Jenson Button Noises Up the Kremlin
On Sunday 18 July, Potemkin motor- racing in the shape and sound of a Formula 1 demonstration came to Moscow, bringing with it the current World Champion, Jenson Button of Great Britain, and the number 2 Renault driver, Vitaly Petrov, who is the only Russian ever to have competed in a Grand Prix.
The streets round the Kremlin were cordoned off for a crowd which was predicted to be about 300,000 but which was probably closer to a quarter of that, so that the cars could drive from the square below St Basil’s Cathedral, down onto the embankment, and round the Kremlin walls to the National Hotel, where they did an about-turn and drove back again to the Cathedral, to be greeted there by a hysterically-waved chequered flag.
During these runs, both drivers performed deliberate spins to make their rear tyres smoke which, the organisers said, was a popular sight with Russian petrol-heads. To some foreign observers, this form of destruction was less interesting than it would have been to have seen the cars being driven fast and elegantly. My impression from listening to Jenson Button talk wryly about this form of showmanship in the Mobil hospitality tent between excursions was that he felt much the same way.
It was announced at the pre-demonstration press conference that there is likely to be a Russian Grand Prix on the Formula One calendar by 2012. That would be worth attending. As it was, this event, though unusual, seemed to me rather sad. It was noisy, expensive, brutishly spectacular, but ultimately as meaningless as a Kremlin election.
At least the location was appropriate, I suppose.