“Take me to Stirling’s…”

Legend has it that if you step in to a London cab and say, simply, “Take me to Stirling’s,” then you will be conveyed thither to Mayfair, and the mews residence which Sir Stirling Moss calls home. This morning I was privileged to have an appointment with Stirling to interview him for my next book, so I thought I’d put this legend to the test.

In the great tradition of Apple advertising (“Some sequences shortened”) we’ll flash past the bit where I leave my phone at home and nearly miss the train to London. Let’s begin at the taxi rank outside Waterloo station on a grey and chilly February morning.

“Take me to Stirling’s please.”



“You wot, Guv?”

“Stirling Moss’s house.”

“Where’s that, then?”

Thus was another panel stitched into life’s rich tapestry of small disappointments. Still, at least he didn’t say, “I had that Michael Jackson in the back the other week…”

I undertook the last part of the journey on foot and was shivering by the time I reached the door.

“My dear chap,” said Stirling, “you should stand in the loo for a few minutes. It’s much warmer in there.”

So Mrs Lady Moss decanted me into their beautifully toasty ground floor facility for a few moments before popping back with a steaming mug of tea. This all had a suitably restorative effect and the interview proceeded according to plan.

So, yes, a bit of an odd start to an interview, but not as strange as the time Gary Numan walked into the room carrying a bowl of Doritos and said, “Nibbles?”

Books, books, books

It seems like an age since I finished it – that’s because it is! The Art of the Formula 1 Race Car, with words by me and excellent bespoke studio photography by James Mann, rolled off the presses last week. It’ll be on sale from mid-March.

The book features a range of Formula 1 cars from the Alfa 158 to Lewis Hamilton’s championship-winning McLaren Mercedes MP4-23. The Alfa we photographed is one of only two left in the world and it is the actual car in which Farina won the first world championship grand prix in 1950.

In between is a miscellany of machinery, each of which has an interesting tale to tell as well as fitting into what TV scriptwriters would call Formula 1′s ‘story arc’.

If you fancy a taster then you can see a selection of the photographs and some adapted text in the most recent issue of F1 Racing magazine.

You can order a copy here. I’ll put in one of those fancy windows-in-the-sidebar as soon as I can work out how to do so without utterly wrecking the site.

Fuel if you think it’s over

It’s been a very exciting week in the F1 universe. We’ve seen the first Formula 1 test session of 2010 and the launch of the Virgin Racing team – or, at least, we would have seen the launch of the Virgin Racing team if they’d remembered to put 50p in the meter.

Ferrari set the pace throughout the Valencia test, but at the risk of being labelled a sourpuss (you’d have good reason to; well over 30,000 people attended the test, and some websites went down more often than Didier Drogba in the penalty box) I ought to point out that it’s far too early to draw any firm conclusions. The Valencia circuit has very few straights or fast corners; besides, the potential variance in fuel weights between cars is 150kg or thereabouts. On a circuit like this, which is composed of short squirts and is principally a test of traction, you need to know the fuel weights to understand which cars are working and which aren’t.

Or you can ask a photographer. These doughty souls spend their professional lives lining up fast-moving cars in their telephoto lenses. They can tell you which cars and drivers are out of shape.

Feel free to put a tenner on Fernando Alonso being champion in 2010. I may even do so myself. But don’t forget that Ferrari were quick in winter testing before the 1991 season, and before that year was out Alain Prost had been given his marching orders for comparing his car to a truck. 

Still, Renault must be fretting a tad that Bobby K ran out of fuel before the end of his long run…

Going ga-ga for a poker face

McLaren’s driver line-up came under intense scrutiny today from students of body language the world over. Every physical twitch and vocal tic, every utterance by Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton has been scrutinised for potential evidence of mutual loathing.

Clearly there’s an appetite among fans and media for a replay of the rancour that beset McLaren in 2007 – and, judging by the periodically stiff performance by Lewis Hamilton today, an equal and opposite desire on the team’s part to show absolutely no sign of any such thing (which may or may not have caused a slight case of overbriefing).

There’s plenty to read on this subject elsewhere in the blogosphere. Gridwalk Talk has an interesting view of Lewis, Joe Saward cocks a Chaplinesque snook at the whole performance, and James Allen takes a more charitable view. Fill your boots!