The F1 Driver job description can make you look fast, cool and wealthy, but it’s not all V-shaped marshmallow fields and pink Pirelli unicorns. And I’m not talking about the struggle in finding sponsors, uncertain prospects for the future or unforgiving daily workouts – no, these are those minor inconveniences that make our boring selves seem better adapted to daily life.
You never get to look good in public – Most celebrities get standing ovations on a red carpet after hours of people making them look unrecognizable, but every time you’re under the spotlight you’re tired, sweaty and wearing what is basically an oversized onesie. Even at your best during a race weekend, your look is reduced to a walking billboard.
On a related note, there is no such thing as helmet-friendly hair – as much as I enjoy making fun of Lewis and his collection of perpetual bad hair days, the truth is that no mohawk, bowl cut and/or quiff can withstand two hours of humid gravity-defying action. Unless you’re Nico Hulkenberg, and after 24 hours of driving around French fields you still look like Johnny Bravo. How is that even possible?
However cool your company car is, you never get to drive it – Because who picks up some milk in a Ferrari? You could fly if half across the world every other weekend, but no team will let you actually drive your supercar outside of Monaco. Although, you’re most likely to be stuck with a Renault Megane – Sorry!
You really cannot afford to be afraid of flying – Unless you want to travel with the sea freight or practice your triathlon skills in an extreme way, the airplane has to be your best friend (or at least a casual one). Since you cannot have one of the most popular fears in the world, just save your phobias for mice. Or economy class.
You don’t get to be as macho as drivers of the past – Sure, you can make the occasional cheeky comment about grid girls, but we all know they’re contractually forbidden from talking to you. And it only gets you into trouble with your wife or your mom (in Seb’s case, I hope both). And if there’s one thing that high school has taught me, is that not smoking/swearing/drinking/staying up late really puts a dent into your reputation.
You have to be nice to people you don’t like – Remember those awkward Christmas-time family gatherings where someone always questions your life decisions? Now imagine it happening every other week. And it’s recorded and played back in case you say something remotely interpretable. That’s pretty much how I imagine media these days, so I can’t blame them if PR-speak is just the easiest way to avoid it all. And my family would definitely not enjoy having a “character” to deal with.
You have to mind your measurements better than a model – If there’s one material that’s even less forgiving than lycra, it’s carbon fibre. Just ask Daniel Ricciardo – you’re always one Newey design away from turning a Cinderella silhouette into an ill-fitting step sister. And just like in fashion, thin, lean and indecently young is the recipe for success in the F1 musical chairs game.
Your screw-up is usually worse than everyone else’s – Does anyone remember the name of Lewis’ strategist in Monaco? Or the names of all the mechanics ever to lose their driver a race in a botched pit-stop or an ill-fitted part? I’m guessing not. Because whoever’s fault it is, it’s always the driver who’s losing the race, having a crash, making the headlines, facing the media. Unless you’re Niki and then you’re used to precise finger-pointing. Bottom line is, until proven differently, you’re the one taking the blame.
You support stuff against your will – One of my worse nightmares involves me waking up with a tattoo of that giant green logo from the Midlife Crisis Energy Drink. Most of the F1 sponsors are really not that dreadful but then you go and see your face on a tobacco billboard, you fake having serious dandruff issues, you imitate enthusiasm while mumbling Chinese sounds that may be an ad for diesel engines, maybe adult diapers – who knows? And I’m pretty sure that Roberto Merhi had no idea what TFI Friday was (it does sound like a burger joint, to be fair). Let’s see what Haas F1 brings over from the wonderful world of American motor racing sponsorship. Who wants a Viagra polo shirt? Come on guys, don’t be shy…
You get more criticism than a pageant mom – You’re not confident enough or you’re too cocky, you’re not aggressive or you’re dangerous, you’re not a good promoter for the sport or you’re a bad role model for kids. And most of all, you’re constantly being told how you should be, mostly by people who were never successful enough to know. Although I guess after a certain number of zeros on the pay check, it sweetens the blow. I may not do the dishes as often as recommended but if I got $5m to have my flatmate criticise me, I’d gladly make a reality show out of it.
Your tax statement looks like a game of Monopoly – You got a yacht and a supercar, but neither of those are deductible expenses. Plus, your utilities include an airplane fuel bill as big as said supercar and that’s not the sort of thing you learn in house management class. Unless you’re a pay driver and then I’d be more worried about your pension plan.
Your embarrassing baby photos go viral – Or, even worse, so do your embarrassing teenage photos. Let’s see; Sebastian Vettel circa 2008, Kimi Raikkonen falling off various things, Max Verstappen the other week in Monaco – no father is delighted when the first car you crash can’t even be insured.
Sometimes nature calls at 200mph – Forget pushing countless buttons and correcting oversteer, how do you train for this particular issue? And no, not moving for an entire Games of Thrones marathon is not precisely the same thing. So I’ll leave you with this cheerful thought; we might not be F1 drivers but what we lack in money, we make up in bladder control.