F1 doesn’t really do heartwarming.
It does cynical and in the last few years it has done dysfunctional to a high level.
But in Spain today it did tug the heart strings as a 6 year old French boy called Thomas Danel, from Amiens in France burst into tears after his hero Kimi Raikkonen crashed out at the first turn and he was picked up by the TV cameras.
In the paddock a quick thinking F1 comms manager suggested that they go and fetch the young lad and his family to come over to the F1 paddock to try to cheer him up. Ferrari was looped in and they brought him to Ferrari’s hospitality where he met Raikkonen.
Asked by a TV crew what the taciturn Finn had said to him, Danel said, “He said something but I didn’t understand.” Some in the F1 paddock wittily observed that he was in good company there.
The family remained in the paddock until long after the race and met many drivers and others, overwhelmed by how friendly everyone was. A highlight for the youngster was meeting his fellow countryman Romain Grosjean. I spoke to them and the mother still had tears in her eyes, quite overwhelmed by what had happened to them.
It was a small, but symbolic gesture of bringing the fans closer to the sport, which showed how much F1 has changed in a few short months since Liberty Media took over from Bernie Ecclestone. Another was the extensive fan festival area behind the main grandstand
A further example was a dancing robot which entertained the paddock a few hours before the race.
I saw Ecclestone walking between the Red Bull and Mercedes motorhomes and looking with bemusement at something he would never have allowed on his watch.
Ecclestone loves kids and has donated huge sums to Great Ormond Street hospital over the years, but it’s doubtful he would have sanctioned the Danel family being brought across from the stands.
It has sent out a powerful signal that F1 has changed. And, talking to the principals in the new F1 management, there’s plenty more where that came from.
What did you think of the Danel episode? Leave your comments in the section below