Sunday February 3, 2013
Still full of drive
GAME ON by LIM TEIK HUAT
Each time the F1 circus revs into town, it brings with it a whole bunch of fun and excitement. And this year, it’ll be on March 24.
THERE I was, enjoying a blissful day during my recent annual leave when I was suddenly jolted into reality by a reminder from my colleague Rajes Paul that my first piece of Game On was due for submission!
With my five-year-old kid bugging me to play with him, I somehow managed to check my e-mails and one caught my attention – a reminder from the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) to submit the application form for the coverage of this year’s Malaysia Formula 1 Grand Prix next month.
That’s when it struck me.
Why not write about my experiences in covering the annual circus, as described by my former boss Ng Weng Tuck each time the Malaysian Grand Prix is around the corner.
Whenever it comes to the week before the race, he would say “it’s time to do SIC a service”. Simply put, it means I have to fill up at least a page a day to hype up the glamorous event until the action commences with the practice sessions on Friday.
Well, it would not have been a problem if the drivers were in town and readily approachable like the badminton players or cyclists.
The thing is, there is no way you can talk to the drivers without going through the press officers.
But that’s the thing. It’s difficult because you hardly know them and neither are you the holder of the privileged red media pass.
The Malaysian media is given the green pass, which essentially means a single race coverage.
I remember well that for one to qualify for the red pass, one has to cover a minimum of three races in different countries – when it was still a 17-round season a few years ago.
I’m not sure whether the requirement has changed but I used to envy those with the red media passes as they get to jet around the globe every race season!
And there are lots of them who follow the circus around, familiar faces you see each time you step into the media centre on a Thursday to wait for the pre-event press conferences to begin.
There is the cigar-smoking journalist, the one who passionately rattles away in Spanish as he narrates the race action live on radio, and the spunky Japanese lady who walks around in fireproof overalls (a requirement for the television crew filming from the pit-lane).
I vividly remember the time I was asked to cover the first race back in 1999. It was a new experience altogether for everyone from the Malaysian media then.
Many think we, the pressmen, are a lucky bunch. But the irony is that while we are restricted to the media centre, those privileged enough to be given special passes get to roam around freely in the garages during the special off-track tours given by the teams.
It’s been 15 long years and the only time I’ve had to skip the event was in 2006 when I had to cover the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
I still love every moment of the racing weekend, watching the circus come to town and trying to catch the emotions going through the minds of the drivers as they tackle what they feel is the toughest race of the season (no thanks to our extreme heat and what they call monsoon rain).
As for me, the coming weeks will also be a time to brace for calls from acquaintances (and strangers too) asking if I have any tickets to spare.
It’s funny how everyone assumes that since we cover the event, we would have access to free tickets. If only it was that easy.
The truth is I always have to “beg” from the SIC management for free tickets – and that too only when my superiors requested for it. I’m proud to say that I’ve never asked for tickets personally all these years.
Thankfully, the missus dislikes the heat and the crowd.
Senior writer Lim Teik Huat has never got bored of covering the event all these years. The only setback is the dreaded traffic jam out of the circuit – even long after the race is over on Sunday.