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Back in the hot seat

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Jake Humphrey | 16:29 UK time, Wednesday, 19 August 2009

There are few things I dislike more than being unorganised and badly prepared. Perhaps it stems from the spell I spent watching and learning the master of in-depth groundwork John Motson at Euro 2008. But note-making and taking certainly provides me with something of a comfort blanket over a race weekend.

However, as Valencia and our Easyjet flight from Gatwick this evening looms large, I feel distinctly unprepared. Let me paint you the picture...

Last night, when I should have been packing my bags, doing my washing, writing this blog and preparing my stuff for the weekend, I was at Griffin Park watching my beloved Canaries lose their second game of a so far inglorious season, this time a 2-1 defeat to Brentford. Myself and the 1800 other gluttons for punishment made the best of a bad situation with remarks like "at least standing to watch a game is quite novel" and "at least we didn't concede seven".

A mate of mine stayed over at our new, and still psychedelically-decorated, house and by the time he'd left and Harriet had gone to work I only had an hour to pack and do some work.

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Therefore, for the first time this season, I haven't had a chance to pack specifically what I need. Instead I've crammed half my wardrobe into a huge bag. In fact, some of my stuff hasn't even made the bag.

It's supposed to be 33C this weekend, so I was keen to wear my white/pink striped linen shirt (hope it looks better than it sounds). Then I discovered it was dirty. Never fear, I thought. I put it on a quick wash and it's now drying while draped over the passenger seat of the car I'm sharing with Jonathan Legard as we negotiate the M25 on the way to the airport.

The feeling of being ill-prepared is quite off putting. For example, I've neurotically checked I've packed my passport and F1 ID about four times since leaving home.

One thing that did make me feel better was Lee McKenzie's Skype message at midday that said simply "feel so disorganised". Perhaps after a month off we've got out of practice as far as travelling is concerned. Weird.

Actually, I can't wait to get back to the racing, and I'm not the only one. On Monday I was at the glass and steel cathedral that is the imposing McLaren Technology Centre.

Visiting the impressive McLaren Technology Centre

It's a building that is straight out of a Bond book and certainly demands high standards. For example, Sunil (who once wore pink shorts to a race weekend) turned up in a suit. I felt distinctly underdressed, particularly as I entered the 'visitors cafe' to hear an HR lady tell some inductees that "jeans are banned"... guess what red-faced Jake was wearing?

Anyway, I was there to talk to Lewis Hamilton about the win in Hungary, how he's feeling a month on, and what the incredible development of the MP4-24 says about the team at Woking.

He was understandably upbeat, much more so than when I last interviewed him in Bahrain. He smiled broadly when we mentioned the impact of his Kers button, shook his head in disbelief when discussing the effort and drive of his 'guys' at the factory, and also revealed that keeping slim has been hard. He said he's been in LA where Nicole makes great pancakes for breakfast, lucky him. I start every day making the tea for Hat and I.

Jake chats to Lewis Hamilton

It was fantastic to see him in such good form, actually, I really like the guy. He clearly has very high hopes for this weekend after coming in second in 2008, and I think he will look back on 2009 not as a missed opportunity but perhaps as the year when he learned more about himself and how to be an F1 survivor and conqueror.

I learned something about myself too during the break... that the chances of me even winning a 'Morris Minor Invitational Meeting', where only Ledgy and I are invited to drive, is slim.

I was down at Silverstone where I took my ARDS test, which essentially means I can race cars as a National 'B' Licence holder... don't start sweating just yet Lewis!

It's all part of the Motor Sports Association's drive to get more of us involved in motor racing via a Jenson-Button endorsed initiative called Go Motorsport.

Well, I doubt I'll be going very far in my racing career, despite enjoying one of my best ever days out.

Step one was the written exam in a small white trackside room... which brought back very unnerving memories of school halls and physics exams. I was all alone in a room with the examiner as I answered questions on racing safety and what each flag stands for. I won't reveal the outcome, suffice to say the pressure and nerves just makes you answer very strangely indeed.

Then it was into the car park for every boy racer's dream. The chance to do donuts to your heart's content without the night security guard chasing you away. I was in a Caterham with great front tyres and rubbish rear ones. The back of the car stepped out at any given moment. I was supposed to keep control.

Jake gives the thumbs up

It was incredibly difficult, and especially frustrating when my brilliant instructor Mark showed me how easy it can look. However, I'm proud to say I slowly got the hang of it, even if it felt much faster at the time that when I watched it back (much like the curse of Top Gear's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car).

Jake receives instructions

Finally, I was onto the South Circuit at Silverstone. This is where the danger factor was really high. Not just because I was behind the wheel of a powerful Lotus Exige, but because I was sharing the track with people enjoying a day out in one of Silverstone's supercars. I was trying to wrestle the Lotus around the track at rather nervy racing speeds, they were just loving the chance to drive a Ferrari.

In action at Silverstone

My hairiest moment was gunning it down the Hangar Straight approaching 120mph, a Ferrari was quite a way ahead as I prepared to turn into Stowe, however, unused to the speed I was suddenly getting a VERY close up view of the exhaust pipes of a £200,000 car. I felt slightly sick.

Mind you, that was nothing compared to the moment I actually had to take my test.

Five laps of the track, at safe racing speeds, and consistent every time. By consistent Mark meant the same speed, same gear and same line at each corner lap after lap. I scratch my wheels just parking so this was some challenge.

Jake takes a break

The toughest part was actually my vision. As a road driver you look at the next corner you're driving , negotiate it and then on to the next... but not as a racing driver!

Looking two or three corners ahead was the aim here, making sure you don't pick a line through one corner that compromises the following three. Believe me it's not easy when you're driving at 95 mph, thinking are you in the right gear? How's the racing line looking? Is there anyone in your rear view mirror?

And the worst part. Just like in your road driving test, the instructor says nothing. Bar the odd 'hmmmmm' or intake of breath.

So, did I pass? Well tune in pre-race on Saturday to find out, hopefully the photo doesn't give anything away, and trust me, Lewis, whose interview will be beamed out on Sunday, has very little to be worried about.

Jake receives his results

Anyway, despite no Schumi we do have two new drivers on the grid this weekend, and what's shaping up to be a cracking final stint gets going this weekend... very, very excited!

Don't forget you can follow me at for updates all weekend.

Enjoy the race guys and if you're out in Spain, come and say hi!



  • Comment number 1.

    brilliant blog

    can't wait untill saturday qualifying for some awesome F1 extras building up to the qualy!

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Really enjoy your blog-refreshing, honest and straight from the heart.

    I sympathise with you on the fact of having to make breakfast every
    morning for the better half plus hell do I sweat every time I take the
    plane to see if I have my passport...your worst dream going on holiday

    Forget waking up to Nicole making breakfast, wish my missus would make
    me pancakes once in a blue moon

    Hope she doesn't read you blog!

    Look forward to your coverage of the weekend.

    PS. Paul Lambert moving from your arch rivals to manage your team-what
    did you make of his appointment plus also the sacking of Gunn?

    Just started my hand at blogging:

  • Comment number 4.

    The wait for the season resumption is almost over...ABOUT TIME TOO!

    Great blog Jake as usual, keep up the great presenting :)

  • Comment number 5.

    great blog as ever, really fun and informative. The Mclaren centre is totally amazing isn;t it, all those classic f1 cars alongside all the newbies too

  • Comment number 6.

    Gutted about the football, Jake, but quite impressed you were there. Hopefully the season will improve. It can't get a lot worse, to be honest! What do you think of Lambert's appointment? Anyhow, onto the F1. I'm looking forward to Valencia. Less than I was when Schumi was racing, but it's going to be awesome to have some racing back after so long. Another great blog - it's always lovely to read your thoughts.

  • Comment number 7.

    I have just booked a last minute trip to Valencia! Which means that sadly, I'm going to miss this weekends coverage which would have been my last BBC race before seeing out the rest of the season with crappy SpeedTV. :(

    Have a great weekend, Jake. I'll track you down and say hello! x

  • Comment number 8.

    Great blog Jake but one word of advice if I may be so bold. If you want to keep the result of your test a secret, you might want to get it removed from the BBC Sport homepage!

    Enjoy the weekend. Gutted Michael won't be there but glad F1 is back.

  • Comment number 9.

    jake i,m suprised you can get in an Exege,I found it comfy at 5,8.Can,t wait for the race shame about the veniue but at least it sould be hot for the Brawn,s

  • Comment number 10.

    Great blog, loving the comment about Nicole making pancakes and you making tea. There's nothing wrong with a good cup of tea.

    Hoping Valencia is going to be a good one. Looking forward to the coverage after the month break.

    Keep blogging and twittering.

  • Comment number 11.

    Thanks for the blog, too long a gap in the season and too long with no blogs!
    Enjoy the GP i'm in barcelona this weekend and will record both shows to watch when I get back!
    Hope you have an iron at the hotel, or it could be a very crumpled Jake we are looking at. lol


  • Comment number 12.

    Can't imagine you guys on easyJet! I'll look out for you BBC lot in the future. How amazing! Surely as presenters of F1 you fly BA business class?

  • Comment number 13.

    You have a tiny head, Jake.

  • Comment number 14.

    What an excellent blog again, love how the BBc are taking a more direct approach at the lower and more accessible forms of motorsport and especially how you have raised the profile of karting, such a shame the le mans 24hour kart race was last month, would have been mint if the BBC had decided to do some coverage on endurance karting from Alain prosts personal circuit!

  • Comment number 15.

    Great work Jake.. How about the Race of Champions next year? The 'Desafio Internacional das Estrelas' kart race with Felipe Massa is supposed to be good, that would be a great piece for TV. I'm really enjoying your presenting on the BBC, you've opened Formula 1 racing up to more people, whilst keeping the coverage exciting for us more exprienced fans. Great blog too!

  • Comment number 16.

    "So, did I pass? Well tune in pre-race on Saturday to find out, hopefully the photo doesn't give anything away,"

    No, but the tag accompanying the link to this blog from the BBC sports page does..

  • Comment number 17.

    Hope the shirt is dry for Sunday Jake. Cant wait for race weekend. A month is a long time to have a mid season break!


  • Comment number 18.

    Hi Jake

    Excellent blog, mate! Your driving experience sounds fun! And I am sorry about Norwich City, by the way. Anyhow, love the work you're all doing and please keep it up!

  • Comment number 19.

    #16. Yea, I noticed that too. Lol!

    Unlucky Jake, your secrets out!! Well done though, i've heard it's not an easy exam.

    All the best for Valencia, hope it's hot enough for Jenson's rubber. Could do with him winning this one, will make for a fantastic finale.

    The other F1 Mole.

  • Comment number 20.

    Cool Blog Jake,

    I'm so glad that F1 is back this weekend and I will be watching all of it from the Practice sessions all the way through to the Forum all live as I will not be working.

    The pictures at Silverstone look good and I bet you passed your racing test, if so does that mean you will participate in racing events during the off-season?

    Anyhow Keep Up Fantastic Work! and lets hope Valencia can be hugely exciting!

  • Comment number 21.

    Great blog but do remember the more you check your passport the more likely you'll lose it by putting it on the side during a check. I'm not as envious of your elise driving experience as I've driven a Ferrari F40 passed 100mph. Lets hope Australia service is resumed.

  • Comment number 22.

    Was stood just to your left at Griffin Park on Tuesday so share your pain, although the "best of the bad situation" for me had to be the Brentford fan to our left who chose, despite 500 empty seats, to sit right behind the pillar - and the chants of "have you ever seen your goal" from the Y'army that ensued.

    With regards to Valencia, given the tight and twisty nature of the Hungaroring and the street circuit in Spain, are we likely to see similar teams succeed, or are the rumours of new developments at Brawn likely to mix things up a bit?

  • Comment number 23.

    Hey Jake good to have you all back ,
    BUT please please please if you do have any clout can you get please get the website updated more often ? , After an excellent start i find that now i very often have to visit other sites to get any news ! , The layout and detail is very good , BUT today ( 20-8-09 ) i saw on ITV that there are to be changes to qualifying next season , BBC ? nothing, the quote from a letter at the bottom of the page is regarding the Renault/Alonso ban which was resolved 3 days ago ! , get them to buckup please .
    Ta . .

  • Comment number 24.

    Jake, when can i make good use of bbc hd? im dying to see F1 in hd. i sent an email to you on the f1 forum a while back but never heard anymore. we need it in HD...
    can you answer something also, why does Trulli point up and down his arm when on the podium? maybe DC can help?
    DC does a great job, he's great for your team, especially when chatting to drivers & co. warming to EJ each race.. are they both with you next year?
    ..just found out your a canary boy also, what a let down.. ;) you and Martin Brundle Norfolk boys then?

  • Comment number 25.

    Yes, yes, all very interesting, but please, if there's anyone from the BBC actually reading this stuff could you please please do something about placing the first day practise sessions on this website actually sometime ON THE FIRST DAY! So they can be seen before the next practise session & the qualifying. It seems such a ridiculously obvious thing to do I don't know why I should have to ask, but...

    Steve E

  • Comment number 26.

    Great blog Jake. Looking at your pics................Could it be?

    The real Stig finally revealed! lol

  • Comment number 27.

    Jake, forgive me for unloading on a pet hate of mine but I suspect that you are actually disorganised, not unorganised!

    Disorganised means that you are normally organised but currently you are not! Unorganised means you have never, ever been organised!

  • Comment number 28.

    Love the article on getting your ARDS Jake. If the purpose it to say race can be for everyone then get in touch - I can introduce you to 'grass roots' motorsport in the UK.

    Don't let you license just gather dust! Nigel @ CSCC

  • Comment number 29.

    Sorry to be cynical, but how bright does a BBC F1 presenter have to be? You FAILED the written test??????? As anyone who has taken the ARDS test knows, all you need to pass the exam is to watch the "Going Racing?" video from the MSA starter pack more than once. All the answers are there.
    I have no doubt you have taken and passed your ARDS. But what were we shown in the run-up to Valencia qualifying? You, taking the test all alone? The examiner (known to be strict) letting you take the test again, having failed not by a whisker but miserably? Neither of these seem like a genuine ARDS course.
    Then, doing donuts in a Caterham? Not part of any ARDS I've heard of.
    No, looked to me like a PR job, to show you as 'just one of the lads', rather than a real attempt to "inform and entertain" the viewers about how to get into racing. A real missed opportunity to show people how easy it is to get into motorsport.

  • Comment number 30.

    Jake, nice to see you having a bash at your race licence, to cover more area's of motorsport, why not come and spend on the bank one day as a Marshal, its quite easy & you get to dress in orange all day.

  • Comment number 31.

    sorry but all this "look what jakey boy is doing" guff really gets under my skin. Learn to present and stop trying to be some sort of minor celebrity.
    I really dont give a damn what you get up to and the cbb's style of covering such totally wasteful exercises just adds to my irritation.

    oh look children that nice Mr Humpty is with Jenson today and he is through the square window!

    Keep it real and grow up, you are taking the mickey out of viewers and licence payers. If you haven't got enough decent content to fill the time why not start later. Its quality not quantity counts


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