Join the Inapub Formula 1 Team…

Wikipedia: “A fan is a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something … They may show their enthusiasm by … promoting the object of their interest and attention.”

Anybody who has ever spent more than thirty seconds in my company will be aware that I am something of a fan of Formula One. I can bore the earwax out of most people about why it’s not dull, pictures of legendary greats adorn my office wall and I’ve seen Rush almost as much as I’ve seen Star Wars. I’m also one of the millions fervently praying for Michael Schumacher to make a full recovery.

This year, anybody who’s had half an ear to the sporting news will be aware that 2014’s season should be anything but dreary. New regulations, new engines, and a slightly dubious new look to the cars, plus some rather exciting driver pairings, has lead to the most mixed-up looking grid in a very long time.

As a die-hard fan, one of my biggest worries is actually going to be the noise. Last year, along with our beloved editor Matt Eley, I attended the Silverstone Grand Prix and, as we took our seats at Copse Corner, I slipped some ear plugs in to my ears. “Why on earth are you doing that?” asked Matt, who had never been to a Grand Prix before.

Then twenty two F1 cars drove passed at full chat and his ears began to bleed.

The noise is part of the experience; it’s visceral and, this year, it’s gone. Reports from the pit lane already say that they don’t have to wear ear defenders when they start the cars and you don’t see images of people with their fingers in their ears as the cars return to the garages. It’s going to take some getting used to, and I might have to make a visit to Santa Pod this year to get my heart shaken from my ribcage.

The looks of the cars are, putting it politely, quite different too. With a blank sheet to work from, we get to see designers coming up with completely different interpretations of how the cars should look and they are, well, interesting. Some look like they’ve had marital aids attached to them in order to achieve the regulations, others look like they’re ready to accept those marital aids. And Lotus have a really unusual take…

And then there are the driver pairings. Several have moved around and I’d love to see Massa doing well with Williams following his departure from Ferrari. But at the Italian team, they’ve paired up Fernando Alonso (who notoriously likes to be the number one and had a massive public falling out with McLaren when his team mate, the unknown upstart Lewis Hamilton, took the fight to him in 2007) with Kimi Raikkonen, who infamously debunks all attempts at authority and does his own thing regardless.

Raikkonen won his only championship in 2007, benefiting right to the end from the infighting going on at McLaren and slipping through to steal the crown from beneath the warring noses of Alonso and Hamilton.

My tip for 2014, seven years on, is that similar scrapping will take place between these two top drivers. And wouldn’t it be nice to see Jenson Button slip through right at the end for a second world title… I can but hope, but you can’t discount Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. Their performances in testing have been paltry, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been beavering away back at their Milton Keynes base. They could still be a strong contender; let’s not forget, their run-away success last year didn’t start until half way through the season…

This weekend, though, pick the Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for the top two positions. I’ll leave it to you to choose which one will be where.

Each year I play the Castrol GTX Grand Prix Predictor, a free online game where you select the top ten order you think the race will finish in, and who you think will be on Pole Position, who’ll be the winner and who’ll get the fastest lap. You’re pitted against other players of the game and you earn points.

I used to invite customers to play the game at my pub and this year I’ve created the Inapub F1 league on the game. Simply click here and sign up – it’s completely free, you can invite others to join too, customers of your pub can take part, or maybe you can make it a bar debate as to who should be put where on the grid. When you click on the link, sign-up using either your Facebook account or simply fill in your details, and you’ll be added to the league and prompted to make your predictions for the race.

So as I switch from my winter dressing gown to my Ferrari dressing gown in time for the start of the season, here’s hoping Formula One has finally returned to being a great pub sport…

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