Formula One drivers are by and large a charismatic bunch, running from intense to enigmatic to charming to crazy. The interaction of these personalities with a high-octane sport makes for fine drama, but also moments that can bring on the giggles and guffaws in between the serious business of racing.
Here are the top 10 comedic (intentional and unintentional) moments the 10th edition of the Singapore Grand Prix has seen so far ahead of Sunday’s (Sept 17) race, highlighted by the irrepressible Red Bull pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
1. Taking the King of Fruits by its (t)horns
People either love the taste of durian, or hate it. There was no doubting which category the Red Bull drivers fall in when the two had a taste test on Wednesday. Verstappen compared the taste to “puke” and true to his word ,gagged several times in a viral video watched nearly seven million times. Ricciardo’s verdict was more finely grained, as expected of a connoisseur used to the exotic flavour of “shoeys”, the Australian’s trademark post-race celebration of drinking champagne from his sweat-soaked boot. Said the 28-year-old: “I thought the smell would be worse than the taste, maybe it’ll taste better. (But) the taste was even stronger, and the texture was weird and reminded me of something… big foot’s d***.”
2. Ricciardo fashion
The Aussie is also something of an entrepreneur, having launched his own clothing range of fan merchandise in March. He was mightily pleased to be asked about how the clothing line was doing during Thursday’s driver press conference, offering the journalist who asked the question a free hoodie. “What colour do you like? I’ll hook you up, it’s all right,” said Ricciardo.
3. Magnussen fashion
@danielricciardo: What was on those t-shirts?
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 14, 2017
Fans of Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, meanwhile, appear to have struck out on their own. Seated next to Ricciardo, the Dane admitted that he had heard of people who created T-shirts displaying a quote from “that interview”. Magnussen had infamously told Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg to “suck my b***s, honey” during a live TV interview at the Hungary Grand Prix in July, after Hulkenberg had sarcastically congratulated him for being “the most unsporting driver on the grid”. Egged on by Ricciardo on Thursday to repeat the quote, the Dane jokingly pleaded temporary amnesia. Asked Ricciardo: “You don’t remember it? Sure?” Fired back Magnussen: “Do you? OK, I’m not going to produce any of those T-shirts but could do something different.”
4. No road rage for Max Verstappen
Known for his aggressive driving style on the track, the Dutchman is surprisingly understanding off it when on regular roads, surrounded by ordinary drivers who must seem excruciatingly slow at times to the young speedster. “For sure when you’re with people in the car you can feel a bit like urgh they’re really slow, they cannot drive the car properly,” said Verstappen at a meet-and-greet session at Puma‘s Suntec City store. “But it’s quite normal. I can’t play golf, you know, so somebody who can play can be angry with me. So I’ve never said it to the person (I’m in the car with).”
5. Nothing to say
It has been a rough 2017 season for two-time champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren, to say the least – eight retirements, 10 points and 15th position on the standings are all he has had to show for so far. Asked on Thursday about whether he was happy with the direction things have been going with his MCL32 car, and what he has been telling the team the past month or so, the Spaniard had just two words. “Not much.”
6. Stating the obvious
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson slid sideways exiting Turn 19 during Saturday’s practice session (FP3), losing his rear wing and damaging his gearbox in the process. As Ericsson was heading back into the pits, a concerned team engineer attempted to check in with the driver over the team radio.
“All ok, Marcus?”
“No,” said Ericsson.
The Swede was hit with a five-place grid penalty for having to replace his gearbox. Not that it mattered in the end, as Ericsson eventually ended up qualifying in last place.
7. Sebastian Vettel appears to miss being in a Red Bull car
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 16, 2017
In an understandably buoyant mood after clinching pole position in Saturday’s qualifying, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took the opportunity to mess with his Red Bull rivals, moving in for a closer look of the Red Bull RB13’s sidepod and telling trackside reporter it “looks like a copy” of his Ferrari car.
“He misses us,” joked Ricciardo at the press conference later.
“Not you, not you,” said Vettel, who was team-mates with the Australian at Red Bull for a year in 2014. “It’s probably the best chance to look at the cars. It looks like ours, yeah. I actually asked them yesterday already if they do the parts in blue (Red Bull’s colour) as well… but it’s interesting to have a look.”
“Emotional,” interjected Verstappen.
“Yeah, close to tears,” said Vettel.
8. News to me
There was a brief moment of levity in an otherwise tense Friday press conference which saw the formal announcement of Honda‘s divorce from McLaren as engine suppliers after a troubled season, as well as the beginning of a partnership with Toro Rosso. Honda’s motorsport division general manager Masashi Yamamoto cracked a rare smile when quizzed about rumours in the press that Honda had been considering purchasing Toro Rosso (owned by Red Bull) out right.
He said: “Well, me too, I read it in the news. We never discussed that in our company.”
9. Under-the-table deal
McLaren have now thrown their lot in with Renault up to 2020, meaning Renault will be supplying engines to three teams in 2018 – McLaren, Red Bull, and Renault’s own team. In the second part of Friday’s press conference, Renault Sport’s managing director Cyril Abiteboul, sitting next to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and McLaren executive director Zak Brown, diplomatically asserted that all three teams “will get equity, and perfect parity of treatment”. The Frenchman was interrupted by Brown who took mock offence at his words. Said Brown: “You said we were going to get better stuff!”
Without missing a beat, Abiteboul “pacified” his McLaren counterpart: “Oh yeah! Sorry! This is a public one (statement)!”
10. Showing off his new locks
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 15, 2017
Rocking a new “aerodynamic” haircut this weekend, Daniel Ricciardo decided to show shampoo companies all around the world what they are missing out on as he was cooling off in the Red Bull garage between practices on Friday.
They’ll be lining up for his signature after this.
This story was first published at The Straits Times.