An Audience With… F1? –

From 1980 until the late 2000s, British broadcaster ITV ran a concept of TV show that proved hugely popular with the public, it was called An Audience With… and somehow it came to mind over the course of the Miami weekend.

At the outset the show featured comedians but later began to include singers. We’re talking Mel Brooks, Dame Edna, Joan Rivers, Peter Ustinov, Billy Connolly, Rod Stewart, The Bee Gees, Diana Ross.

The concept was simple; the featured star would be centre stage in front of an audience of invited celebrities, with a few members of the general public at the back.

In the case of the comedians they would tell jokes and anecdotes, while the celebrity guests would be invited to ask questions.

Having no doubt spent several hours in the Green Room beforehand, where they no doubt enjoyed copious quantities of Vino Relaxo, the celebrities were ‘up for it’ from the outset.

Asking questions that had clearly been prepared for them, this would offer the star guest the opportunity to respond with the perfect gag or punchline.

No matter how good the comedian however, the most off-putting thing about the format was that the TV director insisted on filming the audience’s reaction to every single joke as opposed to focussing on the person delivering it.

As the gags continued so the cameras would cut from one celebrity to another, each appearing to laugh more hysterically and louder than the last.

It was as if we needed to see the celebrities laughing their heads off to appreciate just how funny the star turn really was, as if Mel Brooks needed the seal of approval from the guy off the advert for the building society.

Somehow, this was the same feeling we endured for much of the Miami weekend, particularly on race day.

Rather than focussing on the main event – you know, the race – we were constantly being shown the crowd’s reaction.

Not just your typical “oohs” and “aahs” mind you, but long, lingering shots as another bunch of ‘up for it’ attendees cheered and hollered into the camera lens.

In the moments after the start, one of the cameras conveniently caught a Max Verstappen fan almost orgasming as his hero beat Carlos Sainz into the first corner, his whole body, even his moustache, tensing in the excitement of the moment.

This chap, like most of the others the cameras appeared to catch ‘off guard’ were all conveniently seated at the ends of rows on the aisles – their afternoon not yet compromised by the couple from 15 seats down constantly needing to pass by for comfort breaks, water, a hot dog or T-Shirt.

At least with An Audience With we still got to hear the gag as the camera searched out another celebrity with their face contorted in mirth, however, on Sunday a number of key moves were missed, not least George Russell’s two moves on his Mercedes teammate.

If ever one had any doubts that Liberty is putting entertainment before sport, this was it, for Miami wasn’t about the racing it was about the celebrities in attendance, it was about show biz.

Over the years we’ve winced as multi-millionaire actors told us how much they loved the sport, but that this was the first race they’d attended, ironically as a guest of Team X. We even put up with Liz Hurley in Monaco as she announced that she was heading to the first corner to watch “take off”.

But this was constant, endless celebrities, who most of us, like poor Martin Brundle, has no chance of recognising, all invited – at great cost no doubt – to officially endorse the sport and tells us that F1 is cool.

For us, the one thing that came out of the weekend is that this sport has changed dramatically in the last couple of years, and, with the aid of large sections of the media, not for the better.

Like the old joke about the advertising executive who, on the night of his wedding, spends the entire night sitting on the end of the bed telling his bride how good it’s going to be, we were constantly being told that this was it, F1 had arrived, this is what the sport needed, DJ Khaled likes it so it must be good.

Let’s face it, the marina wasn’t the only thing that was fake.

Indeed, looking at the events of last weekend, the hype and the need to promote the show, even at the cost of the race, we are more convinced than ever that Michael Masi was acting on orders last December.

One dreads to think how bad Las Vegas is going to be.

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