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SPY: SUMMER BREAK

The shutdown is upon us. Rejoice, all ye pale, socially-awkward people. At 5:30pm the factory will empty. Then the tear gas will be released, forcing the last few stragglers from their nests and hiding places. By 6pm all will be silent in Bradbourne Drive. Probably. Spy will be a dusty streak on the horizon by then, so frankly, who cares?

There’s been a sort-of summer break for as long as Spy can remember but the formal shutdown is a fairly recent innovation. Formal, because it’s the absolute only way to ensure everyone takes a holiday. Does F1 do it because it’s a fair-minded and benevolent sport, anxious to ensure everyone has a decent quality of life? Or does it do it because the sport is full of paranoid HR departments convinced they’ll cop the blame the next time a senior designer has to be brought down with a dart gun after running naked through Centre:MK, screaming that he’s seen the devil in the wind tunnel vortex?* You decide.

Initially, the idea of a summer shutdown was greeted with some reluctance. As a workshy skiver, Spy doesn’t really understand this – but you have to understand that F1 is full of beautiful minds that really, really don’t like taking time off. Because time in the factory equates to lap time on track. It would be lovely if this were still a sport where geniuses leap from the bath** yelling Eureka! every five minutes – but it isn’t. The lightbulb moments still happen, and they’re glorious to behold but for the most part it’s a game of iteration. The team that iterates fastest, wins. Voluntarily take two weeks off in the summer and you’re giving away a tenth to the rival that doesn’t. And so it’s better if you go to work 365 days of the year, arrive early, stay late and have lunch at your desk. You see the problem? All work and no play makes Jack [or Jill] a raving lunatic mumbling about the End of Days and scaring the good people of Buckinghamshire when all they want to do is pop into M&S for a custard tart and a packet of Y-fronts.

You’d think being forced to shut down would have been an instant hit –  but F1 is deeply suspicious of change, and so in the early years it was met with a healthy degree of scepticism. Today it’s more accepted as part of the natural fabric of the sport, with the only naysayers being the strange people who live for maths and the youngsters who, not entirely unreasonably, have been robbed of the opportunity to take a sneaky week off in June and September, and instead have to suffer two weeks off during peak school holidays, or ‘hell’, as they tend to describe it. The former we can fob off with a pile of technical magazines and a box of coloured pencils, the latter we don’t care about anyway: they have muscle tone and enthusiasm, if they had access to cheap vacations too, they’d be insufferable.

Of course, F1 doesn’t go entirely into hibernation during the shutdown. FOM will be fixing their bleep machine, drivers on secluded beaches and in mountain top restaurants will accidently be bumping into their managers, lawyers and senior staff from other teams, and at the factory we’re allowed to have maintenance done. This hopefully means when we get back, the house-elves will have painted the race bays, fixed the wonky goalkeeper on the Mezzanine Fußball table and changed the hold music on the main phone line to anything other than Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.

Of course, the House Elves will be catering for your needs also. It’s a little-known fact that the shutdown doesn’t have to include the digital monkeys, though this is rarely mentioned as the arctic glare that comes off them can chill a person to the bone. Instead we’ve replaced the lot of them with a £1.99 App that will pump out lovely content on a regular basis, if you’re jonesin’ for a fix of F1 while we’re away. Spy suggests you start with our US Road Trip video. It’s beautifully shot – which is what security promises will happen to Spy if he leaves a tub of mackerel pâté on the windowsill again during the shutdown.

* Ridiculous, of course. If he’s seen the devil in the wind tunnel, he’d be running through the Harpur shopping centre in Bedford.

** Somehow I’ve got onto a naked mathematician riff today. It really isn’t intentional.