Sochi F1 Grand Prix

By Billy Weir

When the Beeb gets something right they tend to get it very right and just such an unusual occurrence happened in the unlikely surroundings of Sochi on Sunday.

For most of us, the Russian equivalent of Portrush is no more than a pub quiz answer to where the Winter Olympics were held in 2014, but the gritters had been out and as Formula One came to town the only white stuff to be seen was the dye in Lewis Hamilton's hair.

"Storytelling is a bit of a Russian tradition," presenter Suzi Perry told us as she skulked around a library.

"Think of all those great writers who have left an indelible mark on the world of literature. I tell you what though, the stories in Formula One aren't bad either."

Hmm, really? Several made-up books were then taken from the shelves to tell us some of the great tomes being written this season but when Hamilton was on the road again with a lead of 1984 points, we shouldn't really have had great expectations.

But before paradise was lost completely and the Mercedes driver had gone with the wind, a character then turned up that was so far-fetched even E L James wouldn't inflict him upon us.

Yes, Eddie Jordan was back, not so much in fifty shades of grey but wearing every other colour as he illuminated the pit lane with beige loafers, burgundy jeans, a blue jacket and a red and white patterned shirt that from a distance gave him the appearance of having spent an evening with Hannibal Lecter.

And where there is a man in red racing hood there's a big, bad wolf just around the corner, or in this case, a tall, friendly Toto Wolff, who refused to countenance that the constructor's title was already in the bag for his Mercedes team, telling Perry, "I am just a bit sceptical with a miserable nature".

This could well sum up how we feel about Grand Prix racing at the moment, but even the stoniest of hearts couldn't have failed to have melted slightly when Jenson Button joined David Coulthard for a spot of rallycross.

This was an emotional trip for Button, the former World Champion's dad, John, a fine exponent of the pursuit and where his wee lad fell in love with motorsport, so to see him watch archive footage of his father driving was wonderful telly.

He then joined Coulthard in a VW Beetle that used to race against his dad for a few laps and by the end he was so excited and high-pitched that he sounded more like Benjamin Button and dolphins off the coast of Sochi were in turmoil.

"He's as fit as a fiddle," said Coulthard, safely returned to the grid. "He does triathlons, I don't do any of that sort of thing," he added but little did he know that his next meeting with Button would make his grid-walk go a little faster.

Running back to the grid, the strain of exercise caused his brain to malfunction with disastrous consequences as he got his not very good TV programmes of the Eighties section of his grey matter in all sorts of problems.

"I'm sorry if this looks a bit like Ask Anneka or whatever that show was," he panted.

I think I know what he meant. I mean, who of us of a certain vintage could fail to remember Michael Aspel leaping out of a helicopter in a turquoise jumpsuit? Hang on, I may be getting confused here.

Coulthard was rudely stopped getting back to the track by a dashing German, in that I mean he was running, as Nico Hulkenberg showed an incredible turn of foot to speed past Coulthard.

"I thought I was going to have to rugby tackle him, that would have been topical. Is there a German team in the World Cup? No, there isn't, there's just a Scottish team who did very well the other day," he said, and to his credit resisted the temptation to laugh at England.

Hulkenberg was to last about as long, spinning out three corners into the race and meaning the safety car was deployed, and then another Nico, Rosberg, joined him on lap eight when he broke down before four laps later Roman Grosjean decided he'd had enough too and crashed as well.

I'm not suggesting anything untoward but in the background many sinister looking black cars were arriving while all this was going on and Russian President Vladimir Putin was suddenly in attendance.

Another procession of cars was passing off with little to note until the last lap when the race for third between Mexico's Sergio Perez and Finnish pair Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen didn't end well, with the two countrymen coming together at high speed.

"I think it's just as well we don't speak Finnish," said Coulthard before we joined Bottas on his radio enquiring "what the **** did he do?" as commentator Ben Edwards pointed out that his "Anglo-Saxon is pretty good".

One Englishman is pretty good too, Hamilton, who we last witnessed at the start winning at a canter and then heading to the wee holding room before going on the stage where the autocratic ruler of an evil empire was in attendance. Nice to see Bernie Ecclestone in with Putin.

Putin, as Sochi is his toy, got to present the prizes, prompting the obligatory champagne celebration with Hamilton getting a bit carried away and catching the President with some spray.

He's a zany guy, he'll take it in his stride, he won't throw the book at him and there will be no mention of the crime and no punishment.

And I'm sure Lewis will enjoy his adventure in the wonderland of Siberia.

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