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Formula 1 Bad Boys

Kimi Raikkonen is rumored to have been in trouble with police in Hungary over a matter of alcohol and sitting behind the wheel of a car. This follows other stories of the flying Finn’s night club and partying exploits.

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen and friend

It has echoes of an F1 tradition that we all thought had died out with the advent of the super-professional driver epitomized by Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher: the “bad boy” syndrome. In the 1950s, many drivers were renowned for their wild behavior at parties, Mike Hawthorn especially gaining a reputation for being heavily into wine, women and song. It was as though the working class lads, who suddenly found the heights of motor sport available to them, intended to make the most of their brief moments of fame. They worked hard and they played hard.

This continued into the sixties, although there were already signs of a growing professionalism that had no time for drunken high jinks. Drivers like Jim Clark and John Surtees were serious about racing and saw it as a profession rather than a bit of fun. Some, such as Graham Hill, still knew how to relax and party between races, however.

By the 1970s, advertising had upped the stakes so high that it was clear that F1 was now more of a business than a sport; the sober attitude of most drivers reflected this too. So James Hunt stands out as the last of the playboy drivers, an isolated throwback to F1′s wilder days. With his retirement, we all thought that era was gone forever.

Through the eighties and nineties we became used to the dour professionals, Prost, Senna, Schumacher, pursuing their career objectives with unwavering intensity. Flashes of humor from such as Johnny Herbert gave relief but the overall atmosphere was that this was far too serious a business to have fun in (hmmm, I think I just identified the reason for Minardi’s huge popularity).

And now Kimi Raikkonen arrives to upset all our preconceived notions. It would have to be someone like him, of course – a driver so talented that all his off track adventures can be ignored by the team manager. Oh, there might be the occasional “talking-to” in the motorhome but, when you’re paying the guy millions to drive for you, it’s not easy to lay down the law about his private life.

What Kimi does for us all is demonstrate that it’s possible to be damn good at your job and still have a good time on your days off. For too long we have believed that only the dedicated monomaniac can get to the very top of any profession. Kimi shows that, with youth, talent and energy, that doesn’t have to be true. After all, what is the point in being paid so much if you can’t live a little as a result?

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Lola Cars – the Survivor

Over the years, F1 has seen countless new teams arrive, compete briefly and then disappear. Very rarely does a new team survive long enough to join the list of the great ones. But there is one constructor that has hovered on the edge of the sport and never gone away, adopting a policy of making F1 cars for others but avoiding direct involvement. I speak of Eric Broadley’s Lola cars, of course.

Lola is the one constructor we would all love to see involved in F1; they have a long history of success in other forms of racing and, if properly funded, would almost certainly produce competitive cars. It will never happen now – FIA rules have as good as killed off the chances of new constructors entering the sport – but we can still dream of what might have been.

The closest Lola came to running their own F1 team was way back in 1962. For that year they produced cars for the Bowmaker Yeoman team to be driven by John Surtees and Roy Salvadori. Its potential was shown by John in gaining pole position for its very first race but results thereafter were disappointing. Lola withdrew from the project at the end of the year.

1962 Lola

John Surtees in the 1962 Lola

From then on, Lola kept at arms length from F1, designing and building cars for others to try their luck. They had a hand in the Honda RA300 of 1967 (which won the Italian GP that year) and there followed a long list of customers. One of the most notable of these was Graham Hill’s team sponsored by Embassy. The car showed promise but its chances were cut short in 1975 by Graham’s tragic death in a flying accident.

Embassy Hill

Graham Hill in the Embassy Hill

Incidentally, in researching for this post, I came across the entry list for the 1974 British GP. I was struck by the numbers of small constructors on the list – Iso-Marlboro (Frank Williams’ team at the time), Trojan, Ensign, Hesketh, Maki, Lyncar and Token, as well as several old works cars entered by private concerns. Most of them did not qualify but at least they had a go. The seventies really were the heyday of the little guy, all thanks to the ubiquitous Cosworth/Hewland combination.

In the late nineties, there was news of yet another attempt by Lola to enter F1, this time as a full works team. Nothing much transpired, however, as promised sponsorship money evaporated and we are left still wondering what would have happened had Lola put all their efforts into F1.

I have said before that Chris Amon was the best driver never to win an F1 race (interestingly, he drove a Lola in 1963). Could it be that Lola was the best F1 car constructor never to enter the sport?

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