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Formula One: Darkness falls

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Jennie Gow | 10:07 UK time, Thursday, 20 September 2012

Singapore Grand Prix

There have been many times this season when the excitement of my job catches up with me and I become like a fractious child the night before Christmas - this is one of those times.

Thirteen races into the Formula One season and we are into the final, fast paced, climax of the year. Seven races in 9 weeks and the second fly-away part of the season starts in the Far East - in Singapore.

This is a race I have watched with fascination since it's inception in 2008. The fastest cars in the world, whizzing around a 5km street circuit lit by over 1,500 lights with a back-drop movie makers would pay millions for - this is the theatre of dreams and I am about to step into it!

Not only is this race set to be a mouth-watering affair but also the sideshow that accompanies the journey is spectacular. This is the race where everyone stays in European time despite being thousands of miles from home. Where going to bed at 4am isn't the sole privilege of the rich and famous, partying into the small hours, but of the masses that wake when the sun is going down and who play hard (on circuit) in the middle of the night.

So how does one prepare for such a Grand Prix after the likes of Italy and Belgium? With a lot of hard work.

Singapore is physically and mentally one of the toughest races of the season for the drivers. I remember asking our BBC radio 5 Live F1 pundit and former Toro Rosso driver; Jaime Alguersuari the first time we were in a car together travelling to a circuit - which is the toughest race of the year? There was no hesitation as he said it was easily Singapore.

The stifling heat of 30 degrees centigrade, the grueling two hours spent in the car, the 70% humidity and constant threat of torrential rain (not to mention the bright lights and lack of run off area) means that a lot of Formula One drivers finish the race drained, if not completely exhausted.

I remember Jaime telling me he stepped from the car and all he could see was white - his vision had completely gone. This is one seriously fit 21 year old we are talking about as well. This weekend will be a test for each of the 24 drivers and those who are scared of the dark will be punished!

Singapore track

So what are people saying as we go into the 14th race of the season?

Sebastian Vettel: "Singapore is one of the highlights on the calendar, because the atmosphere of a night race is amazing. I also like it because the track is really great to race on - which is partly to do with the fact that we race anticlockwise there."

Nico Rosberg: "I finished second in the race here in 2008 which was a great experience and has given me some really nice memories of this event. It's always seems strange to be driving at night, going to bed at 5am and then waking up in the afternoon but it's surprising how easy it is to adapt."

Romain Grosjean: "Since Hockenheim
I haven't really had the same connection with the car as I had previously. At the start of the season I felt very comfortable and by the time we got to Valencia the sensation I had in the car was just amazing. Whether it's the tyres, the setup or something in my driving style I'm not 100% sure; we need to go through everything and find out."

Jenson Button: "We have strong pace on a range of very different circuits - and, hopefully, we can continue to push that momentum in Singapore next weekend. You need good end-of-straight speed for overtaking into Turn Seven. That's the best opportunity for passing as it also comes at the end of the DRS zone."

Martin Whitmarsh: "It's a showcase event for our sport. And it's a race that perfectly symbolises modern Formula 1: it's a brave departure from tradition that boldly works. It manages to retain all the traditional elements that makes a grand prix so magical, but the fusion of its oriental setting, glittering skyline and demanding high-speed course make it feel more like you're watching a Hollywood movie than an international sport. And that's fantastic."

Regardless what everyone is saying; the facts are clear for all to see. Fernando Alonso is leading the Championship by 37 from Lewis Hamilton and with Kimi Raikkonen in 3rd a point behind, and just one point further behind is Sebastian Vettel.

Red Bull, after Vettel's retirement with another Alternator failure and Webber not crossing the finish line, are now just 29 points in front of McLaren in the Constructors championship - with Lotus, then Ferrari still in the hunt.

Thrilling...the end of the 2012 season could be the most amazing we have seen for some time.

However, this weekend will be tinged with a great deal of sadness after the passing of 'The Prof' Sid Watkins - the former FIA medical delegate, and the man responsible for saving more lives in F1 than anyone else, passed away at the age of 84. All those who knew of Sid would have been aware that on the weekend of Ayrton Senna's death he suggested to the World Champion that maybe they should both give up the sport and go fishing instead.

Sid Watkins and Bernie Ecclestone

I hope the two of them are looking on from above - enjoying catching up and catching some serious fishes.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had this to say about the man he brought into the sport to improve safety: "I am pretty sure that he [Sid Watkins] is irreplaceable. You only meet somebody of his caliber once in your lifetime."

"What Sid Watkins did in the way of safety in Formula 1 was incredible. He gave his whole life to that cause, to make sure that it could be as safe as it possibly could be. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his caring and commitment."

Sid was invited to join F1 in the 1978 season as its official Doctor. It was agreed proper medical facilities were needed at the tracks in order to treat drivers immediately and that helicopters should be introduced in order to get them to specialist facilities as soon as possible.

Ecclestone continued: "Sid carried all of those things through, and many more. After the accidents to Jochen Rindt and then Ronnie Peterson, I suggested that he should have a medical intervention car and that he should take responsibility for taking drivers into medical care."

"We always talked things through and worked together, and he then took care of all the medical things which I knew nothing about."

For someone I only met once, Sid Watkins left a lasting impression on me - for many in the paddock he has done much more - all are eternally grateful and at this point I would like to pay my respects to a man that has done so much for the sport I love and the drivers I watch with fascination and admiration. Rest in Peace.

You can comment in the usual ways - on facebook at Jennie Gow-presenter and on twitter @JennieGow.


  • Comment number 1.

    RIP Sid Watkins. He was the unexpected highlight of "Senna" because of his love and influence.

  • Comment number 2.

    How much does Jennie Gow, and for that matter Robbie Savage, get paid for the amount of quality input they provide to the listener?

    Just asking.

  • Comment number 3.

    An awful lot, plus flights and hotels - all top notch - for nine months of the year, plus freebies, spin-offs, expenses and ...

  • Comment number 4.

    What do you class as an awful lot? Working in the media, i'd be interested to know what salaries most people think presenters are on? Carrie, every comment you make on these blogs are negative and bitter. Why do you persist in reading them to pass comment/judgement. Are you a negative and bitter person. just asking.

  • Comment number 5.

    Having worked in the media all my life, "an awful lot" - LegendOfTheLane - is too much of the licence fee payer's money for doing too little. See most BBC presenters, who think the BBC is run for their benefit.

  • Comment number 6.


    I am not always negative and bitter! You only need to read my posts on a few other topics such as football, golf, athletics and so on. These blogs are to air your opinion not lie down and fawn at the feet of people just because they have a job at the BBC. Just can't stand the licence fee being wasted on people who make the kind of comments Savage gets away with all the time, or poor copy such as this piece by Gow. Compare them to some of the great summarisers and whatever the equivalent job is that Gow does. Say Jimmy Armfield, or even Martin Keown if you want an up to date one. As for F1, I think the days of the chick in the pit lane is a bit long gone.

  • Comment number 7.

    It always interests me when people wheel out the whole licence fee vitriol each time they have a complaint about the beeb and its coverage. Each to their own but smacks of bitterness to me, and if you've worked in media all your life, then you'd know you have to check your facts before talking about them... in this instance the radio coverage is produced and financed by an independent production company and not the beeb overall. Talking of freebies, expenses and travel costs, really does sound like jealousy and sour grapes to me, if everyone that complains about things thinks they can do a better job, then why aren't they?
    Carrie - it's both boring and monotonous to read your sarcastic and bitter comments ecah time a blog goes up, i find it interesting why you still persevere reading them, it's literally every one. If you don't like it, don't read it or watch it anymore, simple.

  • Comment number 8.

    Oh the independent production company do the programme for free? That's fantastic. And suggesting jealousy is far from reality actually. It is sad that you feel only positive comments count, and actually when I come to think of it, the comments you make about me are hopefully far more unpleasant than maybe you meant. Fact is, on any website mentioning Savage either in the BBC or out of it, he comes out of things pretty badly. If the BBC want a shock jock then they have one, but it is so much better to hear and read well-reasoned and argued comments and summaries than the kind of diatribe he gets away with. On the other hand, as I have said, and my viewpoint is every bit as valid to hold as yours, I do not see the point of independent production company-patronised pit lane dollies, when there are plenty of people of both sexes who could do a good job and not make such anodyne and puerile comments. It's two steps away from girls with the board announcing which round we are about to watch in a boxing bout.

  • Comment number 9.

    And by the way, amazingly as it happens, through the virtue of hard work and professional dedication of the person in question, my family does have a personal connection with one of the people working on one of the top-ranked F1 teams, you may not believe it but there we are.

  • Comment number 10.

    Err..... Legend,you sound rather bitter yourself, if you don't mind me saying so. I think you need to get your facts correct before jumping in with false accusations about carrie.If you took the time to read many of her previous posts you will find that she very supportive of 5live and not all negative at all.She is fully entitled to express an opinion along with everyone else.Follow your own advice and if you don't like something someone else has written ( about in particular your hatred for any kind of criticism of Jennie Gow ) just ignore the comments and don't read them.If I was you I would concentrate on making your research a priority, instead of boring us all to death with the repeated and monotonous fact that you ' work in the media '. Big deal,if you can't handle or are so sensitive to criticism from the general public that you take it on a personal level, then obviously you are in the wrong job and the yes the licence fee and how the money is spent is rightly an important subject to those who pay it !

  • Comment number 11.

    No the independent production don't do it for free. But how big a budget do you realistically think an indy company has been given for radio not TV let's not forget? Because someone has a job that includes flights abroad and expenses(not covered by licence payers money) , i don't see why that has anything to do with things, do you honestly expect someone asked to go to these countries to work to pay for their own flights? How would you provide coverage in this instance?
    And I don't have any issues with opinions being voiced, what i object to is banal comments consistently made on a particular blog that i enjoy reading, it's almost every time a new F1 one has gone up, negativity comes from carrie. When i referred to "these" blogs, i was talking about F1 not all of them, and a prime example about them is she leaves a lovely tribute to Sid Watkins, quickly followed by her questioning the pay of presenters, can't help yourself, so i'm questioning it, as i'm entitled to do so.
    I can't help but think that maybe supporting one of the few females in a male dominated sport might be more positive, as I don't think some people grasp genrally speaking how difficult a first year covering a sport is whilst integrating in to that community, and it's even more difficult as a female.

    Completely agree with comments on where licence fees should go, when justified, and i mention the fact i work in media because in this instance it's valid to the discussion. I work with presenters, i pay presenters, i source presenters, i know what they get paid, and i know how much people assume they get paid, and the huge gulf in between. Viewers/listeners just see the glamourise side of things and think that's it. They don't see the 4am wake up calls to be on site, they don't see the working until midnight with barely any food and drink, rain, wind or shine, all they see is the couple of hours on screen shared with millions of people's idols in this case drivers and not the behind the scenes issues. The numerous OB's i've been on have been long and arduous, and in this country invariably pouring with rain.
    You want comprehensive coverage but don't want to pay for it, you want tv and radio but object to peeple being paid to do their jobs. As i questioned, if people have issues with presenters, then why don't they do it themselves because trust me it isn't as easy as some people make it look.
    Let's not forget that another common misconception is that ALL F1 drivers are multi millionaires, some are on decent salaries for the average wo

  • Comment number 12.

    My heart is breaking. I am sorry for misunderstanding the plight of broadcasters and their support teams.

  • Comment number 13.

    Apology accepted, thanks.

  • Comment number 14.

    LegendOfTheLane, wow I think I'm in love. You're my 5 live blog hero.

  • Comment number 15.

    First, Carrie is the one & only legend of this pit lane; second, it seems odd you support so whole-heartedly the endeavours of the author of this blog! - other Legend

  • Comment number 16.


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