Fame and fortune? Champagne and super yachts? Nope, Eric Silbermann wants to open his Monaco Grand Prix ramblings by talking about Easyjet. Seriously…
Low cost airlines tend to get bad publicity, but I’ll give Easyjet a plug, as they delivered me safely and on time to Nice and I find them perfectly acceptable. Apparently, so too do a raft of F1 drivers, especially those connected with Red Bull, who are based a few miles up the road from that well known World Aviation Hub, Luton Airport. It’s not often you get to sit further up the plane than an F1 star but on Easyjet it happens all the time, possibly because impecunious me books my seat several months before well heeled them.
On Tuesday’s flight, the F1 stars were represented by Daniil Kvyat, fresh from a simulator session in Milton Keynes and some of his Toro Rosso engineers. As usual on these flights, you can tell the F1 people as they generally wear normal clothes, while the fans – what are you doing flying out on a Tuesday, you must earn far too much money – wear a lot of team kit, often from more than one team.
It’s amazing what people tell you on planes and one excited couple let slip that they were going to the Monaco Grand Prix because the woman walked dogs for Lewis Hamilton’s mother, who had kindly procured them a couple of tickets. That leaves the big unanswered question, who is walking Mrs. H’s dogs this week?
If you’re the sort who gets jealous of those who have a lot more money/yachts/jets/supermodel girlfriends than you do, then Monaco is not the place to be
While race fans are a regular item on flights to the European GeePees, there’s one category of traveller that seems to be unique to Monaco and that’s women of a certain age, now in their sixties and seventies, who must have frequented the Cote d’Azur back in the Sixties and Seventies. They’re completely hat-stand mad now poor dears, but you can tell from the twinkle in their eye, courtesy of a miniature bottle of Easyjet Prosecco, that back in the day they might just have looked like Francoise Hardy or Susan George, or even Lady Helen (wife of Jackie) Stewart. Clearly, they married into the speedboat set and settled down to a life of privilege in the Surrey Stockbroker belt south of London. Now, conveniently and wealthily widowed, they come to relive former glories bless ‘em, even if these days their look is more Coco the Clown than Coco Chanel.
If you’re the sort who gets jealous of those who have a lot more money/yachts/jets/supermodel girlfriends than you do, then Monaco is not the place to be, although you can always marvel at the way good taste appears to be inversely proportional to wealth here. Doesn’t bother me, good luck to them say I. However, I do get annoyed about the saying that you should always be nice to people on your way up, as you will meet them again on your way down. I can think of a whole host of drivers, mechanics, asinine PR juniors who went on to make it into the big time financially, but I’ve yet to meet any of them coming down the ladder of success, as they’re all still doing fantastically well. Whenever I pass the terrace of a super expensive restaurant here, I seem to be hailed by some former colleague to whom I had to explain that Latvia was a country not a new sort of coffee from Starbucks, who is now “something big in shipping”. Or there’s the driver I had to show how to tie a bowtie for a gala prizegiving, who now owns a famous clothing brand, or an aviation company, I can’t recall which.
I don’t envy the billionaires and I don’t envy the team marketing and PR people who really work for their living here, (well, one weekend out of 21 ain’t bad) looking after the rudest guests in the world and organising half-arsed publicity stunts. It’s the sort of race where, if you are working for a team you get a phone call from someone trying to get in the paddock and you turn to your colleagues and say, “I’d completely forgotten about those clowns”. Here in Monaco, it’s quite likely to be absolutely true and there really are clowns waiting for you at the gate, because you’d booked them for some publicity stunt with a driver that you later completely forgot about.
Monaco is also the place for teams to announce improbable sponsorship deals, such as Renault’s tie up with Admiral Yachts. How proud Mr and Mrs Yachts must be that their son rose all the way through the ranks to become an Admiral. Apart from presumably handing over a small bag of gold in exchange for having their name on the cars there will also be a “technological collaboration between the two parties”. This could be handy in Monaco if Palmer or Magnussen crash into the briny waters of the harbour.