It?s hard to dislike drivers once you?ve met them

Nelson Piquet Jnr, 2007Getting to meet F1 drivers properly is not something I get to do very often. The days of being able to mill around the pits with them are long gone – these days you’re lucky to get a cursory glance and an unintelligible scrawl on your race day programme.

But on the rare occasions I have got to exchange words with a driver I?ve been reminded that it?s a lot easier to dislike someone until you?ve met them.

Of the current grid I?ve only seen a few of them ?ǣ Mark Webber, Ralf Schumacher, Heikki Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet Jnr ?ǣ and not really been in a position to strike up a conversation.

Even so I was impressed by Piquet. I?d not thought much of his rise through the junior formulae given that most (if not all) of his teams were backed by his dad. I?d read journalists? descriptions of him as surly, but his gracious willingness to sign autographs for a friend of mine convinced me that I?d been a bit harsh.

Similarly although I?d never been a great fan of Damon Hill ?ǣ always a distant second to the swashbuckling Nigel Mansell in my affections as a young F1 fan – I was blown away by his cool, rational intelligence when I interviewed him for Auto Trader last year. This man should be FIA President after Max Mosley. No-one else deserves get a look in.

Away from F1 the biggest change of heart I?ve had has been about Italian touring car racer Fabrizio Giovanardi. He had a stack of titles to his name before arriving in the British championship in 2006. But I?d written them off in my mind as the work of someone who?d cruised and collected easy titles in top-notch factory cars in under-subscribed series.

Having met Giovanardi several times last year, and been driven around Thruxton with him in a Vauxhall Vectra, I have changed my mind about him entirely.

His racer?s intellect is cool and razor sharp. He knows how to make a racing team gel around him. And he has a wicked and understated sense of humour.

I hope in future to get to meet more of the current F1 grid and I fully expect more of my expectations to be utterly confounded.

Which drivers of the past and present have you met? Were they what you expected them to be?

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21 comments on It?s hard to dislike drivers once you?ve met them

  1. Pink Peril said on 18th January 2008, 5:08

    Steven Roy Says: I wonder if this is Jackie starting to wind Max up to generate evidence for a court case and/or to provoke a coup.

    *rubbing hands together with glee*

  2. bob pearson said on 18th January 2008, 6:28

    The old saying like father like son whilst I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Damon. I met his dad on three occasions at ford club ( defunct these many years) he was my hero and proved to be fantastic company, just the sort to have a night out with. I remember coming home at midnight and hearing a news flash that he had died in a plane crash I cried like I had lost one of my parents

  3. I met Fernando in Oviedo. He was very kind, had the chance to take photos with him and had a little chat. Can’t really understand why most of the people thinks he is rude, he is just shy, definitively a nice guy. So Vertigo, don’t understand your statement…

  4. Jackie Stewart is 68 years old. Now while he is certainly in very good health, I’m not sure he would be able to commit to the job. The post of FIA president is now limited to two four-year terms, but even if the Scot did just one term, he would be nearing is mid-seventies a tthe end of the term (elections are in 2009). And really, what can you achieve in four years? You need eight to have any kind of impact. For the record, Mosley is one year younger than Stewart.

    Jackie would have been great as the FIA president ten years ago, and the sport would have been better off for it. But I’m afraid I feel he is too old now; he relinquished his BRDC post after all.

  5. Steven Roy said on 18th January 2008, 13:50

    “alan Says:

    I would love to see him in the job as he has had the driving experience – where’s Max’s -”

    Max did a bit of racing and made it as far as F2. His first F2 race was at Hockenheim in the race Jimmmy Clark got killed. Max’s family had been against him racing but he persuaded them that he knew what he was doing and wasn’t taking any stupid risks. After Clark died Max’s family asked him if Jimmy knew what he was doing and was he taking stupid risks. Even Max couldn’t lie that much so he had to give in and stop racing.

    “Ollie Says:

    And really, what can you achieve in four years? You need eight to have any kind of impact.”

    I am sure Jackie could re-structure the FIA and put in proper procedures etc in 4 years. Besides 20 years ago people were asking him how long he could go on at the rate he did and he is still doing it. I have visions of someone sticking a microphone in front of a 120 year old JYS and asking him how long he can keep the pace up.

  6. Number 38 said on 18th January 2008, 14:35

    I’ve met and chatted with Jackie Stewart, Derek Bell, Stirling Moss, John Surtess, Colin Chapman, Mario Andretti, all were superb even to a lowly serf like me, Bell and Andretti were particularly personalble but one name that EQUALED those greats and never made it big was Antonio Pizzonia!

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