Confessions of an F1 Twit(ter)

April 8th, 2010 in .Blogs .News & Events
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It takes a lot to make me a believer in tech or social networking trends. So Twitter is just  an outlet that lets me virtually rant and rave about the real world. 

I’ve always wondered what the big fuss was about when Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to a Twitter popularity contest almost a year ago, and so I didn’t buy into that. I’ve always been skeptical of celebrities or companies using Twitter to “engage” their audience. And unlike some Twitter folk I know, I definitely don’t need to know whether Britney is having bacon and eggs or just a bagel for breakfast. 

But in the past weeks, I’ve been made to eat my words. Twitter has given me inside access to the inner sanctums of the holy grail of motorsport – Formula One. 

It’s a sport where they play their cards close to their chest, with the only mortals getting up close and personal with the team and their cars on race weekends are invited guests or paddock club members (read: the super rich) who pay exorbitant fees for that privilege. 

With teams investing millions on trade secrets of horsepower and aerodynamics, loose lips sink ships. You’d think that hands would be cable-tied to keep the “twit”chy fingers of drivers, engineers and mechanics away from smartphones. 

So it came as a surprise when I first discovered that some Formula One teams encourage it, with some drivers actually tweeting whilst sitting in the cockpits of their F1 cars parked in the garage.

This past race weekend in Malaysia, I found out Fernando Alonso changed to a softer set of tires for a particular practice session – straight from the Prancing Horse’s mouth. 

Teams like Virgin Racing, Scuderia Ferrari, Red Bull Racing, and Lotus have Twitter pages of their own that give blow-by-blow accounts of the goings-on in the pit lane. Drivers like Heikki Kovalainen, Rubens Barrichello, Mark Webber, and even Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes have gotten in on the act.

Once in a while you get little gems from Virgin Racing, with pictures of the car in various states of undress amid a chaotic garage — the automotive equivalent of being backstage at a Victoria’s Secret fashion show. No surprises though, given that owner Sir Richard Branson tweets as well.

Lotus Racing's Heikki Kovalainen holding his smartphone after tweeting during an autograph session.

It was then I realized that through these channels, the usual veil of secrecy around F1 has been lifted. It supplements what we see on TV, so much so that even race commentators rely on it to spice up their broadcasts. Ordinary race fans like me finally have an avenue to find out what it’s like behind the scenes of a race weekend. 

Talentless drivers can now live vicariously through sneak peeks into the lives of these driving maestros away from the track, from Bridgestone golf tournaments, to physical training sessions, to where they run off to in between races. 

Oh god, look at what I’ve become – I’m no better than that teenage girl who knows that Britney had a bagel for breakfast today.

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