ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 37

  They are a Camera

  by Karl Ludvigsen, England

RAI pushed out the boat in a big way for its presentation of the Italian Grand Prix. Under director Giancarlo Tomassetti, who has been covering Grands Prix for two decades, the state-owned broadcaster deployed almost 40 cameras around the circuit and in the pits, manned by a 120-strong staff. RAI had super-slow-motion replay capability and cameras soaring high above the historic track and its surrounding parkland. They were ready to cope with the demands of a race in which Italy in particular took an immense interest.

Thanks to RAI we had revealing views of the weekend. In qualifying we saw the drivers on their hot laps, not the meaningless in and out laps so beloved of many other directors. We had great close-ups of the competitors at work. I could appreciate for the first time the way Jos Verstappen attacks a corner, working the wheel to judge the amount of grip available at the brink of adhesion. It may not be the very quickest way but it sure works for Jos, a man who likes to know what the car will do before it does it.

RAI also provided good views of the crashes and their aftermath. No one wanted crashes and least of all the death of a track marshal. Jean Todt dedicated Ferrari's victory to the otherwise-nameless stalwarts who make racing possible. I can't join those who were critical of RAI for broadcasting the effort to revive Paolo Gislimberti; although ultimately tragic this was part of the story of the race.

Post-mortems galore will be conducted over the conditions at and after the start and the decision to continue with a safety car. To this debate I would add only that Grand Prix racing and standing starts are inseparable. They are part and parcel of the tradition of this branch of the sport and the challenges that it poses to drivers and designers alike.

And when a start results in retirements - thank God and safety measures in this case without injury to the drivers involved at least - it has the benefit of improving the meager points-scoring chances of the lesser teams! At Monza we had one driver from each of the two top teams eliminated, significantly opening up points opportunities. We're getting used to seeing Ralf Schumacher on the podium, but points finishes were great rewards for the efforts of Arrows and Jos Verstappen, and next season's test drivers Wurz and Zonta. I think both will ultimately prove that they belong in Formula One.

One Monza event over which RAI had no control was the post-race press conference. This is FOCA's TV party and for its terrestrial feed, at least, it dropped the ball. It flinched at televising one of the most moving moments we will see in any sport in the year 2000: Michael Schumacher overwhelmed by emotion at the press conference. I didn't see anyone cutting away from a tearful Rubens Barrichello after his victory in Germany.

It was a touching moment and deserved televising as such. At Monza FOCA's terrestrial TV director shrank instead from showing us every instant of the great Michael revealing a sympathetic humanity in a way that will be remembered forever as a landmark in his career. We saw the other drivers looking at him, and first Hakkinen then Ralf extending an empathetic arm, but far too little of the heartfelt emotion of the man himself.

Speaking of sympathy, Michael got some from the man on his right. When the questioner turned to Mika, the Finn asked, "Can we have a break?" He wanted the conference to be suspended to give Michael some off-camera recovery time. That was vouchsafed instead by the FOCA director - to his considerable discredit. But to the credit of Mika Hakkinen goes that friendly gesture toward his great rival. Schumacher wasn't the only driver with an ice-cool reputation who let his feelings show after Monza.

Karl Ludvigsen© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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Karl Ludvigsen's resume extends throughout the international automotive industry: he was Vice President of Ford of Europe, also responsible for Ford's European motor sports activity; He was the Vice President of Fiat Motors of North America; He was senior public affairs official with General Motors and previously a GM designer, where he planned experimental front-drive prototypes. In publishing and journalism, Mr. Ludvigsen has held editorial positions for several motoring publications. His work as author, co-author or editor of 17 books has won numerous awards. Among his books: "Juan Manuel Fangio" (1999), "Jackie Stewart: Triple Crowned King of Speed" (1998), and "Stirling Moss - Racing with the Maestro" (1997).