CRAIG NELSON: It may be boring at times but you have to respect brave F1 drivers
11:00pm Saturday 19th October 2013 in Sport
FORMULA One provides a regular talking point on the sports desk, even though only one of our members, Nick Jackson, is really passionate about it.
The rest of us enjoy ribbing him that it is boring – just a procession.
I don’t really believe that, but the sight of Nick taking the bait and standing up to defend his love of motor racing is too tempting not to join in.
I no longer watch Formula One – I have lost all rights to the television, which now belongs exclusively to my 18-month-old daughter and Peppa Pig – but it used to be essential viewing in my house when I was growing up.
Me, my brother and my dad happily wiled away Sunday afternoons, watching Nigel Mansell find some way of blowing a winning position.
As such, Ayrton Senna was not a popular man in the Nelson household, but our patriotic allegiances were put to one side on the day he died.
Even my mum put her book down and gripped her seat as the footage of his crash was played over and over again, with pictures flashing back to the medics surrounding his mangled Williams car.
The memories of that day, as my family crowded around the television set in stunned silence, were revived by the Senna documentary, which was shown on ITV earlier this week.
While Senna wasn’t my favourite driver at the time of his death, my perception of him has changed over the years.
It is so often the case the public persona of celebrities during their lives is very different to their true character.
All I knew about Senna was that he barged Alain Prost off the track in Japan to win the title in 1990 and then denied my hero Mansell victory at Monaco in 1992 – an incredible drive.
But the documentary shows the man’s human side, highlighting the spectre of death all drivers face and fear, even Senna.
It completely changed my opinion of him and also made me reassess the way I view the sport, and its current champion, Sebastian Vettel.
No Formula One driver has died at the wheel since Senna’s crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, but the possibility of that happening again will never be eradicated.
Which is why it is baffling to me that Vettel, who is now almost assured of his fourth title in a row, could ever be booed on the podium.
Sure, it would be nice to see a Brit win it again, and races may feel like a procession at times, but only to the viewers, never to the drivers.
They risk their lives every time they climb into the cockpit, and I only hope Vettel’s remarkable talent, as well as his guts, drive and determination, will be properly appreciated in his own lifetime.