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GP Week : Issue 202
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: While I wouldn’t say no to the millions of dollars, private jets, and five-star lifestyle of a Formula One driver, one thing I have learned over the past few years of working in the sport is that – in all honesty – I would hate to be the one in the cockpit. Modern celebrity in any form isn’t exactly easy. Sure, the rich and famous don’t have to worry about the same sort of problems real human beings do. I can’t imagine many movie stars live in fear of having their electricity cut off, and the only reason an F1 driver ever goes to bed hungry is because he’s trying to make weight for the next race. But every life has its problems, and to live in the spotlight of non-stop publicity looks pretty dreadful. Photographers stalk you at every turn, the world waits to see you stumble in your personal or professional life so that we can delight in schadenfreude, and people like me are paid to read novels into your body language and turn them into short pithy pieces for general consumption. When I first fell in love with Formula One, a major contributing factor was the core of passion that runs through the sport. Paddock people are passionate about winning, but they’re also passionate about the sport itself. If you can’t think of anything else to ask an F1 figure, start asking about their favourite historic car, or tracks they wish were still on the calendar, and you’ll get hours and hours of conversation in response. These days, however, the passion that I found so inspirational has become something of a dirty word, and those who dare to show too much emotion are castigated for doing so. Perhaps it was always thus. Ayrton Senna’s era of dominance pre-dates my involvement in Formula One, but the since-deified (and inarguably talented) Brazilian was not always the hero he is now made out to be. Many sections of the press vilified him for his aggressive style when he was still alive, while many of those who still work in the sport admit to having been turned off by the combination of passion and faith that set Senna apart. Lewis Hamilton gets a lot of criticism for wearing his heart on his sleeve, for letting his emotions get the better of him on occasion. We’ve seen entire race weekends where the Briton’s (relatively) poor performances have been later attributed to personal matters blowing up far from the track itself, and anyone who’s followed the sport for more than five minutes knows that a sub-par session from Hamilton will lead to monosyllabic answers in press conferences and interviews. But as someone who’s been known to let my personal life impact my professional life on occasion, I just can’t castigate another person for doing the same. Particularly not when – as someone whose heart is permanently on their sleeve – I like to explain our shared weakness as the downside of an excessively passionate nature. Passion, by its very nature, is scary. It’s tempestuous, and it’s hard to control. But there’s a certain honesty that comes from raw emotion. Passion always tells the truth, because it’s far too hot-headed to lie. I’m probably biased by my own passionate nature, but I’ve always been far more wary of the calculating. Calculation requires forethought, and planning. There is no reaction, just behaviour selected from a pre-considered list of options that emerge in x or y setting. Gut reactions, even when distasteful or unpleasant, are at least honest reactions. And in these days when celebrities try to control their media presence to the nth degree, micro-managing their profiles as much as possible, isn’t a little bit of unpleasant reality preferable to the bland and calculated pleasant? IN PRAISE OF PASSION OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER