The regret stays with me to this day. I was seven years old and my uncle was taking me to Kyalami for the 1974 South African Grand Prix. We had tickets and everything.
Being that young, a Grand Prix sounded like the most exotic and exciting event on the planet, and the prospect of seeing Jody Scheckter driving his Tyrell would certainly be the highlight of my brief life up to that point.
Then I got sick – the mumps, or chicken pox, or one of those things you get when you hang round other little humans with their fragile immune systems.
I was devastated. I remember howling in frustration at having to stay behind. My mother wouldn’t budge, though. No Grand Prix for me. The memory of that day remains 40 years later.
I think it’s mostly because I still haven’t seen one. Not live, anyway. Over the proceeding years, I’ve watched almost every F1 race that’s been broadcast on South African television and I’ve even witnessed a test session that BAR Honda and Williams conducted at Kyalami a decade or so ago. But no
I’ve been to a couple of A1 GP events – and was even part of the SA team’s wheel-changing pit crew at an A1 race in Kuala Lumpur – but I’ve yet to ease the disappointment that my seven-year-old self felt.
One day, I’m going to tick that bucket-list item, but until then you’ll find me in front of a television at the start of every F1 race. I love watching the Proteas and I’m a long-suffering Liverpool FC supporter, but there has only ever been one sport that I’ve consistently watched, and that’s F1.
This season is perfectly poised to be a corker. As I write this, they’ve just finished the last preseason test in Bahrain and the dawning of a new turbo era appears to have halted the Vettel and Red Bull Racing train, at least temporarily.
Who’s my money on? My heart’s with Kimi Räikkönen, but if I were a betting man I’d put a few rand on the Mercedes team and Nico Rosberg. I don’t think he’s as quick as his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, but I reckon he’s easier on the car and a smarter strategist – and those are two skills that these new-fangled turbo cars require.
If your level of anticipation for the 2014 season doesn’t quite match mine, turn to page 228 and see if you agree with long-time F1 correspondent Maurice Hamilton and his six suggestions on how to fix the sport.