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The Apples of our Fathers

FEATURE BY MAX NOBLE
07/07/2015

It's an Autumn day, late morning sunlight streaming through the kitchen window with that magical liquid quality that makes you dreamy and slow in a comforting way. You're young, still in shorts.

Your grandmother comes through the door, busying about her morning with a smile, she passes-by, placing a fresh picked apple on the table.

"For you, specially picked!" she exclaims before gliding from the room with the lazy photons.

Not rising from your daydream you fumble for the apple without looking, and grasping it take a large, slow bite. Man, that's good. Ah... perfect. The sharp, yet sweet, taste of the fresh apple plays around your mouth. The crisp, firm texture feeling perfect. Eyes closing, the moment is complete. You are wordlessly happy, such that even the daydream drifts from your mind, and only the delights of this sensational autumn apple, gifted from a loved one, fills your being. For this moment you are happy, the experience is perfect and you want nothing more.

Thirty plus years drift by. Filled with the things that go to make-up a life. A few times you recall that dreamy morning. Not often, but always fondly.

You're back in that same kitchen. Rain weeping down the windows now, both grandmother and the autumn sun are gone. You spot an apple hunched alone in the fruit bowl on the table. It looks fresh, perfectly ripe for eating. You pick it up, bright fragments of those dreamy autumn mornings defined by perfect apples dance in your mind as you turn it in your hand, pausing before you take that first bite.

You bite. Sadness. Too bitter. Too soft. Lacks edge. No hint of lasting sweetness. Like a wine critic passed a red cordial laced with cheap vodka, you screw-up your face, swiftly spitting the offending contents of your mouth into a bin. Even the apples are crap these days. The let-down is complete, happiness drains from you as memories of the apples of your father claw harpy-like at your mind, tempting you to drown blissfully in the welcoming seas of the past.

Apple discarded in the bin, you exit, lock the door, and without looking back, walk away.

What ever happened to all the good apples?

Medical research suggests that with age not only do we lose taste buds in our mouths but our sense of smell, so critical to taste, also fades away. Those perfect apples of youth have not changed in any meaningful manner. It is we who have changed. Our ability to discern the delights of our youth, when coupled with the battle-scars of life that each year dim the glow of our youthful optimism, cause the enjoyment to fade. The loss is not due to the poor quality of today's offered delights.

I vividly remember the tragic footage of Gilles Villeneuve's 1982 Zolder crash, and Niki Lauda's fiery 1976 Nurburgring horror. One great man taken from us in an instant, while another fights on to become a true living legend, still with us today. Gilles is forever young in our memory, the hero 'frozen' at his peak for all time. Niki growing old, a past star who looks a touch less heroic with each passing year.

Mansell around the outside. Senna on the grass. Arnoux banging wheels. Hunt sliding it by and keeping it together for once. An endless blur of summer delights that I can recall whenever I close my eyes. Always fresh.

More sweet perfection? Michael in the wet. Alesi in the wet. Damon spinning yet again in the wet. All brave. All deserving. All delivering great sport that therefore was axiomatically great entertainment. All the sweetest of apples in the most perfect of light.

Moderate dollars. Simple advertising. Smiling drivers. Scowling drivers. Dead drivers. All heroes. All remembered.

And now?

Alonso around the outside. Kimi at Suzuka. Webber at Monaco. Vettel in the wet. Michael and Jules tragically fighting other battles. Hell, even Bernie wants to remember Michael as he was. Yet sweet moments abound, still.

Moss and Surtees still remember. Murray Walker still remembers. Jackie and Niki remember. And yes, Max and Bernie remember. Yet all of them know that today matters most, because today, right now, is all that we have. You cannot rehash the past, you can only hope for the future. Right now is the only time you can act, and enjoy the result of the actions you take. Look at how each of them lives their public life, especially Bernie, and you can see that right now is all that concerns them. The past is for wishful smiles as the sun sets on us alone.

The cars are still fast. The moments of bravery are there each race. The money, power, and prestige have never been higher.

Was it really that much better all those years ago? Or have our tastes been dulled, while we shine the apples of the past to perfection? It is not so much that the world has changed, rather we have changed. Not for better or worse, simply different to how we were.

Acknowledge that and embrace the moments presented to you. In the world today change is our only constant travel companion. Why not share an apple and enjoy the journey together?

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by airman1, 24/07/2015 10:54

"A fine article! Everything was better when we were 18, the girls were prettier, the water was sweeter, the racing was "pure", oh how years clouds the past, and even the dullest moments of our youth sometimes eclipse the excitement of mature years. Max, opens up an interesting point here, a point of youth, and a real question that F1 needs to ask itself: " Has F1 become a sport that Generation X or Y have no interest in? Is the F1 a sport of old or middle aged people, without a real connection in the present?" We were all young once, when F1 had it's "glory" days, and we would like to see it again, sometimes, more as a reflection of our youth, rather than a grim reality what the F1 is today and what it can be today and for whom it needs to carry on. Bernie needs to leave, not because he is a crook, or compromised, or whatever, he is a face of the Sport, in a way sometimes he is more prominent than the drivers are, and his face is old, wrinkled, and young people, apparently, do not respond to such faces well. Cannot blame them. To whom F1 needs to focus its attention, for who the F1 needs to change, us, from the past, or those in the present, and the future.....in that case....and even if I am 50, I vote for the youth, and the future. Let go off the past, move to the future, sure it is rough now, but it won't be forever, and it will be glorious again, when today's youth are like we are today! Well done Max!"

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2. Posted by Spindoctor, 20/07/2015 23:40

"Should be a full-stop after "...Elite & Elan." and a new sentence starting "That saved..." in 2nd Paragraph. "

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3. Posted by Spindoctor, 20/07/2015 23:27

"I agree entirely that (to paraphrase) "You can't swim in the same river twice". Age dulls our senses and reduces the sense of immediacy which makes\made those youthful experiences so preternaturally vivid.
That's where the MX5 analogy becomes so valid.

Notwithstanding cricketpo's inaccurate aspersions about the Elise, it might make an even more valid metaphor for the reinvention of Formula one, not as a recreation of its former self, or selves, but as a reincarnation of its spirit in a different form. After years of building ever faster, heavier, more expensive cars, Lotus went back to basics. They threw away all the superficial, expensive & uneconomic dross, and used innovative technology to build a fast, light car in the mould [sic] of the Seven, Elite & Elan that saved the marque.

The problem with tis analogy\metaphor is that Lotus was a single entity - one organisation serving a simple objective: to build a decent car that would save their bacon. Formula One is an almost exact antithesis of that. It is a hotbed of conflicting interests, fuelled by BIG money, greed and ego. FIA is supposed to referee this scrum. Currently it seems to be standing aloof except for awarding regular penalties based on rules so arcane hardly anyone knew they existed. But the only people who can resolve this is FIA. Without their imprimatur, there is no "Formula One" Bernie & CVC would have the Sporting Rights to Spectre, a name with no substance.

So change is essential and we need the kind of leadership that (for better or worse) Max 'n Bernie provided in their pomp. We can't swim in that "river" again, but we can go back to that riverbank and plunge into a "new" river. We need to re-invent a 21st Century event which is about Sport, Technology, ingenuity and bravery.

I don't suppose for an instant that this, or any other radical change will happen. It isn't just the F1 "River" in which we can't swim twice. We are adrift in the much choppier waters of a radically different Culture to that which spawned F1 in the middle of the 20th Century."

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4. Posted by MKI, 20/07/2015 13:10

"Looking back. Always a worry. Not least when assessing a sport like ours that has evolved so quickly. Having been brought up - many years ago - on a farm that grew tomatoes I can assure you current taste and scent is certainly not what it was....better or worse is simply a matter of opinion, but only to those who have experienced both.

The real issue for motor sport is that it continues to appeal to a live audience. Motor sport and history are not natural bedfellows, but are the two mutually exclusive? There is a lot of talk about the cars not being fast enough; I wonder about that. They are certainly quick enough for at least two of Monaco's epic corners to have been modified, and other long term GP circuits have been similarly changed. Good? Bad? In whose opinion? Motor racing has largely all been about technology thus far. However designers have gradually come to the point where they count for more than 95% of the drivers. I suggest it is not a sustainable direction for any endeavour that seeks mass audience appeal. Dan Gurney recently made the point about aerodynamics having changed the sport beyond recognition; Sir Stirling wrote only last Saturday his was a golden age for the sport. They seem to me to be articulating as drivers as well as fans......should they keep quiet? Or are they making a valuable contribution based on their own experiences? It's all getting very tricky..."

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5. Posted by fredfrog, 13/07/2015 9:51

"those magnificent apples have slowly morphed into a lemon!"

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6. Posted by Max Noble, 10/07/2015 2:56

"Correction to self - type in haste repent at leisure - that should read pneumatic valves. <blush>. Max."

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7. Posted by Max Noble, 09/07/2015 13:32

"@JackTheCat - Agree that the big manufacturers need some sort of link to their road cars. Just not sure how much really trickles to road cars (hydraulic value actuation never moved to the road for example, nor any of the advanced ceramic innards...). And how much of it is the senior people in the company that love racing need a bulletproof reason to convince all those on the board that think racing is a waste of company money...

:-)
"

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8. Posted by JackTheCat, 08/07/2015 13:31

"Max, I think the reason for the smaller engines is they have more application to road car technology for day to day cars. Mercedes have a wonderful history of producing V8s with superchargers, twin turbos etc. in their AMG range but even they are now moving towards smaller engines with clever hybrid and turbo technology in their top of the range cars (the A45 AMG as an example) and in their 'cooking' models V8s are also being phased out, as are diesels to an extent, and being replaced by clever petrol engine technology. For them to be in F1 I think the technology has to have some application outside of F1. Or at least that is the theory."

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9. Posted by Max Noble, 08/07/2015 8:45

"First, many thanks to all for a lively discussion on this one, yes @Cricketpo I think this does raise more questions than it provides answers...!

@TheBucketOfTruth - many thanks for the feedback and observations. I've not done the research in detail, but I'm reasonably confident that Michael Schumacher and his 2004 Ferrari still hold more current lap records than any other car or driver. While that speaks volumes of his amazing ability... it also sadly speaks of cars that are not as fast or frightening as they once were.

I fully respect the push for safety, and in a perfect world no driver would ever again die in a racing accident. Yet we still need cars that are pushing to the limit, and at least as fast as they were ten years ago...

Why we could not have had V8-based hybrid units is beyond me. I mean the top Lexus (as good an example as any) still has a monster 4.6 litre V8, coupled with a hybrid unit. People still equate a V8 with "top of the line" in road cars. So why did we have to go to a vacuum-cleaner inspired engine configuration!?

One can only hope those in power listen to the gripes of the present, learn from the past, and build an exciting future!"

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10. Posted by TheBucketOfTruth, 08/07/2015 7:31

"Love the article. I don't think it's all rose colored glasses. I'm newer to the sport than a lot of fans having started watching in the early 2000s and religiously since 2005. Back then drivers, tires, and cars seemed to be on the edge lap after lap and really tested the drivers physically and mentally. The seasons of 2005-2008 seemed to provide excellent championships that one could really get excited about. Hell even 2009 and 2010 (after they made the cars look stupid) we had pretty good racing. The Pirelli tires made things worse and DRS worse yet. Now the drivers at many of the tracks just putt around on a full tank doing an economy run to the finish. The cars are slower than they were just ten years ago, the racing has now suffered, and it's not exciting for drivers or fans to watch the quickest drivers in the world go out there and hold themselves back all race driving to delta times in a tire, engine, and fuel preservation mode. Time to make F1 cars back into the badass machines they're easily capable of being."

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11. Posted by CL, 08/07/2015 7:05

"If the youth were embracing formula one then great, but we need to build that next set of fond memories for them and they don't seem to be interested, and I can't blame them."

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12. Posted by karel, 08/07/2015 6:37

"Can I recall ? the speed of the cars is down"

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13. Posted by cricketpo, 08/07/2015 0:46

"Apples?? MX-5’s?? I thought this was a serious forum for racing enthusiasts! Might I suggest that if what you seek is a driving throwback you take a look at the Lotus Elise. Not only is it a more exciting drive it will grant you the full yesteryear experience by breaking down a lot, all the bits not quite fitting together properly and a very real risk of death should you so much as strike a large moth at speed!
I would also suggest that substandard apples are the price you pay for leaving the country of your fathers and seeking pastures new.
Do we want apples though? Maybe a peach would give longer lasting satisfaction? Maybe fruit is the wrong direction? Should we not be fostering a more herbal approach?
Which painkillers should Mr Todt be reaching for? Paracetomol? Ibuprofen? What if F1 needs something stronger- what if it is a migraine rather than a headache? Will he find the “headache” is a symptom of something more sinister?
I think this article poses more questions than it answers
"

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14. Posted by Oldbuzzard, 07/07/2015 17:01

"Very thoughtful piece and full of good suggestions. I'm one of those greybeards who remember the past oh so well, and I can tell you that the apples, peaches and cherries I picked from our own trees so many years ago were indeed far, far sweeter, tastier and satisfying than the pesticide-filled, force fertilized, cross-pollenated things we find in stores today. I will not accept that we have to let go of those memories and live with the garbage of today.

That said, as to F1, I do agree we are seeing drivers today that show superb skill and courage on the track. And, I will concede that the best of the drivers today would be able to compete with the best of the past. The problem is not the drivers. The problem is the money. Being an American I can tell you that money in politics is ruining one of the greatest nations the Earth has ever seen. I see the same thing happening to F1. I will support Bernie Eccleston to his death because he made F1 what it is today, almost single handed. Unfortunately, Bernie sold out to the money and we are now seeing the results.

This in not the forum to go into details, but my thought is this - control the money and you will control the sport. Let's face it, and I haven't read or heard this anywhere else, Formula One today is controlled by a corportation. Not by an international association of national auto clubs, not by the builders of the cars, not by the company who manages the television and advertising and race schedule. No, the FIA, FOM nor FOCA do not call the shots any more. It's CVC, the venture capitalists who buy companies, syphon off the profits for as long as they can and, when the profits begin to sag, sell off the enties and look for more victims to destroy.

When Max sold the commercial rights to Bernie for 100 years, he failed to insert a clause that prohibited a further sell-on to another entity and not requiring a return of ownership to the FIA. A simple sentence in the agreement would have avoided all the agony we now endure with our beloved sport."

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15. Posted by GrahamG, 07/07/2015 16:25

"All fair enough, but lets get rid of the artificiality - forced use of useless tyres, compulsory pit stops, DRS, immediate banning of anything new or novel, grid penalties for everything imaginable, compulsory ECUs, races in countries with no interest in or connection to the sport. There were truly none of these things and the sport was the better for it. Remove the high danger levels by all means, wouldn't it be wonderful to have the ones we lost around in their dotage (thankfully we still have Moss, Surtees and few others). A better response to the current situation would be to scrap, say, 10 regulations a year for the next 5 years and let the creative juices flow. Chapman and his contemporaries must be so sad looking down on the over regulated event it has become with the constant flow of silly ideas thought up no doubt by management consultants."

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