The F1 Thing
Very little can compete with Formula 1 when it comes to glitz and glamour, but what is it really like to find yourself behind the wheel? We spoke to F1 racing legend Ralph Trundle.
Hi Ralph, many thanks for speaking to us today. Can you tell us what made you decide to be an F1 driver?
Oh yes. Well, being a racing driver is dead good because you get to go really fast. Really, really fast - much faster than you can go on proper roads. During a race you can go over seventy and the police can't even pull you over, or anything. And Formula 1 is the best one of all the formulas. It's one better than Formula 2, and it's two better than Formula 3.
So is it difficult being a racing driver? What skills are needed?
Well you've got to be able to drive. I can drive, I've passed my test. Have you passed your test? I have - I did it last week. It was really tricky. You have to check your mirrors - we don't have mirrors on F1 cars. Also, you have to do three-point turns. You don't do those during a race. Not on purpose, anyway.
Tell us how you prepare for a race. Do you have a special regime?
I don't have a regime. I've not seen one, anyway. I'm not sure what a regime is - what would it look like? Anyway, I've got too much on my mind before a race to go looking for regimes. I'm not allowed to watch TV after 9.00 o'clock the night before and I have to go to bed early.
When I wake up in the morning I put on my lucky underpants, brush my teeth so they're minty fresh then I set off to the track. When I get there I have to sit in the pits while a big scary man with a red face talks me through the team tactics. He gets really angry when I don't pay attention but I've got a good memory and the tic tacs are usually something simple like 'go fast' and 'try not to crash'. Then it is time for my toast.
Take us through what goes through your head when you're on the starting grid. What do you think about?
Oh well, I think about what I'm going to have for my tea. And I think about what I will do if it rains, because F1 cars don't have roofs, so they can fill up with water really fast and the noise of the rain drumming on my helmet makes my head feel funny.
I also think about my hobby, which is collecting pictures of tractors and pasting them into my scrapbook. I like tractors a lot and if I wasn't a racing driver I would probably be a farmer, although I don't much like cows because they look at me funny. But the thing that I think about most when I am waiting on the grid is the angry man with the red face in the pit.
Most people don't realise how difficult it is to be a successful race driver. It's more than just going the fastest, isn't it?
No. It's pretty much all about going the fastest. You have to cross the line before all the other drivers. The only why you can do that, as far as I can see, is to go the fastest. I suppose you could take a shortcut but I don't think it would be allowed. It would certainly be frowned on, anyway.
But what about reading the track, getting the most out of the car, applying the right tactics?
Oh yes, well of course you've got to read the track and apply the tic tacs and the other thing you said. It's not just about putting your foot down. For instance, did you know that most race circuits have corners? In fact, that's probably why they call them 'circuits', now I come to think about it. And when you've got corners then the steering wheel becomes really important, so you've really got to learn to handle it.
Then there's the brakes - they're really important too, so you need to try and remember where they are. They are especially important at the end of the race because if you forget about them, you'll just end up going round and round until your petrol runs out. And that's really all you have to remember. As long as you don't fall out when you're going round the bends, then you can't really fail.
And you would know: you've been incredibly successful throughout your career. What's your secret?
I like to stick vegetables up my bum. How did you know I had a secret?
Actually, we meant what's your secret to being a great racing driver?
Oh I see. Well, as I said earlier, you really mustn't fall out of the car if you can help it. Also, make sure you go round the circuit the right way. That can be really embarrassing when you get it wrong. I would suggest that you hang back and see which way the others go, but that's not really helpful if you want to be out in front. And finally, try not to stick vegetables up your bum during a race. It can be very distracting, so best to save it till afterwards.
Finally, many readers may have ambitions to become professional racing drivers themselves. What advice would you give them, and is it something that anyone can do?
Yes. Yes. Yes it is. Anyone at all can do it as long as you have ambition, determination and, like me, a father who is an angry, red-faced man, who happens to own a Formula 1 racing team.
Taken from The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2020.
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