Monday, 8 August 2011

Frustrating Security

On the Thursday before a race, there's usually a signing session where the drivers rock up to sit and sign autograph cards and programmes for fans that are lucky enough to get close. In Hungary, Tabatha and I took Timo and Jérôme down to the sharp end of the pitlane and while T&J were signing cards, I tried to hand some out to some of the fans behind the barriers who were obviously never going to get close.

But that's apparently not allowed - the security guards stopped me from handing out cards to people that weren't in the official queue, so my only resort was to throw a load of cards into the crowd of fans. Not as satisfying, but at least it spread the MVR word a bit further!

It was pretty much the same story for the pitlane walkabout. The guards put up a load of barriers to stop fans getting too close - they don't do this for the Paddock Club walkabouts as there aren't so many people around.

In germany, @JonnyBowersF1 and I had managed to give about 20 impromptu garage tours to small groups of fans who showed an interest in the team - it didn't take long before a queue started forming. I firmly believe that F1 teams should try harder to get fans closer to the action. It's not impossible - usually. In Hungary though, security would not let us do it. I only managed it once, with a bit of local help from Brigi (aka @brigi00) who did the translating (and was lucky enough to win two Paddock Club tickets for Friday as a reward for that, and for writing a guide to Budapest for us).

When a fan from the UK who had been in touch over twitter, sadly I can't remember his name, turned up and I wanted to show him round, I wasn't able to do it. His son's sad face was enough to make me dash for the motorhome to dig out two caps. That helped a bit and I also figured, well, why not take their camera and take some photos in the garage, so at least they'd have something. They thought it was a good idea and handed over their camera and I went and snapped a few photos. Walking back to the barrier, I realised what I'd done. There were tens of cameras being proferred. I handed one camera back, and took another two into the garage. I settled on three shots, front three-quarter, side and cockpit with steering wheel. It's always one of the favourites.

Turning back to the crowd, I realised I had no idea whose cameras I was holding. Fortunately, the owners did. For the next 20 minutes I was just taking photos on other peoples cameras and handing them back, and I think I got them all right. I wouldn't have minded keeping the Nikon D300 though, the owner looked very worried when I waved goodbye at him!

F1 can't allow everyone access, but my view has always been that if you do what you can, the fans will appreciate it. Last year, I managed to get passes for a few fans that otherwise would have had no chance of seeing behind the scenes. It's by no means easy, but it's very worthwhile when it works.


  1. You're too kind Geoff! I've heard nothing but praise for you from fellow fans that have been lucky enough to get paddock passes, and some of stories I've heard are amazing.

    Regarding the security, that is a massive shame. Did they give any reasoning? But the effort Virgin is making to reach their fans is really paying dividends as far as I can see, and I agree with you; F1 teams should make the effort to please their fans. Obviously, not everyone can be given paddock passes, because that would negate any advantage of actually buying them in the first place! But it's good to see Virgin leading the way with their PR - and that's not just me saying it.

  2. I was one of the lucky people to get a garage tour in Germany and it made me so happy. It was my first visit to a live GP after 11 years and it was amazing to see the garage and the motorhome! Thank you again. After I got home people wanted to know how I liked live F1 and the first thing I always tell them is how amazing the Thursday was and what great Fan Service Virgin Racing has and of course what a wonderful, nice and generous guy you are! :)

    I was so disappointed with some of the ‘big’ teams, we fans were waiting for the pitwalk for 2 hours, one in the pouring rain and then you come to their garages and it is almost as if they are afraid of their fans.

    I understand the need for security, but I think F1 has gone way too far with it. What would F1 be without the fans?

    And really the best publicity for F1 is not another rich and famous person on the grid giving absolutely stupid answers to Martin Brundle or Kai Abel, it is fans like I going on and on about how fantastic it was to sit on a sofa in a motorhome for a moment or standing really close to a spare engine or gearbox or Timo’s car for that matter.

    And after Germany for me the real heroes are no longer only the drivers, but the great people like you, for trying to give something back to the fans, because even ‘just’ a photo is worth more to a fan than the higher ups in F1 can probably imagine.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys - for some reason I?ve only just seen them. Yes, my philosophy is to treat people how I would like to be treated myself, and it's always a joy to see people's faces when they are in the paddock. Amazement and disbelief!