Here’s a challenge for you. Try to think of a sport where the learned scribes attending the event, charged with informing the world about what’s happening, almost never actually see – at first hand – the sport they write so ‘expertly’ about?
Football? No. Cricket? No. Rugby? No. Tennis? No. Athletics? No. Formula 1? Yes!
Imagine for a minute that you land your dream job. No longer is it a far-off fantasy to fly around the globe following the sport you love: you're a Formula 1 journalist getting paid to tell the world what’s really going on in the most glamorous of sports.
As part of the privileges bestowed upon you is the right to wear a garishly coloured – string vest-like – perforated tabard. Put one of these outfit-enhancing bad boys on and you can enjoy almost unrestricted access to the race-fan nirvana of trackside viewing on the right side of the fence. You’d jump at the chance wouldn't you? Get in that media room queue as soon as you could, eager to go see, smell, hear and enjoy, in the metal, the wonderful experience of a thoroughbred Formula 1 car doing what they do out on track.
In that queue you'd expect to be standing behind and in front of journalistic colleagues making sure they can – at least once in a F1 weekend – go on track, excited to educate themselves on car behaviour and driving styles, to name but two interesting elements of a race weekend. Well you’d be wrong.
Digital world 24-hour news delivery pressures can obviously make it difficult for hacks to take time away from their laptops and/or voice recorders, I get that, but is it not to be expected – nay demanded – that those writing about how drivers drive, cars accelerate, brakes brake, power units sound, tyres wear, etc, etc, occasionally drag themselves away from the air-conditioned splendour of the media centre and immerse themselves in the action?
There seems to be an underlying sense of hollow achievement, simply ‘being there’ apparently being enough. It’s particularly puzzling to witness the younger ‘journalists’ not take a break from the copy-and-paste buttons to get some fresh trackside air.
Some better-informed F1 scribes, of course, do don a tabard: Mark Hughes, Andrew Benson, James Allen, Stuart Codling, Peter Windsor, Ben Anderson, Ben Hunt and Maurice Hamilton are a few of the writers who frequently stand alongside photographers and marshals seeing first-hand what’s happening on track.
The fact that I can name these stand-out guys is testament to just how rare a sight the lesser-spotted trackside journalist sadly is.
Perhaps if more of these ‘trailblazers’ were followed by their keyboard-tapping peers they’d ‘get it’.
I’ll leave it to others to debate the rights and wrongs of track-limit car excursions and the kerbing employed to discourage them, suggesting only that those expressing opinions may be well served to walk a couple of hundred yards and see for themselves the kerbs they’re writing so ‘expertly’ about...
So next time you’re reading, watching or listening to an F1 opinion, ask yourself, ask if this bloke ever actually sets foot outside the cosy confines of an F1 paddock. Some – as I’ve mentioned – do but the majority see it as a radical and entirely unnecessary waste of time.
The truth is that they see very similar coverage of a grand prix as you, flat screen televisions suspended from media-room ceilings do show split times and fastest laps so, during qualifying and the race one would expect every jourmalist to be in the press room. That doesn't mean of course that an FP1/2 track visit should never be on the agenda.
Oh, hang on, how remiss of me, how could I forget?!
There is one 10-minute fresh-air-breathing excursion some press room posers rarely miss. Hanging around in TV grid walk interview backgrounds you'll see them – unless of course it’s raining! – keen for those less fortunate to see just how lucky they are.
More’s the pity...