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GP Week : Issue 169
own diet and training regime without consulting an expert. In an unpublished 1994 interview, Johnny Herbert admitted that times had changed for F1 drivers, who were no longer the lotharios of yore: “You hear all the stories about the old days,” he said, “but I don't know if you can believe them. It's really not like that nowadays. We go to bed and we go to sleep.” One key factor in the changing attitude to sex within the sport has been the increasing level of sponsorship. While blue chip brands are attracted by the perceived danger and rebelliousness associated with motorsport, boards start getting uncomfortable when it all starts getting a little too real. Public expressions of personality have become the exceptions to the rule, with few drivers able to find the balance between pleasing the sponsors and appealing to the fans. But Formula One is not alone in this – sponsorship has infiltrated all manner of sports, and the expectation of athletes to live up to a clean-cut role model standard has become universal. Where once athletes were akin to rock stars, forever tumbling out of nightclubs and onto the front pages with a bevy of beauties on either arm, today’s sportsman has a brand to protect, and a much more competitive environment in which to perform. For as Formula One evolved into a business under the watchful eye of Bernie Ecclestone, it lost something of its rock n’ roll, devil-may-care attitude. Bad boys were welcomed on track – to an extent – but those same aggressive drivers were expected to become meek little lambs once out of the cockpit, adhering to the whims of the sponsors who had brought such an influx of money into the sport. As recently as the early 1980s, an F1 driver could roll out of the garage with a cigarette stuck to his lip and climb into the car. Ten years later, such behaviour would be unthinkable in a competitive sportsman. Attitudes to physical fitness and training have undergone a revolution over the past 20 years, with professional athletes now dedicating far more time to preparing themselves for their sport through a combination of physical fitness, tailored nutrition plans, and exercises designed to improve mental agility and endurance. With competitive margins so close on track, drivers must do all they can to gain an advantage – lose weight to improve ballast options, improve their strength and endurance to better perform in races, fine-hone their reflexes, increase their concentration – in order to win races. When it comes to securing trophies and titles, 1998 and 1999 World Champion Mika Hakkinen preaches dedication and focus: “You don't have room to play around and do crazy things as well. James Hunt used to say to me: ‘Go for it’, but, you know, everyone is different.” These days, however, drivers are not so different. With their already busy schedules filled with engineering meetings, sponsorship commitments, and trips to the gym, and a single-minded focus to get the maximum out of the car every weekend, Formula One has evolved into a very different sport to grand prix racing, its pre-war ancestor. One of the biggest driver scandals of the 1930s saw Auto-Union driver Achille Varzi, winner of the 1933 Monaco Grand Prix, steal the heart of Ilse Pietsch, his team-mate’s wife. Varzi and Ilse’s affair saw the pair descend into a shared morphine addiction, Varzi’s reputation in tatters. As recently as the 1980s, such sexual conquests continued, although the drugs had been left – thankfully – in the past. Off the record paddock gossip recounts numerous well-known drivers of the era taking every advantage of the flesh- pressing opportunities on offer. Of course, to repeat the stories would be little short of scandalous... ABOVE: Tough weekend – 1976 world champion James Hunt takes a nap in the McLaren team hospitality area. Having retired and switched to BBC commentary, James remained a poplular figure ... Spanish Grand Prix, June 1981. LEFT: Mika Hakkinen seeks Hunt's advice ... on car set-up perhaps? 30 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> SPA 30 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: