Formula 1 is a brutally competitive, cut-throat world that on a surface level revels in its gauche glamour and multi-million-dollar vulgarities.
But for all the fake marinas and misfiring celebrity grid walks, it’s underpinned by a surprisingly strong community spirit. F1 people strive to look after their own, as displayed by the Grand Prix Trust, a long-established charity that works hard behind the scenes to help those who have fallen on hard times.
“It’s easy to think ‘F1 is awash with money, how can anybody be short?’” said chairman Martin Brundle at the recent Grand Prix Trust lunch held at Silverstone, usually annually but because of Covid for the first time in three years. “But, of course, F1 is 72 years old and more than 150 teams have gone out of business or changed name in that time. There were no pension funds in the past, no healthcare policies, no human resource departments. As people get older, there’s a great deal of need for what we do.”
It was impossible not to be moved as old friends and colleagues met once more after so much time apart, with big smiles, warm handshakes and hugs. More than 200 Trust members took the chance to be reunited as a cast of past F1 heroes turned out too in solidarity with the people who used to make them look good. Forget the fake plastic sheen of the Miami GP: this was the real face of F1, a sport founded on heart-warming comradeship and all-for-one hard graft.
More than money
The Grand Prix Mechanics’ Trust was created by Sir Jackie Stewart 35 years ago as a means of acknowledging in a direct way the vital contribution of those on whom racing drivers rely so heavily. Now under the leadership of Brundle, the brief has been widened to include all who have worked and continue to work in F1, hence the tweak to the name.
Spearheaded by client co-ordinator Sally Oliver and Arlene Bansal, the Trust offers financial support from apparently healthy coffers that have been enhanced by canny investments over the years (Stewart’s obvious influence). But its functions stretch far beyond monetary aid.
“One of the important things we do is social interaction, like we’re doing today,” said Brundle. “We have regional meetings with up to 50 people coming to those, and our Zoom meetings that were put on during the pandemic were a lifeline.