Belfast Telegraph

Channel 4 unleash Wolff pack in first F1 Grand Prix tilt

By Billy Weir

Things got off to a strong start for Channel Four's first tilt at a live Grand Prix with two of the most iconic sounds of yesteryear - Murray Walker and Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain' or the dum-dum-di-dum-didi-didi-dum-dum F1 music to the uninitiated.

Walker is one of the many pick and mix selection box of presenters Channel Four has assembled for this season after the BBC's decision to abandon the sport and sadly one of the few refugees who didn't make the trip is presenter Suzi Perry.

Instead we have a Welsh person called Jones, which is not unusual, but this one is Steve, a familiar face to Channel Four viewers, and I suppose we are grateful that it isn't Alex, or the Christine Bleakley of the valleys as I like to call her, as the Formula One Show would have simply been a cross-channel journey too far.

There are a few familiar new faces too, retired racer Mark Webber bringing a good, honest dose of Aussie mateyness to proceedings while the strangely alluring Susie Wolff, also the hanger-upper of leathers recently, making her debut in Bahrain.

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She is indeed like a dangerous animal - looks all happy, cuddly and lovely but you know that one day she could well pounce and tear you limb from limb, a bit like, well, a wolf.

Susie is Scottish but has a strange Teutonic lilt, that's the sound of her voice, not a German soft drink, which helps give that edge of scariness and gives Channel Four something money can't buy - a pink high-heeled foot in the door of Mercedes.

She is married to Toto Wolff, head honcho at Mercedes, who would allow Jones and his missus exclusive access to the garage before the start of the race for an insight into what was going on and we can now exclusively reveal that it is full of men standing around doing very little while a car goes vroom, vroom and you can't hear a thing.

In a quieter moment, David Coulthard, a refugee even the Daily Mail would welcome, had caught up with Mr Wolff, to talk about the issue dominating the sport at present - qualifying - and the impasse between teams and big-wigs.

"It's like a kick in the stomach that we are not able to sort out these rules, although I feel the kick is a bit lower and it hurts more," said the bigger, badder Wolff.

"Thank you for that very visual description of where you think that blow has been," retorted Coulthard.

"It was a kick, not a blow," came the response, before Coulthard concluded: "Either way, I've got a tear in my eye," before a discreet helmet was drawn over proceedings.

"I tell you, Susie, that Toto Wolff is a smart, intelligent, sexy man," added Jones, as we wished that Alex had made the journey after all and wondered was this the only reason that this Susie got the edge over the old Suzi so we could do this joke.

Oh, and on the subject of bad jokes, we have qualifying, and if Bernie Ecclestone wants a solution then I have one. Give the same points for qualifying as the race but coming first in qualifying means you start last on the grid thus meaning, and I know it's a crazy idea, cars will have to race and go past each other. Bernie, get the cheque in the post or pop it into my account in Panama.

Then it was time for the grid walk, old Red Bull team-mates Webber and Coulthard unleashed on suspecting drivers and such manic running about like headless chickens in search of a pot of TV gold hasn't been seen on Channel Four since Anneka Rice was jumping out of helicopters.

Thankfully neither man was wearing a turquoise jumpsuit but both had natty footwear, picked up upon by their former Red Bull boss Christian Horner, but a few nifty moves saw them lose him and before long Coulthard was hot-footing it to the commentary box where Ben Edwards, also from the Beeb, was waiting for him.

"Overtaking should be possible here, but it is not easy," said Edwards and he was right as straight from the off we were in a right old pickle as Lewis Hamilton was clattered by Valtteri Bottas at the first corner meaning Nico Rosberg disappeared into the desert dusk rarely to be seen again.

That was as good as it got really, riveted as we all were with the epic battle for 11th that the director seemed engrossed with, featuring a man with the perfect name for modern F1 racing - Magnussen. He never passes.

The boredom continued on the podium with Coulthard, now officially the world's busiest man, sent to try and prise some nuggets out of winner Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton - no mean task.

He failed, despite the protestations of Jones.

"DC joins us after a fantastic podium, thoroughly enjoyable," he said.

"Really? It was a bit flat, wasn't it?" came the reply.

And he was right, Channel Four's hunt for sporting treasure came up short in the desert. Maybe they'll kick up a storm when they get to China, but I doubt it.

Belfast Telegraph


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