Speakers: James Allen, Ron Dennis, Martin Whitmarsh, Ross Brawn, Graeme Lowdon, Robert Fernley, Paddy Lowe, James Allison, Paul Monaghan, Lewis Hamilton and Kamui Kobayashi.
I think I nearly had a heart attack when I read that I’d won a place for the FOTA Fan Forum at the MTC in Woking. My first thoughts were, “Christ, I live a LONG way from there.” So, a 5:30 start, a train, two tubes and another train later, and I was in Woking waiting to get into a Mercedes people carrier type car on my way to the Mclaren centre, and dear god is that place impressive!
Like something out of the space age, we were given our passes and allowed to wander around 40/50 years worth of championship Formula One cars - yes Senna’s and yes Hamilton’s, their supercar and to see the 100’s of trophies they have collected over the years. Having already thought that I wouldn’t get the chance to meet Lewis I took great pleasure in having a good snoop round the car, and of all the things to do I peered into the cockpit to look at how small the gap is to put their legs.
I followed the trend and sat down waiting for the first session to start way too early, but it paid off as I got to have a great chat with the host James Allen. After Allen’s introduction came Ron Dennis’ and to my surprise, he was really funny, this coming after another fan told me a staff member hides when he is in the building because she finds him scary. After the first session, taken by the team principals, I took advantage of the gap and had a lengthy discussion with Graeme Lowdon, team principal for Marussia Virgin Racing, who was very animated. Before the second session I became late after bumping into Ross Brawn and Martin Whitmarsh - there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to say hello to two of the most famous non racers in F1.
The second session came and I was a bit distracted, as Kamui Kobyashi watched from the platform above and loved every second of it. Both drivers came across well in their session and there was great banter between the two of them. Although it was a shame that Hamilton didn’t stick around to talk to his fans, it seems that work commitments kept him busy all day.
I say both came across well, and I had the great opportunity to have a brief chat with Kobayashi before everyone got to him, I mentioned that he seemed to be enjoying the day as much as we did, and once he had finished signing he was left to wander round looking at the classic Mclaren’s in peace. He is so truly passionate that my respect grew for him even more.
Having spoken to Paddy Lowe, James Allison (Yes Kubica is mending well) and said a final thank you to James Allen, I was sent back to Woking station with the Mclaren car bible and having met some of the greatest people in Formula One, really lovely fans, and someone I’ve been talking to for over a year on Facebook. Thursday was an amazing success and worth all of everyone’s efforts.