Great ball…

Last night I was invited to go to the Grand Prix Ball. It was a spectacular evening and one of the best that I’ve been to – not that I go to many. It is one of those things that is difficult to fit into the timetable of a Grand Prix weekend, particularly if the schedule of practice sessions is skewed because of a race late in the day. In order to get there in time I had to leave the track in a major hurry very soon after practice ended and get through the traffic back to the hotel and then, dressed up like a penguin, I rushed down to the Crown Casino and arrived (amazingly) just four minutes after the appointed hour. I immediately bumped into Paul Stoddart, who is nowadays based in Indianapolis, running a business converting airliners into luxury transportation for people with a ton too much money. We chatted about this and that and discussed the future of USF1, which he said he would be happy to run out of Indianapolis if Chad Hurley felt the need to ask him. The Youtube squillionaire would do a lot worse. Stoddart did a decent job with Minardi and showed himself to be a fearless combattant in F1 politics. Stoddie was running a couple of his old two-seater Minardis around Albert Park. These remain as popular as ever for the lucky folk who get to ride in them.

The ball had a pretty star-studded cast with a decent spattering of F1 faces. I don’t know how they all got there in time but there were several team principals and drivers, along with all the local glitterati. I always find these events rather fun but it is embarrassing as, being a foreigner, one has to ask people why they are famous. Over the years I have had some interesting replies such as: “Oh, I’m the chairman of Qantas”, and “I used to run NewsCorp” and “I’m Australia’s best weather girl”.

The star of the evening was Jenson Button and, as one of the people on the table said: “Not only did he turn up, but he actually sounded like he was enjoying it.” It as a classic example of how to engage with an audience. I am sure that Jenson had plenty of things that he would rather have been doing, but he is a model World Champion and did the necessary with grace and style, which is not something that one can say about a number of his predecessors. The hostess was a Canadian author/model who was trying hard but just did not quite seem to be cut out for the job and was overshadowed by most of her guests, particularly Australian swimming star turned TV presenter Giaan Rooney, the Olympic gold medal winning swimmer, who is now a TV presenter. She was not only gorgeous, but came across as someone you just wanted to like. The celebrated yachtsman John Bertrand, who was representing the GP’s official charity also came across well. The show included a terrific duel between a violin and an electric guitar, complete with fireworks, the state Premier John Brumby, a little Swan Lake with ballerinas, an energetic promo for Fame, the stage show that open soon in Melbourne (lest we forget it is the cultural centre of Australia) and singer Gabrielle Cilmi, celebrated for her “Sweet about me” hit, who will sing the National Anthem on race day.
There were a couple of videos about F1 in 2009 and as Jenson said it brought back some fairly emotional times and reminded us all that F1 really is an astonishing activity and all the recent whingeing about whether the sport is interesting is really a waste of time and energy. If it needs fixing, it will be fixed, but it is a little too early for surgery just yet.

10 thoughts on “Great ball…

  1. Ah Paul Stoddart, he was quite a character in his all too short time in F1.

    Back when he left I seem to recall he had planned on writing a book, with it getting as far as a few sample extracts appearing on 1 website or another. After that nothing. Any idea what happened here?

  2. So who was this Canadian authoress? Google doesn’t help – do you still have your programme? Thx.

  3. Hi Joe

    While i agree Lewis could handle a car “fish tailing” and smoking its tires – and i understand that you might see the Victoria Police reaction is heavy handed….it might benefit you to get a little local knowledge before decrying them too much.

    Only a few short weeks ago – 5 teens were killed while hooning..all be it at nearly 100mph in 60kph area. The tree survived along with 1 “lucky” 15yo girl.

    This is only 1 example of why Vic Police take a very serious approach to “hooning” and have significant legal powers to back them up…. because there is a significant population of driving idiots in Victoria.

    They dont have the luxury of giving him a warning – manly because of the obvious media interest and the presence of TV cameras at the location almost immediately. They could NOT show a double standard and just let him go with a warning once the media arrived.

    The Victorian Laws – i believe – mean they potentially COULD have taken his licence off him on the spot – and one
    wonders how that might effect his super licence.

    While you and i dont consider it a a major issue – i guess he is a roll model and he should know better than to “drive in a manner dangerous” on a public road.

    One can only be left to conclude that Lewis didnt get enough attention or people looking at him on the track yesterday – and decided to get more attention with screeching tires and Smokey burnouts on the streets of St.Kilda (one of the most policed areas in Australia by the way)

    Increased police presence may also be attributed to a road death that day…at the intersection Lewis was heading toward. I motorcyclist hit and killed by car.

    Its a tough job being a copper – scraping the remains together…as most “hoons” dont drive a vehicle with quite as many safety features as an AMG Merc – or a Mclaren F1 for that matter. Nor do they have the driving skills of Lewis

    Most Hoons “Doing a Lewis” dont have the car control and end up killing themselves or others walking the busy footpaths around the track.

    Yes – its tough on Lewis….and i cant help but think if the TV cameras hadn’t arrived so fast he MIGHT have got off with a warning and tour of the pit garage for the cops

    He should have known better.

  4. This sort of over-reaction by the authorities — of whatever variety — here in Australia is about par for the course. As a long term Australian resident this is the one thing about this most liveable of countries that really gets up my nose.

    It’s a strange thing that Aussies, who generally pride themselves on their self-perceived independence of spirit and who love this country’s tradition of nose-thumbing at officialdom, are meekly rule-bound and accepting of overzealous and inflexible reactions to minor infringments.

    The mere idea of a ticking off and a warning from a traffic cop here? You must be joking.

    Over-enforcement of traffic regulations is just one example of officiousness gone riot I’m afraid.

    But this is a fairly minor (although persistent) irritation. It’s such a great place to live, and I’ve lived in many countries.

  5. Hey Joe,

    Any chance you could fill us in a bit more on Jenson’s speech at the Ball? All weekend everyone’s been praising how calm, collected and relaxed he was at the event and Jordan said it was a fantastic speech in itself…I’m very intrigued!

    1. I did not write it down or record it, but it was just a very good talk which everyone appreciated -m mainly because previous World Champions did such a lousy job…

      JB was a pro. And a model World Champion.

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