Belfast Telegraph

The only man in top gear was King Lewis, the prince rainier of Monaco

By Billy Weir

You knew it was going to be one of those strange days when Sky's coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix began with three men roaring off the grid on Vespas.

Perhaps a TV station had seen sense and decided to team up say Jeremy Clarkson with perhaps Richard Hammond and James May for some jolly motoring-based japes, politically incorrect innuendoes and diplomatic time-bombs, and maybe called it something like Top Gear?

No such luck. This was to give us an up close and personal look at Monte Carlo's streets with presenter Simon Lazenby and his two biking buddies, Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert, where their efforts were reviewed by Damon Hill - "It was sort of Quadrophenia meets Alan Partridge". And Chris Evans thought his reviews were scathing…

But if there's something we all love more than a fast motor, and definitely love more than the new Top Gear, it's a moan about the weather and Lazenby obliged.

"Welcome to a soggy harbour, in hindsight suede loafers were not the call today," he said, or indeed any day, while Paul di Resta braved TV even more shocking than Matt Le Blanc perched on a balcony with his big television set that had the foresight to wear a hood.

"I feel a bit like I'm in Scotland here, not under the skies of Monaco," he said while Brundle, now released into the wilds of the grid walk, took a moment to reflect.

"Do you remember those family holidays when it rained and it was a bit glum? That's what Monaco looks like except it's going to get exciting anytime soon," he said as a blue flash and a bang were heard from a balcony and a pair of smouldering tartan suede loafers and a can of Irn-Bru plopped into the harbour.

The rain hadn't helped Brundle's cause, weighed down by a brolly and struggling to find any really big names, grabbing a quick word with a couple of actors you knew but for the life of you, you can't remember their names and then bumping into that lad from One Direction. No, not Harry. Not Liam. No, not Rory McIlroy's little blonde leprechaun chum or the other one. It was Louis, but this wasn't a day for him to be king, there was a Lewis ready for that.

By now Brundle was sapping so all you need is more clouds and rain, but they came in a sunny package called Claudio Ranieri.

We learned exclusively from a dripping Fernando Alonso that the track was 'very wet', before we were stopped in our tracks for the anthem as Prince Albert braved the elements and took a break from being a cross between Penfold and Ken Reid, while Brundle trudged on to the commentary box.

There he found a chirpy and dry David Croft, who greeted his commentating cohort with the following gem: "It's greasy out there, it's greasier than a chip butty with a battered Mars Bar chaser," he joked. The response? Silence. Even Top Gear got more laughs than this.

"The harbour looks drier than the track right now, unfortunately not like me," moaned Brundle, but compared to roving reporter Ted Kravitz in short-sleeved shirt and shorts he was drier than a parched desert fox in the tumble.

The rain meant the race started behind the safety car and this didn't improve Brundle's mood one jot, barking "what are we waiting for now, Christmas?" If so, Croft was hinting at what to get him ahead of the race really starting.

"I'll cross my fingers, I would cross my toes but my blue suede shoes have gone a bit hard after being soaked earlier," he said, perhaps time to return to the mender if you want to own some tonight. I'll move swiftly on.

Which was something Nico Rosberg allowed Hamilton to do by allowing him past on lap 16, aptly referred to as 'synchronised swimming' and the multi-sports continued as he said the circuit was 'like being on a skating rink'.

And so it proved as Kevin Magnusson, just like his uncle Magnus, failed to pass a barrier as Brundle came up with an explanation as to why his "front wheels look like Bambi just after he was born".

If that was kids' stuff, what followed when leader Daniel Ricciardo's front and back wheels were left sitting in the garage as he came in for a change was definitely not, as he found Hamilton in front of him.

"I bet they had to get the bleeper machine out for his radio," said Brundle and what followed was proper racing, and not for the only time did we long for something going back to the way it used to be.

"I've been screwed, it sucks and it hurts," was Ricciardo's review, but on the weekend when the heavens opened and the Evans opined, the only man in top gear was King Lewis, the prince rainier of Monaco.

Belfast Telegraph


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