Sports: F1 Racing

The Fast and the Furious

Formula One cars whizz by at 350 kmph but F1 racing is a lot more than just the thrills and spills; it’s about the gazillion dollars at stake, it’s about drivers who look like rock stars and their blonde followers who set the bleachers on fire
By Rakesh K. Simha
Danger: "You prepare yourself and your car in order to drive at the absolute limit, to be on the edge. The whole effort is to reach the point where it becomes dangerous. The fear I have is the knowledge that I can be killed any time in a racing car." —Niki Lauda

Drama: May 1994. Ayrton Senna, 34, is killed in a Formula One crash at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. In his 10 years of Grand Prix competition, the Brazilian had won 41 races and three world championships. A million people, many weeping, lined the streets of Sao Paulo at his funeral. Outside the gates of the local legislature, a chant went up: "O-le, o-le, o-le, o-la! Sen-na, Sen-na!" It was a rhythmic requiem for the hero who lay within, one of Brazil’s greatest heroes and among the fastest men on wheels on earth. Senna was mourned officially for three days.

Dough: If the danger is high, so are the rewards. Michael Schumacher vies with Tiger Woods as the world’s best-paid athlete. Last year the F1 champ earned $75 million, just $3 million less than the ace golfer. But while Woods’ performance has been wobbly in the past two years, the German Formula 1 race driver has the opposite problem: he can’t stop winning. Schumacher, 35, has been world champion six times.

Formula One is the thoroughbred of racing cars. Nothing on wheels is quite so sophisticated. F1 cars can cost up to $100,000 to build, and as much again to maintain for a single racing season. Twelve feet long and elegantly slender, they look like bright green, blue, red, purple dragonflies perched on fat black feet. Though the cars weigh a mere 1,100 pounds, their three-litre engine develops more than 375 h.p., and they can dart down a straightaway at better than 200 m.p.h. At full bore, a Formula One handles so neurotically that in all the world of motor racing only 20 men are considered capable of making the finishing line.

In that elite company is Renault’s Fernando Alonso, who with six races left in the current Formula One season, is poised to become the youngest champion in the sport’s history. Alonso—who is typical of the breed of race car drivers—has a penchant for colourful bandanas and aviator sunglasses, which makes him look more like a rock star than an F1 driver.

It’s the kind of image that attracts another species to the throbbing tracks—the pit babe. As well as earning millions of dollars a year and getting to drive the coolest cars in the world, the track stars are also some of the most sought after catches for an ever growing group of young women desperate to hook a sports star. Pit lane groupies, nicknamed ‘screwdrivers’ stalk aces such as Alonso, David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher at hotels, nightclubs and race tracks.

PITSTOP: F1 tech is so advanced cars get their wheels chnged,tanks fuilled and windshield wiped-- all in 10 seconds

While there are plenty of stunningly beautiful women at the racetracks, pit-lane models are one of the few glamour girls who have official access to the drivers on race day. They are paid to drape themselves over the drivers and parade around the pit lane and paddock in tiny outfits to help glam up the races.



September 2005

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