When I was in school I couldn’t wait to finish studying and enter the “real world”. I always imagined it would be a mystical and magical realm. But years later, as I roam the paddock covering Formula 1 on STAR Sports, I can’t help but notice how similar the two really are. In fact, nothing’s changed.
In the world of Formula 1, race car drivers behave like high school students. You’ve got the really smart kids, like Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, who sit at the front of the class. The less skilful ones end up at the back of the grid.
Now this is by no means a fixed sitting position. If a student studies really hard and excels like Sebastian Vettel, he can easily make the jump from the back of the class and join the front runners at the sharp end of the grid, and vice versa.
The team principals in Formula 1 are the equivalent of the class teacher. Their job is to keep everyone in order, making sure they are constantly progressing and most importantly, that they keep ahead of the other classes.
Although the team principals would love to think that they are in charge, they are not. They’ve all got to answer to the one man who really controls Formula 1. Enter Bernie Ecclestone, the Headmaster of Formula 1. Bernie is the mastermind of the entire show. He also determines which circuits get to host a race.
Of course, it wouldn’t be school if there weren’t exams, right? For an F1 driver, his exam comes every race weekend. All the studying of the circuit and the mastering of his machine is put to the test at each Grand Prix when he has to race his heart out and deliver results. Come rain or shine, whether he’s in good health or feeling under the weather, the driver has to show up and take part. Unless of course he’s seriously injured, like Felipe Massa last season, then he gets a sick note from the doctor for the rest of the season.
And as with all major exams, the invigilators are ever present, making sure that everyone sticks to the rules and, if need be, punishes those who don’t. The only difference is, in the realm of Formula 1, they are known as the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, or the FIA in short, the governing body for many motor racing events.
The truth of it all is there is little difference between life in school and the world of Formula 1. Oh, except maybe for the fact that while the best student in school is rewarded with a blue ribbon, the Formula 1 World Champion can easily pocket a US$20 million dollar pay check. Small difference.
Catch Sanjeev Palar covering Formula 1 competition from the paddocks on STAR Sports every race weekend.
Starting with this edition and running until November, Formula One commentator Sanjeev Palar will be writing for us regularly. Send him your questions about autoracing by writing to youthspeak @thejakartapost.com. The best submissions of the month will receive prizes from Star Sports.