The AUTOSPORT Awards evening was a picture of a hall-full of remarkable people in the midst of adapting to major change by doing just what they've always done, a whirl of snatched conversations with old friends and new information, a celebration of history as well as the shaping of the future, lots of funny moments, a collage of encounters so many that it's impossible to put them in chronological order afterwards.
John Watson felt the effect: "I live a fairly quiet life in the semi-sticks," he said, "and when you step into this it's instantly full-on and a little disorientating at first. It's a bit like going into the F1 paddock after a while away; you take a deep breath and throw yourself into it, a million things all going on at once, everyone there for a purpose."
It's the residual wake of the spirit of racing, the turbulence from all that striving, ambition and passion. People are hustling, contacts to be made, decisions to influence.
Funny moments: Murray Walker stopping mid-speech to look over the top of his glasses at Jenson Button, also on stage, with a sort of 'yes, can I help you?' expression. Perfect comic timing. Compere Steve Ryder taking Jake Humphrey to task for making the presenting gig look too easy, pointing out that he and Murray had always contrived to make it look difficult and that Mark Blundell "had made it look virtually impossible!"
Scurrilous gossip: heard about the new F1 team that's only just discovered its car's fuel tank isn't big enough? Heard about the big sponsor that's about to be poached by one team from another? Hear about the qualifying idea that one team was advocating? Cars going out two-by-two and having a one-lap race in a series of knock-out duels. The idea's been scuppered.
A big-screen video run-through of Jenson Button's hairstyles since 1998, his current one framing features that are so much more annealed by a lot of tough lessons. The visible nervous tension of McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award winner Dean Smith as he's called to collect the prize - notice how Lewis Hamilton makes the effort of taking him to one side and chatting to him, putting him at his ease. He didn't need to do that.
Patrick Head, there to present the John Bolster award to Adrian Newey, talks about Adrian's time at Williams: "The accountant who was running Leyton House in 1990 sacked Adrian after the cars failed to qualify at the Mexican Grand Prix. Showing just how much accountants know about motor racing, two weeks later the car led the French Grand Prix convincingly and only lost the win to an engine problem.
We were struggling with aerodynamics so I signed him up and the Williams FW14 of 1991 was basically a combination of Williams running gear and Leyton House aerodynamics. It was pretty clear within about two weeks that he needed to be chief designer rather than just an aerodynamicist because of the implications his aero ideas had on the layout of the car. So I stood down and he took it over.
"He's a sore bastard. That's a big strength of his. Because not only does he not like losing but it also means that when he's told, 'You can have this much' he says, 'No, I'm taking this much and you'll just have to find a way of making it work'. Next year's cars will all look pretty much like his Red Bull of this year, I would think."
Newey's time with Williams was by far his most productive in terms of championships and for a moment as Patrick hands Adrian the award with Damon Hill looking on, the victorious 1996 team is reunited. They look at ease, the competitive tensions of that partnership long-since evaporated but the three very distinctive and complex personalities still close to the surface.
Combining such skills and personalities in a way that works is the endeavour of everyone in this sport. The skills aren't normally conducive to easy personalities, but get them all pointing the same way and magic happens. Old teams, current ones, drivers looking for their future special people, intermingled amid the music and hubbub of cutlery and chatter.
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