As ever I want to thank @wtf_f1 for his editing. This was a rather difficult piece to shape for him, as I was all over the place.
Oh, here I go again. Falling in love all over
These are the opening words to Prince’s Pink Cashmere; one of my favourite songs by Prince and one of his least-known masterpieces. I use Prince’s words because they sum up my Formula One ‘career’ pretty well. There have been occasions that I’ve been accused of not having any emotions. Of course I have them; I’m not a robot. But I have trouble expressing them. I’m what you call a ‘manly’ man. I eat my meat red; I like my cars fast; I like movies about the Mafia; I like my Sabbath black and my zeppelin made of le(a)d; I like to get my hands dirty; I say what I want, when I want. And most of all, I like logic.
And men like me, well, we stuff our feelings down – way down – because they only get in the way of logic. Feelings are for women and children – unless it comes to Formula One. The moments from the formation lap to lights-out-and-away-we-go are always filled with excitement for me. No matter which race, or how the grid is made up, or if anything could go down – I’m always on the edge of my seat.
I’ve watched for several years without being a fan of any particular driver. When Eddie Irvine quit, so too did the ‘fanboi’ within me. Yes, you’ve read that right; I was an Irvine fan. I admired his personality. I’m not saying he was one of the best drivers ever (not a bad one either), but he was a guy like me and vice versa. I identified with him as, perhaps, some Hamfosi identify with Lewis Hamilton. I just wasn’t a cunt about it in online forums. (Wanna know my secret? I’m always a cunt, that’s the difference 😂)
From 2002 until 2007, I fanatically watched Formula One, but watched without being a fan of any particular driver. People who read this will probably know what I mean with respect to ‘fanatically’. I’m pretty sure you’re all the same, or maybe just a little bit less, but I’d bet a good dollar that it won’t be much less.
Anyway, I started writing this piece on a Saturday during work because I was obliged by my boss to come to work… and since the bastard didn’t show up himself, I thought that I could have more fun by doing this. As a miller, I sometimes have meaningful amounts of spare time on my hands when my machine is running for long periods. So while I was programming, I thought about what I wanted to write. While thinking about it, I initially felt that I wanted to make a piece about the Ferrari 312T4. For me the best looking Ferrari ever, even when it was shit. But when I started typing, and that first sentence popped into my head, I felt that doing a piece about my love for Formula One might be a bigger challenge. It allowed me, perhaps, too much freedom as a writer, which isn’t ideal for me right now because freedom and a hazy subject can make someone got lost in their own thoughts. But I never back down from a challenge, and on we go!
Back to the talk about feelings, a feeling often closely associated with Formula One is anger. Probably the only emotion I know how to express. I’ve learned that if you stuff anger down, you end up with a bad feeling inside you – so it’s best to vent that out, in my opinion. I’m cynical enough as it is; no need to get physically uncomfortable too! For that reason I’m sincerely thankful to and for Twitter and http://www.thejudge13.com. Haha, I do mildly feel sorry for the people who’ve engaged me on a bad day. But, no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head. It’s just that a fight is so much fun, either physically or by a though discussion.
As some of you already know I am Belgian, and, strangely there’s actually little interest in racing here, which I think is stupid. There’s no grass-roots racing culture that can be found in other countries like the United States, Australia, Japan or England. And unless you’re Jay Leno you won’t even know that there was a Belgian car developer by the name of Minerva. They used to make cars for Kings, moviestars and business men like Henry Ford. But it died a slow dead and with it the love for cars in Belgium. It’s not that I don’t love my country, I do, but for having one of the best racing tracks in the world and one famous for playing a part in the death of, perhaps, one of the most iconic/mythical drivers of all time, there is very little interest in racing.
Belgium is about cycling, football (soccer for you simple-minded out there😉), motocross and tennis. To paint a picture of how it was right in the beginning of the Internet commercialisation when you couldn’t turn to the worldwide web like we do now, I had two friends who watched Formula One. One was a Schumacher fan, so it can’t get worse than that. The other was a Jacques Villeneuve fan, so it just got worse! The only information we got was during the broadcasts of qualifying and the race, unless you had this serious love for the sport, like I did, and you got those specialised magazines.
If I really wanted I could ask my dad about something, but he was stuck in the period between ‘Lauda vs Hunt’ to ‘Prost vs Senna’. One thing it did make me do was use the search engine of those days: a real library. SHOCK! Yes, a library. I’ve read countless books from a wide variety of people who’ve had absolutely anything to do with Formula One, yet the whole experience couldn’t get close to the days when eventually Internet exploded. I mean, over the years I’ve met people online who’ve had the same passion as me. I met people that’ve seen twice as many Grand Prix as me; people who knew much more about the technical side of Formula One – more than I could ever understand; people who’ve lived Formula One, and people as equally willing to chat about Formula One for as long as possible. With some of these people, I even talk daily and I value their opinion very much. It is freeing for me to be in touch with them because for once people know what I talk about, or have enough knowledge to follow my ramblings. The fact that one of them is a twice-as-old-as-me American with an excellent music taste and life lessons that only an old fart could have and the other is an Aussi who has the same cunt-attitude as me helps in every way. But only the power of the Internet could realise that!
Now what has happened? After the Max vs Kimi incident on Kemmel straight at Spa, I’ve taken a firm stance against what the young man did. Both on Twitter and at thejudge13, my stance generated a lot of fuzz. Some shared my opinion and some not. Some accused me of being a “jealous Belgian” who couldn’t cope with the fact that Max was Dutch and momentarily conquering a world that I love so dearly. Of course, this is the biggest load of bullshit that was used against me. I’ve voted him as ‘Driver of the Weekend’ on some occasions, and I’ve lauded him when he did some magical overtakes which earned him masses of fans.
Despite the American hijacking of the concept, Dutch people, to me, are people who believe the most in ‘freedom of speech’ and such notions. They have an opinion about everything, every time, without fail – and that’s one of the main reasons why I work in the Hollandland. One is free to speak their mind on the work floor in a way that would get one fired in Belgium. Here you are entitled to say things to your boss in a direct way, whereas in Belgium there are more classes of people. At work, you’re an employee; a low level and not more than that. People above you can say much more against you, yet you can’t criticise them. And Mr. Boss Man is untouchable.
Anyway, back to my point. It seemed as if in the week post Spa, I, and others, were forbidden from saying anything critical about young Max. Lauda, of course, did so in his well-known uncensored way, which got a lot of comments online. Everybody is entitled to do that as much as he or she pleases, but most of you reading here know how to do that without taking a low-blow. I have seen people attack Lauda for things he could do nothing about. Remember Max got a lot of criticism for an action he made, so by doing them himself he opens the door for direct criticism of them. But when people start to go for the scars on Lauda’s face, which he got by suffering in a fire in OUR beloved sport, I think people crossed a line which, for me, should never be crossed. No previous actions or words can justify any form of revenge where you go for physical shortcomings; certainly not ones suffered in a horrible accident. Those are the kind of people for whom this freedom of the Internet is too much to handle.
Another argument used by many after I’d point out just how dangerous Max’s manoeuvre was at speeds of 350kph was: “Motorsport is dangerous. They know that. They’re real men.” That argument was one I couldn’t understand then, but now even less so. Since I began typing this article, I’ve gotten some bad news which made the above-mentioned statement painful; soul-crushing, even. When I got the news that a good friend of mine had died on a race track, it felt like the earth stopped moving. When I heard the circumstances on how it happened, it was like two words colliding.
There were a lot of details similar to the ‘Max vs Kimi’ incident, and also a lot different, too. My friend had to take avoiding action because the guy in front of him moved in the braking zone. But unlike Max, it wasn’t because the one in front wanted to deliberately take revenge. Like Kimi, my friend was quick enough to avoid him, but unlike Kimi there was another one in front of them both, which he smashed into. He died in that spot…
Unlike the whole Spa incident, there is a young man torn out of this big family of relatives and friends. Does anyone of you think I can comfort his mother with the words “motorsport is dangerous; he knew that…” Of course he knew that! We knew that! But it doesn’t make a difference when you lose a loved one. When a story comes to a premature end it is never a happy ending. I think people who use that argument do not know racing, nor do they comprehend the severity of the possible consequences. Perhaps they never experienced the feeling of losing someone.
I am a big fan of close battles and driving on the limit, but the biggest factor in this mix is mutual respect – and that is what Max lacks. Such an action shows that. The interviews after the race, and up to the next race, underlined that even more. When I read the answer he had to Jacques Villeneuve’s accusations, I couldn’t believe what I read. No matter how many excuses he had a day later on how it was badly translated, I read the whole thing in Dutch and it wasn’t badly translated at all. It was just plain disrespectful.
Rather selfishly, I have used this piece to work through some of the things that I am feeling – but unable to express properly. What started out as something for fun became something of significant gravity for me. I have found out that writing has enabled me to start my grieving process. While writing this piece, I had to put my phone down several times because I choked up and I had to fight my tears. If you know me personally, you’d know just how big of a shock the last sentence is. During writing, pictures of the last 15 years popped up in a WhatsApp group making it even harder. So if you are still reading this, I want to thank you as it means a lot to me. This will be the last time I will mention the bad things that happened. From here on out I’ll only remember the good times. Naturally, I’ll be dedicating this piece to my friend. One of my brothers has fallen, and I can only be lucky he picked me to be his friend.
In loving memory, Jelle Linden. 24 februari 1987 – 03 september 2016