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Say Buddy, Got a Match?

The big news today is that Lewis Hamilton grabbed the quickest time on the final day of the Valencia test sessions. This bodes well for the young driver’s future, showing that he has no problem getting back into the car after a big shunt. No doubt McLaren are heartened too to see the MP4-22 performing so well already.

We all know it’s meaningless, of course; off season testing is always an unreliable indicator of likely results in the races that follow. So why do we follow it so closely, poring over lap times and making guesses as to which teams will be the stars of the coming season?

Marlboro

It’s addiction, you know – so starved are we of action in the sport that we’ll read anything to get us through the lean period. These few months when nothing is happening but hype and hope are the real test of the F1 fan’s stamina. To outsiders it might seem that we should take a break and go off to watch football until the season opener (Melbourne, Australia, March 18, by the way) but they really don’t understand what drives us. We’re addicted and must have something to feed our habit.

So we read every scrap of info that comes our way, ponder arcane details of design in the new cars, compare testing times, listen to what even the lowliest F1 mechanic has to say. Without even noticing, we feed the habit, even stooping as low as to pick up stogies dropped by Bernie Ecclestone as he wanders the world, adding GPs here and cutting a few there.

It has to be said that there are benefits to this obsession too. Unlike the part-time F1 fan, we do not have to spend the entire Australian GP wondering who the heck that guy is in the Bloopmobile Special this year – not only do we know, we could tell you his age, his career history and what he had for breakfast this morning. To my shame, I have to admit to missing the occasional off season in the past and being very confused in the first few races as a result.

How fitting it is that F1 has been the last refuge of the tobacco advertisers for so long. Like nicotine addicts condemned to wear the patch for three months, we hang on grimly until we can once again light up the television for that first, so-satisfying hit of the year. Life is merely an annoying interlude between races.

As with the dwindling band of committed smokers, we are determined to hold on to our habit, too. To tell an F1 fan that “hey, there’s hockey on the TV” is like offering gum to a smoker – it just doesn’t cut it and he returns to reading the obscure article about Barrichello’s new helmet design that he found on the back page of the local rag this morning.

But hey, I don’t mind admitting it: my name is Clive and I’m an F1 fan. Try to convert me if you will, I won’t change. Fact is, I love this sport…

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