Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Sidepodtour to the London Science Museum - A review of the meetup from a different point of view

Published by Gavin Brown

Ferrari on display

Ah… the now legendary Sidepodtour to the McLaren exhibit at the Science Museum. But, I hear you ask, there has already been an article, a discussion and two podcasts about the exhibit, so why have a guest post on it?

Well, that is an excellent question. Clearly, there is no point in repeating what has already been said – but after discussing the matter with Mr. C. in the pub, he suggested I write a guest post on the exhibit. The reason – the fact that I had been to the Ferrari Store on Regent Street the day before and I was comparing the two. So here we are then!

Firstly, a little background, in case you missed it the first time around. On Wednesday 15th April, we had a meet up at the Science Museum in London because McLaren were sponsoring an exhibit called “Fast Forward: 20 ways F1 is changing our world”. I arrived at the Museum at 12:30pm and saw a massive queue extending as far as Cromwell Road. Luckily, as I made my way towards the entrance on Exhibition road, the queue seemed to be for the Natural History Museum!

So I queued up, and luckily it only took me about 10 minutes to get inside. Unfortunately when I asked about the wheel of the Airbus I was told that it had been removed “but your friend was just asking about it” – so I looked around, found an upside down McLaren and underneath it was Bootneck, Lou, Lukeh and Chris. We were told to move along as we were blocking some dude who was selling programmes, so we moved up the stairs to near where the exhibit was. This seemed like the only sensible place to meet up, but alas we had to deal with the most jumpy and irritable security guard I had ever seen – he was supposed to be in charge of some very expensive technology yet was unable to deal with 20 F1 fans standing still on a staircase!

Anyway, once we had all arrived (Christine and Mr. C. were not the last ones to arrive, either!) we decided to check out the exhibit. As mentioned many times before, it was not very good – the exhibits had very tenuous links to F1, such as gumboots, fishing line inspired by tyres, stairs and a table made from carbon fibre plus a weird looking sleeping pod? Where were F1’s real technology successes, such as the Turbo, radial tyres, pneumatic valves, safety and fireproofing equipment, semi-automatic gearboxes, active suspension and electronic stability control? If I wanted to tell people how F1 is relevant to the real world, I would start with these things – not fishing wire and carbon fibre stairs!

None of this was helped by an alarm system that seemed to want to annoy you by piercing your eardrums when you got within two feet of the glass cabinets – even though I saw a kid slap one of the cabinets as he walked past and nothing happened! This seemed to make Mr. Jumpy McGrumpy the Security Guard just a little more agitated – at one point he threatened to evict Mr. C. just for getting too close to take a photo! Add that to the fact that the exhibit was located in a dark, hot and stuffy cupboard and it was fair to say that we all walked away less than impressed.

Ferrari steering wheel

All of this got me thinking, because the day before I had visited the Ferrari store on Regent Street and to be honest, I had a much better experience in there. The Ferrari Store pulls you in off the street enticing you with lovely window displays of steering wheels and as soon as you walk in the door, a lovely F2004 that you can actually touch! I could not believe that you could sit next to it and take a photo.

Gavin & Ferrari

At the Science Museum, there was a McLaren upside down on the roof and a crashed one near a café, but you were not supposed to take pictures of it.

As you walk around this lovely store your senses are assaulted by the colour red and prancing horses abound everywhere … you could buy everything possible that was associated with Ferrari, even down to a nosecone from a GTO, and expired engine bits. At the Science Museum, although McLaren sponsored the exhibit, not a single mention of the team, or any of its sponsors, was to be found there.

Ferrari sponsors

Frankly, the Ferrari store was a much better experience and it got me much more excited and passionate about F1 than the McLaren exhibit did. Even my wife enjoyed the Ferrari store and she does not care for F1, but I think that the McLaren exhibit would have bored people like her to tears.

Sadly, this was a real lost opportunity to win over potential fans of the sport and make a few bob from selling F1 related merchandise - this is not the way to try and promote F1 and I think whoever organised it really got it wrong, unfortunately. Both were free, yet the Ferrari one felt like a proper Formula 1 experience and the McLaren exhibit felt like a trade show for obscure machinery that nobody quite knows what to do with. As Joe Saward says quite often, F1 does a lot of good stuff and needs to promote itself better. I would hope that in future, when I go to see an F1 exhibit that it is much better than the McLaren one that we saw at the Science Museum.