Ref! On the farce that is Formula One

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee and all-round sports expert Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant


Evening lads,

Just for a change let’s talk about something other than football tonight, okay? Such as? What do you mean, such as, Dave? There are other subjects in the world. We just naturally talk about football because… yes, Baz, it’s what we do – very profound.

So how about Formula One? Very popular sport. A man’s sport, you could say, because it’s all blokes in here tonight and they’re all talking about it. Well I tell you what, I don’t see the appeal. I lost interest when it stopped being called motor racing. Now it’s Formula One or even F1. It’s lost its way, you know.  Too clever for its own good. I don’t even understand it half the time. Well, Baz, do you? You do? Because you are also a driver. Yes, you’re a lorry driver. You can call it a truck driver if you like but here in Britain you’re a lorry driver, mate. And it’s hardly the same thing, is it?

Okay, I’ll grant you that you and Lewis Hamilton both have to have a basic understanding of motor vehicles, but that hardly means you have a lot in common. Okay, I will test you. What was all this nonsense about tyre pressures on Sunday? And why did Hamilton have to start last? And if they’ve perfected a new head protector on the cars why aren’t they using it?

You see? None of it is about actually driving. It’s all technical stuff. No, Dave, I can see he’s trying to answer and I deliberately gave him three questions at once because the whole thing is confusing. They change their tyres two or three times during a race, they’ve made the engines quieter but some people think that spoils the fun. They could actually go faster than they do but there are restrictions on that. It’s cobblers, mate. Nonsense.

Cheers Gary, I’ll have a cocktail please. The most complicated thing they can make. I don’t care.

Look, if other sports did what F1 does there’d be an outcry. You pole vaulters can’t use those poles because they’re too good, so you’ll have to use an inferior one. Mo Farah, you’ll have to use soft spikes and stop halfway and put wet weather ones on. And you can use a headset to communicate with your coach, but you can only use it a certain number of times or they’ll penalize you.

Whatever happened to just getting in the fastest car your team can make and driving it as fast as you can? No, Baz, that isn’t what they do. There’s all this other stuff that gets in the way. You hear that Fernando Alonso is one of the fastest drivers and Jenson Button is a more naturally gifted driver than Hamilton, so why do they not win races anymore? It’s like saying Dave is a better singer than Pavarotti because he’s got a better microphone.

It’s like making cricket bats with holes in them to stop the great batsmen scoring so many runs.

Absolute nonsense, mate, the world’s gone mad and Bernie Ecclestone and the rest of them  are out of their heads on money, intoxicated by cash. Cheers Gary, what the bloody hell’s this?



Why God needs a new image

Yes, guys, the laptop is a nice touch, but this old boy’s not going to appeal to our demographic

Everything happens for a reason. You hear it all the time.

What this expression says to me is that the people who use it want to believe in God but can’t bring themselves to, because it’s so unfashionable these days. People don’t just disagree with those with religious beliefs, they think you’re stupid, because God has been intellectualized out of existence. When man can construct buildings half a mile high and do it using mainly glass; when we can access information from who-knows-where using an electronic device that isn’t physically connected to anything; and when we can savour the salty delights of takeaway food served not on a stone but in a polystyrene box, why should we believe in anything but ourselves?

So okay, let’s suppose that everything happens for a reason. Who or what decides the reasons? Who or what knows the future and has determined what must happen and what must be prevented from happening? An ’everything happens…’ merchant might appear to have access to privileged information, but to have such an unprovable feeling, he or she must believe in something or someone.

As much as one might detest the PR industry, in which nothing is true and nothing is false unless it serves the best interests of the client, it is so easy nowadays to broadcast your views that there is wisdom everywhere, but there is also stupidity. And stupidity needs help

We used to hold our elders in great esteem. The wise old people of the village were revered as having knowledge about things, and a better perspective on them than the younger ones. Nowadays, when we see them unable to work a mobile phone, there isn’t the respect there once was. Money talks, and those who bring it into the household call the shots. All of which suggests that, whoever it was that drew up the interminable list of reasons for which things happen, they must have been relatively youthful.

And that in turn suggests that God needs a drastically different image.

So we must call in the experts: the creative team. Here’s the first meeting in their self-consciously ‘alternative’ offices.

“Sitting on a cloud dressed in white – okay, if you must,’ groan the PR people. ‘Looks stupid, but you’re the client. But let’s have him with short hair and a neatly trimmed beard, untainted by grey, and the sort of physique that implies that he works out three times a week and is going to live forever on the strength of that. It can’t be an old guy with a white beard. Better if he looked like – that’s it – Lewis Hamilton.”

Of course: young, physically fit, fashionably dressed, successful, popular – and black. That’s important, because it’s not just the black community that notices when somebody non-black gets some credit, deserved or not.

If this PR firm is to be seen universally as forward-thinking and broad-minded, they can’t let anything get in the way of the mood of the times.

Just as the US decided it was time for a black President and duly elected one – albeit not very dark-skinned – so it may soon give in to the ‘need’ to balance things up by electing a woman to run the country.

The world has had enough of old men. The world has had enough of white people.

Oh, Lewis, if only you were a woman

So the only thing stopping our PR firm from using a Lewis Hamilton lookalike as the face of God would be the fact that he is a he.

“Let’s look at an option: Halle Berry. Black enough, yes, but too old. Hang on, though, we’re supposed to be against ageism in the case of women. The old men can go screw themselves, but older women we like. Trouble is, the world is not as sophisticated as we PR and marketing people are, so we’d better go for someone younger after all. No one will ever know we rejected Halle, and it’s not as if she needs the money.

“No, Crispin, intellect isn’t a factor – we considered Lewis Hamilton, didn’t we? Not stupid, but he’s no Stephen Hawking. What we’re looking for is a person, an image pure and simple. A black, female, youngish person. She’s not going to be actually running the universe, just serving as the image when people feel they have to draw pictures of The Almighty. So we want someone who will look good on a cloud, maybe holding a small harp.

Agreed, Thom, the harp’s a bit old hat. Guitar? No, I tell you what, I saw a young guy at an open-mic night the other week, looking very pleased with himself because he was playing a ukulele. Not looking sexy because of his phallic instrument, but in spite of the lack of one.

You think it was the angels who had the harps? Okay, I’m thinking The Three Degrees, but let’s do the boss first.

Love the throne, Josh, but are you sure she’s dark enough?

Yes, Josh, Rihanna. Exactly. She’s mixed race, so technically black. Or Beyonce, yes. Same thing. Like Obama – he’s not exactly Idi Amin, but he ticks the box and that’s all we’re interested in. With Rihanna or Beyonce, nobody can complain. Except the Asians, okay, but we’ll update her to Indian or Chinese next time – say in 10 years or so, depending on how the land lies at that time.”