Forza Billy.

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It’s strange how racers and racing fans alike are all well aware of the dangers and risks involved in motorsport, and yet during the actual race day, all of that are shoved to the back of our minds. It’s all going be to okay. Let’s hope the race is exciting.

This past weekend was pretty much just like any other normal race weekend–until it wasn’t. F4 as a series is not televised in my shores, but as majority of my Twitter following are fans of multiple racing series, I get to be updated whenever I check my timeline during race weekends. And when something major happens, it’s impossible to miss. As soon as I read that a big shunt has occurred in Donington Park, which involved young British racing driver Billy Monger, my mind went into automatic, “Oh dear, I hope he’s 100% okay”. I refused to watch any footage of the crash, as my timeline was still fretting over the length of time it was taking for the youngster to be extracted from his vehicle. Some hours have passed, and finally Billy was taken to the hospital, and for a while, Twitter finally got to breathe a sigh of relief.

But then the awful news broke that Billy Monger sustained such serious injuries from the crash which resulted in both of his lower legs being amputated. I am barely familiar with this kid prior to that fateful moment but I felt my heart shatter in a million pieces when I read that update. Imagine having your dream taken away from you in a blink of an eye. How do you recover from that…?

In a matter of hours, a crowdfunding page was set up to help Billy and his family cope with the impending financial stress brought about by the accident. It was at 16% of the total goal when I donated. I immediately shared the link to my Twitter timeline and asked my followers to help out if they can. It saddened me a little that I couldn’t donate more, but I crossed my fingers (and toes) and hoped that the motorsport world and beyond will come through and reach the target.

(Link to the crowdfunding page:
 https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/billymonger23 )

And reach the target we all did–and beyond! As of writing, the crowdfunding page is at 245% and has nearly 16,000 supporters. That’s with 117 days to go until the deadline. Numerous motorsport personalities have donated and expressed their support, and the massive outpouring of love and concern from all over the world is just amazing.

However, what got me into writing this was this tweet:

I never anticipated just how much those three simple words could have such an effect on me.

Here was a kid, all but 17, who got thrown a massive curveball by Life, but he is already dusting himself off without missing a beat.

And then there’s this little girl named Millie Davis who stood out among the sea of support on his crowdfunding page:

Photo grabbed from Twitter.

Do you ever have one of those days (or weeks, or months, or years, or lives) when you feel lost and overwhelmed and you feel like the universe won’t ever give you a break and you have no idea how to be yourself again?

And then you read about people like Billy Monger and Millie Davis and you realize just how inconsequential some of your worries are, and how you’re wasting your energies on the wrong things.

They may still be children but boy, have they schooled me on Life well and proper.

I am humbled by Billy’s fortitude. His bravery is no less than inspirational. He is a complete stranger to me but I am already invested in his story–a story of triumph, hope, and optimism.

It is far from over yet, there will be more challenges in the chapters ahead but I am not worried about him. Do not, in any way, feel sorry for Billy. Underestimate him at your own peril. He will pull through. He will teach us how to find the strength within us when all seems lost. He has already scored a massive victory and he’ll only score more along the way.

Form is temporary. Class is permanent.

Survival is an art and we should all be so lucky to have an ounce of Billy’s character in us.

I cannot wait for the day when Billy Whizz takes the checquered flag yet again. 

Bounce back soon, Billy. We are all behind you.
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Serendipitweet.

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Twitter is my favorite social media platform, just so you know.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2010, but I made my public, once-anonymous account only five years ago, mainly for the purpose of promoting my blog posts and preventing myself from spamming my real-life friends and acquaintances with my constant Football/F1/MotoGP/Tennis commentaries, ramblings, and observations.

My point, anyway, is that this is a story of how Twitter surprised me in the best way possible.

I love F1, that much should be obvious by now; and when I feel strongly about something related to it, I immediately let my thoughts be known, first via Twitter, and then on a subsequent, oftentimes lengthy, blog post.

Recap: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg won the 2016 World Driver’s Championship (hooray). However, five–yes, five–days later, he announced his retirement from the sport. What the heck, right?

My mind went into overdrive (pardon the pun). I poured my heart out on an open letter to him. Usually, my open letters have been reserved for my favorite drivers, but I have grown rather fond of Mr. Rosberg over the years and I felt it was only right that I should say (nearly) everything I wanted to say to him in a farewell letter. If for anything, at least I can attempt to encapsulate how a lot of F1 fans around the world feels about Rosberg and his rather interesting F1 career.

I published it on the 3rd of December. I posted the link on my Twitter page the same day. I got some compliments and several blog views over the next few weeks. And then the interest seemed to dwindle. That was fine. That should have been the end of the story.

However, for some reason, I left the blog post link as my Pinned Tweet. I thought, maybe more fans will somehow find this. I’ll just change it once the new season starts.

Then, on the 3rd of February, I interacted with the account Parc Ferme F1 (@PFF1) and asked him something about Sebastian Vettel’s supposedly revolutionary new visor during testing. For some reason, whoever runs that account must have looked at my profile and saw my Pinned Tweet. That account then retweeted the link to more than 8,000 followers. Another account, MSportXtra (@MSportExtra), must have seen the retweet and in turn, retweeted it again to more than 3,000 followers. I started getting lots of Likes and Retweets and Replies. I thanked everyone as best as I could and then went to bed, thinking, “Oh it’s nice how that Open Letter is getting attention again. I hope Rosberg fans like it.”

The next day, I went out to run errands, and while I was having a waffle snack break, I checked my Twitter and found that my Nico Rosberg Open Letter Tweet was still spreading its way through the F1 community. I got tweets from lots of fellow fans all over the world, but two tweets stood out for me: One was from the F1 producer of the NBC Sports Network, who gave me a kind review and tagged Mercedes AMG F1 on his tweet saying that the letter should be passed on to Nico Rosberg. The other was a tweet from Georg Nolte, one of the members of Nico Rosberg’s management team, who called my post a, “fantastic & emotional letter.”

My mouth dropped open (thankfully, I’ve finished my waffle). The letter was literally one person away from Nico Rosberg himself. I thanked Mr. Nolte for taking the time to read it and then cheekily added that I hoped Nico Rosberg would be able to see it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, right? I thanked the rest of the Twitter people (tweeps?) who took the time to tweet me about the letter and then closed the app, ready to go about the rest of my Saturday.

When I got home, I flicked through my new interactions and saw a “Nico Rosberg” among them. To be honest, my first thought was, “Oh look, a fake account pretending to be Rosberg read my blog post.” But then, I quickly scanned the rest of my mentions and saw all the extreme reactions and OMGs. Wait, could it be that THAT was the real, actual Nico Rosberg? I rechecked the tweet and stared at it for a full minute. Yes, yes, it was the Nico Rosberg with the blue tick.

I put my phone down for a moment and took deep breaths.

The 2016 Formula One World Champion actually took the time to read my open letter to him. Nico Rosberg actually laid eyes on my blog. Holy cow. Holy guacamole. How cool is that?!

While of course I was unbelievably pleased that the letter somehow reached its intended recipient (only 2 months after it’s been published!), a part of me got quite embarrassed at the thought of Nico Rosberg actually reading about my F1 ramblings and real feelings about him. I mean, this isn’t exactly a mainstream racing blog; who would’ve thought a legit racing driver, let alone THE reigning World Champion, would deign to even lay eyes on it? I remember covering my face with my hands and groaning out loud, wishing I took more time to polish it and make it…better. Yes, that’s me, always the overthinker. After a while though, I decided to let it be and just let go of my doubts. Shake it off, shake it off.

When at last I regained a semblance of composure, I finally replied to his tweet, thanked him for reading it and asked him to come visit my country, anytime he wants.

As soon as Rosberg sent that tweet, my blog hits and views have risen steadily. I’ve gotten lots of kind comments on Twitter, especially from the legit Rosberg fans who seem to be genuinely happy for me (they’re a good bunch). Though a part of me expected to get some trolling comments, none have been made so far (whew).

While it’s not exactly a huge, life-changing moment, that incident became quite a bright spot in my recent life and I still smile whenever I think about it.

So for the nth time, I would like to thank the random strangers who decided that my open letter was worth reading and sharing. I still can’t fathom what made Nico Rosberg check it out but I will always be grateful for that act of graciousness. Even if he never got to see my letter, my sentiments remain the same and I mean every single word I wrote. I am honestly humbled and overwhelmed by the response I got and the replies that I’m still getting. I suppose the best way for me to truly express my gratitude is to remain as authentic as I can be, which means that my F1 rants, raves and snark will continue to grace my Twitter timeline and this blog will be kept alive as long as I still watch sports.

For anyone else out there who wants to write and share what they feel–whether it’s F1-related or not–my advice is to go for it. Do not underestimate the power and magic of your thoughts and feelings. Go for it with all the humor, optimism, and enthusiasm that you can possibly give.

Serendipity is everywhere and sooner or later, it’s bound to find you.
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(P.S. Just in case you’re lurking Nico, let me know when you’re coming to Manila!)

  

An Open Letter to Nico Rosberg.

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(I’ve been procrastinating writing this. But then of course everything changed in a blink of an eye last December 2, so it got fast-tracked. Here goes nothing…)

Dear Nico,

Let me begin by saying that you are not one of my absolute favorites in Formula One. I’m just keeping it real.

But allow me to explain myself, if I may:

I liked you well enough when you burst into the F1 scene in 2006, but by that time my heart was already starting to invest in a certain “Baby Schumi” named Sebastian Vettel, and for some reason, I found you too polished, too privileged, too…slick for my liking. I prefer drivers with an “edge” to them, and you looked straight out of the perfect, pretty, prep school boys’ catalog.

You had the blessing and the curse of being a son of a Formula One World Champion. Will you ever live up to his name or are you all hype? I expected you to do well in F1, to cause a stir just enough and get a few wins here and there; but I didn’t really peg you to be The Next Best Thing. It’s weird because I knew from your racing CV that you’re talented; I just never saw enough spark and hunger in you back then.

Or maybe I should have looked at you more closely.

You spent years as one of the midfield racers, occasionally showing moments of brilliance but never really bothering the top dogs. Vettel and Hamilton easily shoved you aside to grab and share the spotlight that was supposed to be yours. You had podiums and fastest laps, and made exciting moves every now and then, but it wasn’t until you moved to Mercedes to partner the returning Michael Schumacher when I started to really “see” you. I fully expected Schumi to trounce you, but surprisingly, you came out ahead of the matchup, even giving Mercedes their first win of their “new” era. It’s not an easy task to regularly beat a driver of Schumacher’s caliber, but instead of being annoyed, I found myself getting fascinated by your progress. Who is this Rosberg I’m seeing that I was all but oblivious to during his Williams years?

As fate would have it, you were the first ever F1 driver I met in person. You exceeded my expectations, by the way. I was just curious to see you at first but I ended up staying at the event to try to get an autograph. You were nice, and kind, and sweet to us waiting fans. And yes, I have to admit that I was shocked at how good-looking you are in the flesh. But mostly, what I remember is how you treated us fans and how you made us feel. You even apologized to all the other fans who didn’t get to have your signature because you quickly got whisked away by security to your car. Not necessary, but appreciated, nevertheless. All the other fans who’ve met you only have good words to say about you, and that speaks volumes. No wonder your fans are extremely loyal and overprotective of you. I met you again in 2015 and you were as nice and pleasant as ever, you even joked and laughed with me about my bracelet that you mistook for something else. That is why from that 2012 moment on, you jumped from relative obscurity to become my “favorite non-favorite”. Does that even make sense? What the heck, you’re smart, I know you’ll get what I mean.

I am not a Hamilton fan, so when he moved to Mercedes to take over the seat Schumi vacated, I had hoped you’ll continue your good form and show him who’s the boss at Silver Arrows. But fate had other ideas, and although Mercedes skyrocketed to ruthless dominance, Lewis got the better of you. I went, “Where is the Nico that turned me around? Why is he getting sucked into the drama and the mindgames?” I vividly remember getting confused by all the frustration I feel on your behalf.

2014 and 2015 were awful. I wanted you to win the Championship so badly even I surprised myself. That electrical issue during Singapore 2014? I internally wilted. That infamous gust of wind in Austin 2015? I chanelled my inner Tyra Banks and yelled, “I was rooting for you! How dare you?!” at my TV. Do your critics have a point when they say you lack the psychological strength to become F1 Champion? I refused to believe it, despite your snafus and the injustices you suffered. I knew you had it in you. Somewhere in that blonde, polished mien, I knew there’s grit and hardiness that’s waiting to be unleashed.

And you turned it all around. Quietly. Masterfully. I believed yet I still greatly underestimated your bouncebackability and you proved me wrong. Tenacity? Check. Patience? Check. Consistency? Check. Grace under pressure? Check.

You fought back and never gave up on yourself. Amidst a barrage of criticism and blatant bias from fans and media, you revealed what you’re truly made of. When practically most expected you to wither and choke, you stepped up and delivered. The moment you crossed that finish line in Abu Dhabi was the moment you slayed all doubts and slaughtered your own demons in one fell swoop.

I was so proud of you then. So ridiculously proud of you.

And then of course you dropped that certain retirement bombshell–5 days after you won your 1st F1 title. What. The. Heck?!

I was suffering an almighty migraine that night and I remember looking at my mobile phone screen, staring at the words, “Nico Rosberg announces his retirement” and willing them to go away or be some kind of a twisted joke. But alas, it was the cold, hard truth. A myriad of questions from my brain demanded immediate answers: Is he ill? Was this predetermined? Who knew about this? But the biggest question was, “WHY?”

To be honest, I was half-astonished and half-annoyed. The annoyance stemmed from my selfish part: Who would challenge Lewis now? Why didn’t you want the honor and privilege of defending your title? Why did you not give your fans a chance to bid you a proper goodbye?!

Finally, your official statement was released, and although it was expectedly eloquent and heartfelt, it lacked the answers the selfish part of me needed. However, I was truly touched by your words and I legitimately wanted to shed tears by the end of it.

You’re truly something else, Mr. Nico Erik Rosberg. Just when I think I have you all figured out, you come out with ways to surprise me further.

How can I fault you when you say that you are retiring to prioritize your family? How can I stay mad at someone who listened to what their heart is saying and followed the path they wanted, and not just what others expected? There is immense bravery in realizing that at times, quitting is necessary in order to truly win.

What a way to distinguish yourself from other F1 Champions. Chapeau.

I still can’t wrap my head around it, but one day, I will wake up and accept that you won’t be in F1 starting next season. And that for the first time in 23 years, F1 won’t have a defending Champion on the grid. It sucks to lose one of the good guys, but that’s the reality me and millions of other fans just have to deal with.

On behalf of my 2006 Self, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize to you, Nico. I’m so sorry. I was wrong. So wrong to judge you and to stereotype you back then.

You had one hell of a rollercoaster ride in F1. You chased your ultimate dream to the edge of madness and succeeded. In a circus-like world where the narratives were almost always not to your advantage, you took control of your own storyline. Nobody can take away what you have achieved. Ever.

You may not be one of my absolute favorites, but know that you are one of the F1 personalities I truly admire and respect. You’ve made me a fan. I AM a fan. I will truly miss you in F1.

Any chance you can do a World Tour any time soon so your fans can give you a proper farewell, by the way? Please consider. You are always welcome to visit the Philippines.

Now go on and enjoy life outside of Formula One. Cherish your amazing parents and your incredible wife and daughter. Spend time with your wonderful friends. There’s still so much ahead for you and I can’t wait to find out what you have up your sleeves in the future. 

You are a fighter, a gentleman, and a class act. You are and always will be a worthy Champion, not just in racing, but in Life.

Danke, Nico.

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What A Champion: The mic drop that shook the F1 World.

Sebastian Vettel vs “The World”

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​The proverbial dust may have settled by now, but unless you are purposely avoiding all Formula One news, you may have possibly heard about the biggest controversy from the 2016 Mexico GP. Nope, the musical chairs-like exchange of the last podium place only took 2nd place in the shock-o-meter, because the spotlight belonged to Sebastian Vettel’s Team Radio broadcasts.

Shall we call it…Sweargate?

Recap: Vettel had not-so-pleasant words said to fellow drivers Felipe Massa and Max Verstappen, but the cherry on top was when he told Race Director Charlie Whiting to “F*** off”. Twice. Man, that took some balls.

And Bernie daresays German Champions are boring?

Predictably, the F1 World exploded in monumental judgment over his antics. It was the perfect occasion for the Vettel Haters to reawaken and preach his unworthiness. Not like he hasn’t said dirty words over Team Radio previously or had a history of saying things that got him in hot water, unless we’re supposed to pretend that all F1 Drivers are and should remain as emotionless robots.

Was Vettel in the wrong? Yes.
Was I offended? No.
I was equal parts amused and mortified by his…verbal tirades; but really, there are far more substantial issues about F1 that need to be addressed and put into the forefront rather than Sebastian Vettel’s motormouth.

For those who called for a race ban: Calm down. Words are powerful but he hasn’t endangered anyone.
For those who think he is less of a Champion because of his swearing: Seriously? Give me a solid reason to support your argument. Last time I checked, this is motorsport, not Finishing School.
For those who called him names, questioned his right to be a role model for kids, and generally attacked his character: You have a point to some extent, but it’s not like he has branded himself an angel in the past. Besides, he was just being his authentic self by letting his emotions get the better of him. Get real and stable your high horses.

Vettel has apologized, he has taken the penalty, he has seen and experienced the consequences of his actions. I doubt he’s losing sleep over it. Has he learned from it? Hopefully. Will he do it again? No one knows. I for one do not want him to be changed nor restrained by convention; I like him for being a tough, moxie-fuelled racer, and my support will not waver just because of a few foot-in-mouth incidents.

Isn’t there a Championship Battle happening next weekend? If for anything, we should be (perversely) grateful that Vettel gave us something to talk/debate about before this frankly unremarkable season comes to a close. Unfortunately, It’s high time we move on and make this merely an anecdote within the Volumes of Sebastian Vettel’s Colorful F1 History.

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You do you, Seb.

100 Unusual/Hilarious/Random/Awesome Things That Happened To Me During An F1 Race Weekend

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​If you’re not new to this blog then perhaps you already know that the 5 F1 GPs I’ve attended weren’t necessarily smooth sailing and were almost always action-packed.

Since I like long lists, I would like to share with you some of my most memorable moments during an F1 weekend. Some I have written about, while the others are yet to be expounded.

In no particular order:

1. (Nearly) meeting Nico Hulkenberg while in a taxi queue outside a mall.
2. Having one shoe fall off while running towards the podium post-race. (Yes, my friends all say I should wear running shoes when I watch GPs from now on.)
3. Seeing a Rob Smedley doppelganger and wondering why more fellow fans are not seeing that eerie resemblance.
4. Standing next to a Yoann Gourcuff/Fernando Torres lookalike and not getting the chance to surreptitiously photograph him.
5. Nico Rosberg bending down to take a closer look at the bracelet I was wearing.
6. Getting stared down by Maurizio Arrivabene.
7. Befriending a fellow fan while waiting outside the paddock entrance for Sebastian Vettel and then realizing after we’ve said goodbye that we didn’t even get to exchange names.
8. Getting squished next to a British Juan Mata lookalike during a Red Bull Racing event.
9. Finally meeting Michael Schumacher in the flesh after 15 years of dreaming about it. (Read about it here: http://wp.me/p10DmM-zz )

Schumi! ❤

10. Crying tears of joy/exhaustion underneath the podium after witnessing my very 1st Ferrari double podium. 

Post-Podium Ceremonies selfie!

11. Getting photobombed by a bunch of rowdy Irish & Australian teenage boys.
12. Meeting fellow fans in the flesh after years of Twitter interaction!
13.  Receiving strange/confused looks from sales assistants whenever I asked, “Do you have an Alguersuari cap?”
14. Having a mini-argument with a sales assistant who didn’t think Kimi Raikkonen has what it takes to win that year’s F1 Night Race.
15. Convincing a staff member to unveil at least the nose of the Ferrari display car so me and my friend can take a photo with it.
16. Trackwalking post-race holding a ziploc bag, collecting tire marbles along the way.
17. Nick Heidfeld passing me by as he made his way back to the pits after an on-track shunt. 

Hallo, Nick!

18. Taking home a piece of the foam barrier that Sergio Perez hit on-track.
19. Being overwhelmed by seeing Michael Schumacher for the 1st time in person (sans his racing gear) during the Drivers’ Parade that I took a photo of a trash bin instead of him.
20. Standing next to a group of friends who jeered both Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher and doing my best not to punch them all.
21. Inadvertently yelling “Jaime Alguersuari!” so loudly during the Drivers’ Parade that he looked my way and waved.
22. Being so sleepy and exhausted that I started yelling “Sebastian Vettel! Where are you? Please come out!” towards the Paddock Entrance (It was already past 4am & I only had 1 hr of sleep that entire day, okay?!).
23. Praying earnestly not to get injured as I mounted multiple barriers and ran up several slopes just to make the podium ceremonies.
24. Finding out our house got completely flooded due to a major typhoon barely 24hrs before attending my very 1st F1 race.
25. Wearing a headband decorated with lots of tiny Lego mini-tires.
26. Buying expensive caps that I didn’t really need but I absolutely wanted. 

Ogling the overpriced merchandise that I still could not help but buy…

27. Sneaking surreptitious looks at the KangarooTV (remember them?) of my fellow fans.
28. Foregoing eating for nearly 12 hours because the queues are too long/I didn’t have much of an appetite/I’d rather go around the track.
29. Having a hulk of a guy, who was bald and wearing a sleeveless top, borrow my fan and then ask me, “How are you not sweating in this weather?! I am dying here!” (It’s true, I was cool as a cucumber in the heat and humidity while he was as red as a tomato and sweating like a whore in church.)
30. Speaking of fans, while waiting to cross in a pedestrian footbridge, another Western guy stood beside me and made almost-inappropriate sounds of pleasure when he caught some of the air I was producing with my fan.
31. Having a fellow fan snatch my Sharpie pen in excitement while waiting for Heikki Kovalainen to sign stuff because his own pen didn’t work. Heikki saw the look of annoyance on my face and signed my stuff first. Ha. The fan apologized to me after so it’s all good.
32. Having a fellow fan graciously lend me his pen when it was my turn to have my stuff signed by Max Verstappen, because I dropped my pen inside my blackhole of a bag before taking a photo of him.
33. Nico Hulkenberg telling me, “Good luck!” after he signed my notebook. I’m pretty sure I made a “Huh?” face but he just smiled and moved on.
34. Standing outside a pop-up store for nearly 2 hours just to see Nico Rosberg up close for the 1st time.
35. Sneakily placing my mobile phone in between a cameraman’s legs just to be able to take a photo of Jenson Button for a friend.
36. Considered gatecrashing an F1-related event but changing my mind at the last minute to go shopping instead.
37. Getting lost on my way out of the track because I was too busy posting my Vettel autograph on Instagram.

I waited nearly 5 hours for this!

38. Bumping into an elderly track personnel while trying to find the track exit at past 4 am & getting told, “You’re still here, Miss?! Go home & get some sleep, lah!”
39. Having to explain to a semi-flirting taxi driver what makes F1 such a great sport at past 4 in the morning. Completely sober.
40. Having a whole conversation with our taxi driver about the 2008 F1 Night Race on our way to the airport while my friends rolled their eyes at the back.
41. Being too lazy to chase after Felipe Massa and then asking a fellow fan “Was he with Rob Smedley?” after.
42. Going to a McLaren-related exhibit inside a mall just to check out the Kimi Raikkonen bits. 

Spot the misspelled word there…

43. My friends freaking out on my behalf when they saw a huge Michael Schumacher billboard outside the Petronas Towers. “You have to take a photo with that!” I’ve trained my friends well.

Where Schumi goes, I go…

44. Nearly not being on time for a Qualifying Session due to a delay at the border, so I had to tell the taxi driver, “Please channel your inner F1 driver, I cannot be late!” We got to the track on time.
45. Dishing out the “You’re kidding me, right?” face everytime a sales assistant asks, “Are you getting this for your boyfriend?” when I’m browsing F1 merchandise.
46. Being given tons of free Singapore GP goodies by a staff member of the Singapore’s Visitor Centre when she found out it was my first GP ever.
47. Being too starstruck/awestruck to even properly take a photo of Kimi Raikkonen as he whizzed past us fans in his golf cart.
48. Starting conversations with fellow fans with, “So, who do you support?”
49. From crying my eyes out of sadness the night before to experiencing internal bliss the next day during my very first GP.
50. Getting invited by a fellow fan to “watch Fernando Alonso sunbathe in his hotel”. Yeah, I gave that a pass.
51. Being given free bottled water by generous track marshals.
52. Getting the stink-eye from Hamilton fans when my friend and I let out a whoop when he retired.
53. Having a fellow fan start a convo with me by opening with, “You’re a Kimi fan, right? You look like a Kimi fan” even though I wasn’t wearing anything Kimi-related. He’s a Kobayashi fan, by the way.
54. Getting the “You came all the way from the Philippines?!” response from fellow fans when I tell them where I’m from. Seriously guys, it’s not that far from Singapore.
55. Using all my charms to convince a bus conductor not to leave me and my friends in Johor Bahru (I had to attend a Qualifying Session in Sg that night) by distracting him and appealing to his Ferrari-supporting side.
56. Seeing someone I know through Twitter in person but getting too shy to approach them and say hello.
57. Receiving a dazzling smile from Sebastian Vettel after I wished him “Good luck!”
58. Yelling “Hello, Kimi!” everytime Kimi enters the pits mere meters away from me.
59. Nearly falling asleep while taking a shower after getting back to home base at nearly 5 am.
60. A fellow fan asking me, “Who is he? He’s a driver, right?” when Felipe Nasr exited the Paddock area and started signing for the fans.
61. Being all superstitious and wearing at least 1 red item per day for Ferrari’s sake (hey it worked for the 2015 F1 Night Race!).
62. Watching a Free Practice Session from a height of 165 meters for free, thanks to the Singapore Flyer.

The Singapore Flyer

63. Getting amused laughs from security personnel at the Gates during bag check whenever they see how huge my bag is and how it’s usually filled with shopping bags.
64. Falling in love with a promo umbrella emblazoned with the faces of past F1 Champions. 

I want that umbrella!!

65. Sending a text blast to selected friends (and most probably waking them up) at like 2 in the morning saying I’ve met Michael Schumacher. In all caps. I regret nothing.
66. My Spanish basically getting reduced to “por favor” and “gracias” when I met the Spanish-speaking drivers.
67. Seeing 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve blanked by fans.
68. Seeing Grumpy Fernando Alonso refuse to sign/take pics for fans and telling them a resounding, “NO!”
69. Seeing Kimi Raikkonen’s trainer Mark Arnall get a warm reception from fans, even getting autograph/selfie requests!
70. Randomly getting stopped by a fellow fan to ask why there was a Safety Car on track at that moment (Due to the Hulk-Massa shunt, F1 Night Race 2015).
71. Receiving a text from a friend that went something like, “Hey I’ve just heard that someone invaded the track mid-race. That’s not you, right?!” And yes, it was NOT me. (F1 Night Race 2015)
72. Running through nearly 1/3 of the track (back & forth at that) just to be able to make the podium ceremonies.
73. Watching Maroon 5’s concert post-Qualifying Session behind a couple who made out for 80% of the duration. Ick.
74. Randomly getting complimented by a fellow fan on the lipstick I was wearing during raceday (MAC Ruby Woo).
75. Immediately storing the Sharpie pen that was touched and handled by 3 World Champions (Schumacher, Vettel & Alonso) inside a ziploc bag and never touching it with bare hands again.
76. Resisting the urge to pee for 4 hours for fear of missing any on-track action.
77. Being told “You know a lot about F1 for a woman” by a taxi driver. (SIGH.)
78. Riding on the same elevator with fellow F1 fans who could not disguise their friskiness and looked just about to get it on.
79. Forgetting to remove my earplugs post-race which resulted to me talking really loudly to my friend and a few fellow fans for nearly half an hour.
80. Forgetting to bring my earplugs during raceday, buying a pair on-track but not using them anyway (this is during the V6 era already; and don’t follow my example, kids!).
81. Having a GP weekend survival kit that consists of: Paracetamol, band-aids, Tiger Balm and Salonpas strips.
82. Surreptitiously doing yoga-like stretches in between sessions (sometimes in the middle of a race) to prevent my legs from cramping and to relieve my poor back.
83. Unabashedly brandishing my foldable binoculars to get a better look at the cars (and to people-watch better).
84. Getting sad at seeing the discounted Kimi Raikkonen caps during his F1 sabbatical (circa 2010), but knowing in my heart he’ll return to F1 once again. I kinda wish I bought a couple of those now! 

I guess they thought Kimi wouldn’t be coming back…

85. Having this weird fascination with kerbs and touching/stroking at least one of them post-race.
86. Having the same fascination with tire marks on the walls and touching/stroking at least one of them post-race.
87. Nearly (deliberately) stepping on the foot of a motormouth fan behind me when he very loudly proclaimed that they should just skip interviewing Kimi Raikkonen because he is so dull (among other things) during the 2015 F1 Night Podium Ceremonies.
88. Shivering (in a good way) every time I hear the sound of an F1 car accelerating.
89. Overhearing a fellow fan tell his girlfriend, “Get Fernando to sign this, will you?” Girlfriend: “Why me?” Guy: “You’re a girl, he’ll pay more attention to you!”
90. Marvelling at how…vertically-challenged most drivers are.
91. Realizing though that most, if not all of them are much better-looking in person.
92. Overtaking slow-walking fans with F1 engine sounds playing inside my head.
93. Learning that when in doubt, go ask a track marshal/policeman directly.
94. Drinking more water in 3 days than I do in a whole month.
95. Regretting not being able to make and bring a witty banner.
96. Discovering a good spot for the Drivers’ Parade where they’re close enough to hear you when you yell their names.
97. Foregoing watching the musical acts in favor of waiting for the drivers & personnel.
98. Finding out that (most) F1 fans are really very nice and good fun.
99. Bending down the start-finish line and leaving a red kiss mark on it post-race.

Leaving my (kiss)mark on the track!

100. That strange mixture of happiness and sadness that envelops me as I leave the track post-race which leads to an iron resolve of, “I WILL BE BACK, NO MATTER WHAT!”

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I’m sure I have missed many more anecdotes, but anyway, perhaps they’ll make it to a part 2 of this post.

Meanwhile, I’m already planning my next GP weekend because I cannot wait to see what other adventures/misadventures await me.

(What are your own unforgettable F1 GP mini-anecdotes? Tell me in the comments section!)

Michael Schumacher: Meeting The Man and What He Means To Me.

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You have no idea how exasperating it is when I talk to someone about Formula One (sometimes at length, with mostly me talking) and they reduce the whole conversation to, “So you have a crush on Michael Schumacher?”

The short of the long answer is: NO, I do not have, and never had, a “crush” on Michael Schumacher. And I mean that in the best, most respectful way possible.

But in order to better explain my point, let me retrace my F1 history.

I began liking F1 as a prepubescent tomboy, when boys were still gross/annoying and I only wore skirts because they were part of my Catholic school uniform.

I chanced upon his name on a scaled model of his Benetton F1 car. I was a full-fledged Benetton kid/snob, so I immediately fell in love with that colorful car. And then I saw the name by the side.

Michael Schumacher. That sounds like a badass name, my preteen self thought. Surely someone who has a name as badass as that and who also gets to race an equally badass car, should be legit badass in real life, right?

And so my F1 story progressed. I scoured the newspapers, went to the library to peruse the magazines, watched the international sports news for snippets, until I finally managed to watch the races on TV. My memory is hazy on when I put a face to his name, but by that time, what he looked like mattered little to me; I’ve already claimed him as my Racing Spirit Animal.

Years went by and I fell even more in love with the sport. It was my awesome little secret, growing up in a basketball-crazy nation. I officially defected from the Enstone team the moment Schumi moved to Ferrari, a little bit sad to leave Benetton but secretly delighted that his new main color is my favorite: Red.

Even during his “barren years”, I was never really worried; I knew in my heart that he’s destined for more championships and that he would end up as the greatest racing driver ever.

It never really occurred to me that it’s possible for me to meet him. During the time when budget airlines were still scarce and I was restrained by the duties of finishing my schooling, attending an F1 race was nothing but a silly pipe dream.

However, everything changed when my mother met Michael Schumacher. Yes, my own mother actually met Schumi a decade ahead of me.

Fate has a quirky sense of humor, at times.

It was during a work trip that coincided with the Malaysian GP. Everything was spur-of-the-moment and a bit of a blur. She didn’t get to have a photo with him but she did get to shake his hand and chat with him a bit. My mother had nothing but good words about him. Most notably, she said he’s really humble and you wouldn’t think you’d be talking to a sporting superstar by the way he put her at ease. “He’s very kind”, she’d repeat over and over again.

I knew he wasn’t the cold, ruthless, heartless, arrogant bastard/machine that the media proclaimed him to be, I thought with a mixture of relief and smugness. I chose my Racing Spirit Animal correctly! Ever since then, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I stand a chance to meet him, too. Imagine my disappointment when he announced his retirement from F1 in 2006. My dream was shattered into tiny pieces.

Three years later, as I sat alone in the office, I found out that he’s returning to Formula 1, this time as a driver for Mercedes GP. I’m not ashamed to say I let out a whoop and danced like a lunatic. The dream is alive again!

I finally watched Michael Schumacher race an F1 car in person when I attended my 2nd GP: The 2010 F1 Night Race in Singapore. I remember standing there on the viewing platform by Turn 14 as he drove past, my mouth unabashedly open and my eyes might as well have had cartoon hearts on it. To say it was a joy to see him race again would be an understatement. I felt like I was on some sort of pilgrimage, paying respects to my racing god.

However, It wasn’t until the 2012 F1 Night Race when finally, FINALLY, the dream of meeting him came to fruition. With the help of a fellow F1 (and Kimi) fan, we waited patiently outside the Paddock Entrance/Exit to try to catch the drivers after Qualifying. To be honest, I didn’t really expect to meet Schumi that night (or day, as it was already past midnight in Singapore then); I mean, why would he choose to exit the paddock by feet when he could easily leave via a chaffeured Mercedes car? Also, I was exhausted, hungry, sleepless–I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much. Numerous drivers came and went and I even managed a few autographs. There was a lull for several minutes so I stepped back from the throng of fans to drink some water and hopefully catch a breeze, but then there was this gasp from another fan that my ears miraculously picked up.

I was still rooted to my spot when I saw my fellow fans stir. I couldn’t understand why there was a sudden…reverential silence outside the paddock. “Who’s that?” I asked out loud. My friend had no idea and moved towards the crowd. All of a sudden, someone went, “Michael!” which sent my brain into overdrive.

“Holy shit! Michael? THE Michael Schumacher?! No. What? Seriously? NO WAY!!” my brain screamed.

I surged forward and true enough, there he was, just starting to sign for the small(ish) group of fans gathered behind the barrier. Hilarious but most of them had this “Oh my gosh, it really IS Michael Schumacher” look on their faces, and I bet that not all of them are even fans of his. I wish I had taken a pic of that moment but at that point, I was so awestruck that my motor skills were close to zilch. I managed to take a pic of him, and then proceeded to internally freak out just as he was slowly inching towards my side of the barrier:

There he is! It really is him!

“Shit. What do I do? What do I say to him?”
“Stay calm, FFS. Whatever you do, don’t scream ‘I LOVE YOU, SCHUMI!’ and scare him off.”
“You can do this. Just breathe. Be polite and look him in the eyes, okay?!”

Schumi is getting closer!

A picture of me taking a picture of Schumi. As you can see, I’m already having trouble controlling my camera’s zoom function out of nerves. Ha!

At last, he was right in front of me. The Man Who Was Responsible For My Formula 1 Love Affair. The world may as well have stopped spinning. The concept of time disappeared.

I meekly held out the orange collapsible fan I had the other F1 drivers sign to him. “Michael, please?”, I managed to say in a prim voice that sounded alien to my ears.

“Sure!” He replied cheerfully.
He held a part of the fan while signing, and paused in the middle of it to look at me, probably because my hand was shaking out of nerves and multitudinal feelings. He gave me such a reassuring, “It’s okay, don’t be nervous”-smile and I will never forget the kindness in his eyes. I wish I could have talked to him and told him how important this moment was to me, but I was so overwhelmed that I could only manage a, “Thank you, Michael. Good luck!” along with an “I’m trying my best not to spontaneously combust right in front of you, please forgive my lack of eloquence” smile.

Schumi looked me in the eyes once again, smiled and replied, “No problem at all. Bye!” gave me a farewell wave, and moved on to a group of Japanese girls who immediately and happily encircled him.

I finally got my Schumi autograph!

I couldn’t believe that just really happened. I just had a legit face-to-face interaction with him. And breathe.

I vaguely remember sending out a text blast to my friends screaming in all caps that I’ve met Schumi. I bet they weren’t amused to receive a text at such an ungodly hour but hey ho, no regrets.

In all seriousness, the thing about Michael Schumacher is that he really had that aura of being “somebody” without being arrogant or too self-aware about it. He was kind, he was patient, he had time for everyone who was there, he was polite, he was grounded. “He wore his greatness with grace” was how I described him to my friends and anyone who would care to listen to me tell the tale of how I met him.

Before, I wished I’d have done more: I wish I talked to him, asked him stuff, begged him not to retire yet, shook his hand, took photos with him, asked for a hug, gave him a gift or a letter, the list goes on and on. But then, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t devalue the moment by dwelling on regrets. That moment was how it should have been and that is the beauty and uniqueness of it.

Not every racing fan got the opportunity to meet him and I shall forever hold that memory and experience dear in my heart.

We all know by now what happened to him after he left F1 again, this time for good. There is not a single day where I wish and pray for his wellness and recovery, as I’m sure thousands (maybe even millions) of his other supporters also do.

He’s a man who shared his passion with thousands of others and became an inspiration to so much more. Mine is one of those lives he had changed and affected in some way; I will always defend him and wish him well, no matter what.

It was a pleasure and an honor to have been in his presence and whoever said never to meet your heroes is absolutely wrong because they’ve obviously never met Michael Schumacher. 

He’s more than a racer. He’s a kind, charitable man, a great friend to many and a once-in-a-lifetime type of person.

While there is still a fighting chance, I will never give up. We will never give up.

Keep Fighting, Michael.

An Open Letter to Max Verstappen.

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Dear Max,

You are such a…show-off, you know that?!

Just kidding. Or am I?

Here you are, at 18 years old, just casually leading a lap and eventually winning the F1 Spanish Grand Prix, while during the same age, I was still in architecture school, trying to figure out whether to be a modernist or traditionalist and bemoaning the fact that I have so much math to learn.

Life is not fair. Or something like that.

Just what makes you so darn special, anyway? Is it because you seem to have the unwavering cool of Kimi Raikkonen, the in-your-face moxie of Sebastian Vettel, the dogged determination of Fernando Alonso and the overall racing aplomb of Michael Schumacher, all wrapped up in your 18-year old body?

Those are just figures of speech, though. We all know that you’re a Verstappen through and through.

Strange but I never really paid that much attention to your father Jos when he was still racing in F1. And to be honest, I knew very little about you too prior to your arrival in F1. But, what an arrival it was. Your 17-year old self promptly split the F1 circus and fans into two camps: The “He’s far too young” conservative camp and the “Let him have a go!” excitable camp. I was firmly in the latter one, by the way, as I am of the belief that if one is good enough, then he/she is old enough. Or maybe I just like the possibility of another maverick/trailblazer in F1 a lot.

You didn’t just talk the talk, you walked the walk. You didn’t quite have a fairytale first season but you more than proved on track that you deserve to be racing against the top drivers in the world, regardless of your age.

And in last week’s Spanish GP, all the stars aligned for your benefit.

However, let’s back up a little bit. Prior to that race, you sparked debates left, right and center yet again because of your “sudden” promotion to Red Bull, which effectively demoted another young driver (and podium finisher at that), Russia’s Daniil Kvyat. Again, people questioned your “readiness” for a drive at such a top team (“He’ll be decimated by Ricciardo!”/”He needs to mature further!”) and complained at how shabbily Kvyat was treated to advance your career. Even I was mildly shocked at this mid-season team switch, but chose to reserve judgment until at least after your first race with Red Bull.

And what a first race weekend with Red Bull that was.

Outqualifying both Ferraris on your first try? How very dare you. When most people expected you to get passed during the start of the race, you held your bottle even as the highly-fancied Mercedes drivers took each other out during the first lap. Your composure belied your age, and with each passing lap that you led, it was clear that a star was being born right before our eyes.

Just to keep it real, I wanted Kimi Raikkonen to win the race ahead of you, but the way you defended your position and kept your cool made me go, “Damn, son!” Who on earth would begrudge you with that win?!

Youngest ever driver in F1? Check.
Youngest driver ever to lead a lap? Check.
First Dutch driver to win a Grand Prix? Check.
Youngest ever Grand Prix winner? Check.
Respect, man. My hat is well and truly doffed.

Why does that win (and the broken records) matter so much, anyway? Perhaps because amidst disarray, rapid decline of viewership and interest, and a glaring one-team domination the past few years, you’ve managed to bring a spark of magic into the sport yet again. And who doesn’t love a bit of magic during trying times?

You made people sit up and take notice of Formula One yet again. News outlets heralded the fact that a teenager made racing demigods look ordinary and fallible that race. Kids worldwide would have went, “Hey, if Max can do that, then so can I!”

Has it all sunk in yet? Don’t worry, it eventually will.

So just be yourself, Max. Now that you have that massive monkey off your back, you can focus on what you do best: racing. Keep proving your critics wrong and smashing as many records as you can, and most importantly, have a ton of fun while doing so.

I can’t wait to see what else you have up your young, Dutch sleeve.

So go on and be a show-off all you want. Own it. I expect nothing else.

Regards,
Bouncebackabilitrix

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P.S. Please don’t get all big-headed from now on, okay? I am still looking forward to the day when Mick Schumacher kicks your arse on track. 😉