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Sports Factor -

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Boy racer gets the chequered flag

Lewis Hamilton is rewriting the motor racing record books. Young, black and British, he's injecting
new interest into what many consider to be the declining world of Formula one.

Transcript

This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete
accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying
speakers.

Mick O'Regan: Good morning, and welcome to The Sports Factor, here on ABC Radio National.

This week we're going to continue our conversation with the man dubbed the Maharajah of Moorabbin,
(that's dubbed by me, of course) St Kilda AFL champion Robert Harvey.

Robert Harvey of course retired this year, so we'll be talking to Robert about life after Aussie
Rules Football. That's coming up just a bit later in the show.

To begin with though, we're squinting through a haze of petrol fumes as we venture into the
high-octane, hard-braking world of Formula One motor racing.

Now it's a circus of power, money and prestige where millions and millions of dollars are spent
just on logistics as the F1 bandwagon travels the globe.

The sport, beloved of many, but loathed by others, has a new, charismatic world champion, the
23-year-old Briton, Lewis Hamilton.

[Excerpt of Lewis Hamilton Interview]]

Mick O'Regan: Hamilton came heartbreakingly close to claiming the prize last year, when a poor
decision cost him the championship.

But in 2008 there was no slip-up as the McLaren driver carefully did exactly enough to take the
title in the final race of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix.

To understand what all this means for the man and his motor, I spoke to the ABC motor sport
correspondent, Will Hagon.

Will Hagon: Theoretically, he could have won it last year, he should have won it last year. Two
races from the end, he had a 17-point lead, and somehow the combination of, him, and he drove off,
he left the access road to the pit area in the second last race, then he had gearbox trouble in the
final race, and it was just a complete disaster, and I think Ron Dennis, the head of McLaren,
explaining that to sponsors, to people like Mercedes Benz who supply the engines, and to the people
who put their names on the sides of the cars, would have been a gigantic embarrassment, just
enormous. And when we saw flashes of Ron Dennis watching this year's race, and from that
timekeeping area that overlooks the pit lane, or the pit straight area, I thought, 'Nobody's
telling us about the gigantic anxiety that he must be going through.'

To Lewis Hamilton in a sense it's was almost inevitable Mick, from the time he prevaricated, and
when I say that, they were waiting the right time to bring him into F1. He could have come in a
year earlier, but rightly I think, they thought he is so young, he's got so much time on his side,
just let him wait. So he came in last year, and already he was ready for it, because he nearly won
the championship, could have won the championship. Won his first Grand Prix when he was 22 years
old in June last year. But he won his first Kart championship when he was 10 years old, he gave his
name, went up brazenly to Ron Dennis then at a Karting prizegiving, and said, 'I want to drive for
you', and Ron said, 'That's fine, here's my phone number'. And by the time he was 13, Ron Dennis
got back to him and said, 'Come here, we want to talk to you; we want you to drive for us'. So it's
been actually ten years under the wing of McLaren, under the wing of Ron Dennis.

Mick O'Regan: What do you get a 13 year old to do in the world of Formula 1 motor racing?

Will Hagon: Well you just look after him all the way, in terms of how he goes about his racing in
Karting and so on; he gets into the right categories, gets the right sort of attitude. As you'd
know, Mick, in any sport, a person without brains can win something; but a person without brains
can't be good and can't excel at it constantly at a high level. And that's what they were trying to
instil in Lewis Hamilton. As I say, the right sort of attitudes going on with schooling and things
like that, and just generally making sure that he had his feet on the ground, that he was
understanding racing, race craft, all that's involved: calmness, as to how to go about winning a
championship. You see, in some sports, you're trying to rev somebody up (it's not meant as a pun)
before they go out and do it. You know, it might be a boxer or a fast bowler or opening the bowling
on the first day of the cricket test or something. In motor racing, you're actually trying to calm
them down.

Mick O'Regan: That's interesting because that calmness came through. Now in the last race, in the
Brazilian race that took him to victory, the reports that I've read all make that point, that he
knew exactly what he had to do, he didn't go out there to try to win that race, but he knew he had
to get a certain number of points, and finish in a certain position to secure the title, and that
calm and calculated drive really took him through, didn't it?

Will Hagon: It did, and yet they very nearly missed it again. And to me it was a bit of an
uninspired drive. It was certainly made very difficult by changing weather conditions. Motor racing
people on two wheels, or four, or whatever, can deal with a particular condition set, very wet,
very dry, whatever, and work their way through that. But when it changes, it brings in the lottery
element, and of course the start of the race was delayed, and then it was wet, drying, then it
became wet again, and when to change tyres, whether to change tyres, all of that sort of thing was
very difficult. The one thing of course about motor racing that's different to a lot of sports,
well I should say car racing as opposed to motor bike racing, where in bike racing all they can do
is read a pit board as they flash down pit straight.

But in car racing they're on the radio to their crews. So they can talk about how the tyres are
responding, what they think, they can get information about what their rivals are doing, what the
situation is, whether you're making time on them or not, and so on. They have an enormous amount of
input and of information on which to base their strategies. But as many drivers have pointed out,
from Stirling Moss onwards, you know, in the current era, in the modern era, staying calm, reading
a situation even if you're spinning, even if you're out of control at 300 kilometres an hour or
whatever, the ability to do that, it's like a fighter pilot, knowing where you are in the middle of
a spin where to anybody else it would just be complete confusion. They're used to it, and they know
how to respond.

I can remember when Mick Doohan fell off at Phillip Island in turn 1. Now it's the fastest corner
on the circuit, and he is lying on his side, but he's still astride the bike if you like, he's
still got his leg on both the underside and the high side of the motor bike, and you could see him
wrestling with the handlebars, thinking, 'Oh, I can rescue this, I can get this upright again.' And
you know, there have been pictures, both still and moving, of motor cycle riders being kicked off
their machine and getting back on it at speed. I saw one quite recently, where a guy was high-sided
out of the saddle, he landed beside it, he still had both hands on the handlebars, his hip was into
the right-hand side of the motor bike, he sort of rode it, and blow me down, he got back on it and
continued.

Mick O'Regan: Like the old horse tricks at the circus. Just on the technical specifications of
Formula 1 motor cars, because the drivers, the constructor's championships are of course hugely
competitive, and you have McLaren, you have Ferrari, you have the different teams. Now the F1
authorities are talking about standardising the engine, and this has been greeted with alarm by
Ferrari, for one. What would that mean if they standardise engines in F1 cars and would it bring a
sort of death knell to technology and engine refinement?

Will Hagon: I can't tell you how badly directed I think that is. Car racing has always been about
comparing the performance of different types of machinery made by different people. To assess their
technology, to assess their skills, not only the drivers or riders of the machines, but as I say,
to assess the engineers behind it, whether you should buy the machine, are you impressed by the way
it works, by the way it lasts, and so on. To take the engine factor out of Formula 1, which is a
large part of what Ferrari has swung its entire career about. Enzo Ferrari ran the Alpha Romeo
Grand Prix team in the 1930s, came out of that and then formed his own team, and started making his
own cars in 1948, as various other manufacturers emerged in that early post-war period. And through
racing sports cars at Le Mans, and Formula 1 cars, and his cars were there in the very first World
Championship Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950 in May, it's always, as I say, been about the
technology.

Ferrari, most of their Grand Prix cars have been V12s, but there's been things like turbo-charged
tag Porches, turbo-charged Honda engines, all sorts of technology. Renault was actually the first
in to the turbo-charging in Formula 1. All sorts of technologies emerged, and given a glow to the
people who've done it and who've made it work. And to take that factor out, I mean I completely
understand trying to get costs out of F1, because the costs are astronomical, and something must be
done. I mean people have been saying this about motor sport since the beginning of motor sport,
virtually. There was a guy, Charles Jarrett, in his book ten years of motors and motor racing,
1896-1906 and he said, 'Commercialism is the curse of every sport. And the importance of winning
....', and so on. And he was saying this in 1906.

Mick O'Regan: So it's a long history.

Will Hagon: It is, but Formula 1 has galloped away so far and so high in terms of costs. A lot to
do with the act that Bernie Eccleston presents. I mean when they first brought their World
Championship in 1985 to Adelaide, it was a 1-1/2 jumbo jet consignment of freight. It's now five.

Mick O'Regan: Five jumbos?

Will Hagon: Yes, and that includes virtually an emergency operating hospital, a leading
neuro-surgeon, turnstiles brought from London to bolt to the ground at Albert Park so that the
media can get up into the press room and so on. So it's gone overboard, it's just gone on and on
and on, so there's many, many ways of getting an enormous amount of cost out of Formula 1. I
remember BMW a couple of years ago, I was at a dinner, with Mario Tyson, the head of the BMW part
of Formula 1, and he said, 'We are producing 200 engines a year'. Now that's to do 17 or 18 races
with two cars, and those engines one could conservatively say are probably half a million each. I
mean it's crazy, but there are other ways to cut engine costs out other than to say they've all got
to be the same. They've done that to a degree this year. Mick, it's a very important factor.

Formula 1 is actually at this moment quite confused. It's always been the highest technology
formula. It's allegedly always been leading motoring, and motor sport on with 'These are the most
efficient, highest power engines, they're the greatest specific power output, the leading
technology.' We had four valve, twin-cam engines from Fiat in Grand Prix racing in 1913. Now that
technology took 80 years or more to become common in road cars. Once upon a time, people would come
out and they'd put their Formula 1 cars on the starting grid, and a mechanic would come out with a
boxful of spark plugs, and unbolt the spark plugs that had been put in the car for several minutes
to warm the car up, and then put in a range of plugs that would run much cooler for when the engine
was actually running at normal racing speed and temperature.

But now, Formula 1 went back and said, 'Oh, we'll have treaded tyres'. They call them treaded,
they've got grooves in them, But it's the only elite level of motor sport on two wheels or four,
that has treaded tyres, and it's a nonsense. The only reason we have tread on tyres is for when it
rains. Tread gives you nothing in the dry, you're better off with a slick tyre. You've got the
whole tyre surface contacting the ground, you've got no flex and heat build-up in the tread of the
tyre, and they've said, 'Oh, we'll go back from that next year. We'll actually go back to slick
tyres.' So that was one area of confusion, and contrary to what Formula 1 stood for. Now they've
put forward the proposition, they're not saying it's going to be so, in fact they've backed off
very quickly. When Ferrari said 'No, we're not interested', I can tell you, not only would Ferrari
not be interested, nor would Honda, nor would BMW, nor with Benz. I mean they're all in there to
say 'These are our engines, typifying, or giving you some idea of what the technology is in our
road vehicles. So why suddenly say Oh, we'll all run Gamma engines and nobody will get anything out
of it.'

Mick O'Regan: Will, just more generally on the global appeal of Formula 1 racing. Now there are
critics who basically say this type of very, very expensive, highly technical motor sport is simply
a luxury we can't afford, that in terms of the fuel that it consumes, just that in itself should
rule it out. But also earlier this year, Max Mosely, the head of the FIA was embroiled in yet
another scandal. In the end, he received a defamation payout, but is the sport facing a serious
issue of its own popularity? Has it become overblown, too expensive, and largely unwatched?

Will Hagon: Oh, it's not largely unwatched, and last Sunday or early Monday morning in Brazil would
have enhanced the whole thing enormously, and Bernie Eccleston would have been absolutely delighted
with the way that race went. The fact that two years in a row, albeit for various, sometimes
outside factors, sometimes surprising incompetence, but the championship's been decided by one
point. In two years. That's remarkable. No, no, an enormous number of people still love Formula 1,
but it's got to appear to be more environmentally friendly. It's doing that, it's got some energy
recovery systems coming in next year, and I'm not quite sure how that will alter the appeal of the
series, nobody really knows that yet. But it does need to attend to some things, and attend to them
very quickly.

Mick O'Regan: Well just one quick thing that I'd like to attend to, and that's Troy Bayliss, who is
one of our motor cyclists who has had an extraordinary career, but he's just retired. Very quickly,
as a final question, give us a sense of what Troy Bayliss contributed to the sport and what sort of
rider he was.

Will Hagon: Troy got into top level of super bikes at a very late age. The British super bike
championship, aged 30, and he won that. And then it was only by dint of injury to Carl Fogarty,
who'd been the most successful rider in world super bikes, and he was injured at Phillip Island
actually, broke his arm, ran off out of Southern Loop. And a vacancy became available with Ducatti,
and in came Troy Bayliss, and absolutely - he's just one of those back-alley fighters you know,
like Wayne Gardner, like Mick Doohan. He never does a lazy lap, he never does a lazy race. If
somebody goes past him, he's worked out how to get past them again, and in fact in one race this
year when he could have locked up the championship, he said it was win or bust, and he busted you
know, it took another meeting for him to tie up the championship. A gritty, tough fighter,
enormously successful, more successful actually in the ratio of races started to races won than
Carl Fogarty, so really the most successful guy in world super bikes.

He won a Moto GP, he dusted up Valentino Rossi and everybody else in his only reappearance in Moto
GP only a couple of years ago, it was an outstanding performance, that was late '06 before Casey
Stoner got that ride at the beginning of '07, and Bayliss has just done a wonderful for Ducatti,
for world super bikes, but also, I mean I was listening to the English commentators. The English
commentators and they were absolutely eulogistic in praising the way this guy had raced throughout
all his career, and the success that he'd had, and you know, it's wonderful with any sportsman,
Mick, isn't it, to see somebody just gives his all, you know he is, and that's why I think he's
retiring at age 39, the mental requirement of going on at that level; what it does to his family
too. I think his wife has said, 'Gee it would be nice to have a little bit easier life now, a
little bit less stressful life', and so he's going away and he's gone out on top, the way to go.

Mick O'Regan: Absolutely. Will Hagon, we'll go out too, thank you very much for being on this
week's Sports Factor here on Radio National.

Will Hagon: Thank you, Mick, my pleasure.

Mick O'Regan: ABC motor sport correspondent, and enthusiast, Will Hagon.

The Maharajah of Moorabbin

Robert Harvey is an old-school Aussie Rules player. He played his whole senior career with just one
club, St Kilda, and outlasted almost all of his contemporaries.

Transcript

This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete
accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying
speakers.

Now to a home grown legend.

[Excerpt of AFL commentary]

Mick O'Regan: Robert Harvey is an old-school Aussie Rules player. He played his whole senior career
with just one club, St Kilda, and outlasted almost all of his contemporaries.

In the end, Harvey racked up 383 games, putting him at No.3 on the all-time record behind Michael
Tuck of Hawthorn and Richmond's Kevin Bartlett.

But all things must pass, and 2008 was the final outing for Robert Harvey.

So, what does retirement feel like?

Robert Harvey: Oh, it's pretty strange, I mean I haven't really got used to it yet. For so long
I've always seen myself at this time of year especially, as having to saddle up next year and get
ready for pre-season, so it's an odd feeling for me not being an AFL player any more. It's going to
take a while to get used to actually, and I suppose, yes, you look back on your career and you
reflect a bit at times like this, but certainly an overwhelming feeling of something missing and
lost in your life.

Mick O'Regan: Robert, let's talk about your own career in sport, and I just don't mean in senior
football for St Kilda, where of course you're a one-club man, which I think is a wonderful thing I
have to say, but maybe an increasingly rare thing. You're the middle of three brothers, Stephen,
yourself and Anthony, very close in age, only three years between you. You must have grown up in
almost constant sporting competition.

Robert Harvey: We did. And when I look back on my childhood, and I've got three kids myself, it was
very old-fashioned I suppose in the way we grew up. And my Mum was a massive sporting fan, probably
even more than my Dad, and my Dad played a heap of cricket and he loves his sport as well, but
Mum's more of a sports fanatic probably than Dad is, and so she obviously was the one looking after
us most of the time, so every night after school we'd have something going on, whether it be a game
of cricket, a game of footy, game of tennis out the backyard where we'd powder the lines for the
court. My older brother was always the organiser of the game, so he would have the field all set
out. Often it was the street, and the goals were set - you know, our driveway and someone else's
driveway all the time. And there was another mate who lived a few streets away, and we used to use
his signpost, which was coming up from the ground as the wickets, and basically that was a pretty
busy road that one, so often you'd have to stop for cars. But that was every night we'd rotate
around to be doing something.

Mick O'Regan: Tell me about your mother, because I must admit she looms in your book as a quite
remarkable figure. Now she's a woman who played under-19 cricket herself for Victoria and then was
very influential in coaching junior cricket, but she had a theory that you write about, that she
thought that once boys got to about 14 they needed men to coach then in cricket. But just tell me
about your mother who apparently was a dangerous woman to stand beside on the terraces when
Essendon were playing.

Robert Harvey: Yes, oh she's a pretty amazing lady, really, and she never talked about her playing
at all when we grew up, so I sort of heard that as I got older, I didn't even know that, that she'd
done so well. But I remember her coaching us in juniors, and how much she loved it, she had a
passion for it, and I remember often going to cricket training, and she used to always have old
cars, like old, big sedans like Valiants and she used to pile - like you think what you used to do
- she'd pile as many kids and bags as she could in the back, if she felt like anyone needed a lift
she was the one to pick them up. So we'd often go with her and just a car full of kids and gear to
cricket training and she'd coach everyone, and she just loved it so much. And she was obviously
very good at it as well. And footy, she had the same passion. Myself and my youngest brother, so
the middle one, me being the middle one, we were Essendon, and my oldest one was Fitzroy which was
my Dad. So she used to take us to Windy Hill every week.

Mick O'Regan: Every week?

Robert Harvey: Every week. Didn't miss. And even if we wanted to miss, she'd make us go. And she'd
be in the same pocket each week at Windy Hill. We'd always go down the front a bit, because we were
little kids, so we could see better, and it's partly to get away from Mum, because she used to get
- say it's the end of the footy, and we'd all get embarrassed because she'd get in fights with
blokes who were drinking, and we were a bit scared for her a couple of times, because she was
pretty vocal and she'd sometimes have a friend, but she was often on her own, and so when you look
back, you think, Gee, pretty gutsy effort, and so yes, we did all that.

And I remember one actual day, and I think I might have mentioned it in the book, but it was at the
Western Oval against Footscray and there was a few of us, because we used to take a heap of kids
like mates who were Essendon supporters or whatever, with us as well, and it was absolutely pouring
down, freezing cold, it must have been about 11 degrees this day, and by half time we were just
drenched, we were little kids, my brother and my mates, and 'We've got to go, we've got to go', and
Mum refused to go. She never left a game before the end. So we ended up grabbing the keys and going
to the car, and she stayed for the rest of the game, so we spent the second half in the car and
listened to it on the radio and she weathered the storm.

Mick O'Regan: And I watched a few games at the Western Oval and I can confirm to the audience that
being cold and wet at the Western Oval is about as cold and wet as you can be north of the
Antarctic. Just a freezing place.

Robert Harvey: Plain cruel what she did. But would not budge. Like she'd never leave a game before
the end, no matter how much of a belting a team's getting, and I don't think she ever missed a game
of mine or any of my brothers', like when they played. So yes, she's a very, very loyal sort of
person and she's absolutely loves her sport.

Mick O'Regan: Well obviously loyalty runs deep in the family, and we might come to that later,
about your very long career with St Kilda. But I want to just touch on cricket for a moment,
because I found it very interesting to realise what a good cricketer you were, a left-arm fast
bowler, and a person who many people regard as that you may have had a very significant career in
cricket. Now of course cricket aficionados will know that your grandfather is Merv Harvey who
played one Test against England but your great-uncle of course is Neil Harvey, a member of the 1948
Invincibles, captained by Bradman, which is probably the most famous cricket team that Australia
has produced, arguably. That cricketing lineage, did that weigh heavily on you to prioritise
cricket over footy?

Robert Harvey: Not really. I always played in both, and I suppose Mum probably brought the footy
side of in more, because she loved footy so much and Essendon, she always loved Essendon. So she
brought that a bit more into our lives maybe than say my Dad's brother's side of the family because
they were more pure cricket. Our side had that more of a footy tinge probably because of Mum. That
was a real big part of our life, footy, and I played cricket all the way through, and to be honest,
cricket was probably more in my blood, in was in my bloodlines going back generations to be a
cricketer. I always felt like I had to do both, but as I get older, it was pretty clear that I was
a bit better at footy than I was at cricket, and even though I was doing well at cricket, I sort of
went up and played Districts, and I played the Vic Under 19s and stuff, I think the decision made
itself really, because I was far better at footy than I was at cricket.

Mick O'Regan: Because the other thing that comes through startlingly clearly from the book is your
commitment to training, and in fact I think in the very first chapter you talk about two things:
you talk about fear and addiction. One is fear of failure, but the other is an addiction to
training, and the story I like most I think was from Ken Whiffen, who's a very long-time St Kilda
trainer, he was playing golf and his golfing partner mentioned that he'd seen this Saints player
doing road-running, and you'd been specifically told not to do road-running because of the damage
to your calf. So Ken Whiffen confronted you at training and asked you had you been out running, and
you said that when confronted you just sort of stared down at the ground, and he then said, 'I knew
he'd been running'. Why would you describe your commitment to training as an addiction?

Robert Harvey: I had no control over it, and if I had a dollar for every story like Ken Whiffen's
that I had over my career, I'd be doing well. It was like I was doing something wrong, and often it
was I suppose, but I just struggled to control myself, and I don't know what it is or why it is,
but once I start doing something, training like that, or going for a few runs, I just find it hard
to hit the handbrake and just take it easy, and often it was costing me, because I was getting
injured a lot and my body was starting to show signs that it wasn't working so well. So I don't
know, it was just one of those things. I can't say that I trained like that when I was a young
bloke, but as soon as I got to AFL level I saw the results it gave me on a weekend. I just got out
of control with it, and yes, I needed to have structure, I needed to be told what to do and I
needed to have the program down in front of me, but it had to be hard enough to keep me happy.

Mick O'Regan: The other thing Robert that I found fascinating was your enthusiasm for meditation.
How has meditation influenced your sporting career?

Robert Harvey: Well it only really came on the scene after I turned 30, because I never really
believed in meditation or anything like that in the past, and it was one of those things I felt was
not true at all. Yes, my wife had a bit of trouble holding pregnancies at one stage, and so she got
so desperate she got put on to a lady who was a holistic healer, and she didn't know how to get
there, it was a long way from home, so I had to drive her out there to Essendon or to Strathmore,
Strathfield, or wherever it was, and I basically just sat in the waiting room while she went
through her stuff, talked about her issues. And after a while I sort of got talking to her as well,
and I thought this might be useful and help me with footy, and eventually I sort of go on to it.
And that's how I started, and I just found like it was cutting - this healing meditation stuff was
cutting my recovery down from sort of three, to two or one week, and it not only happened once or
twice, but it happened very time, so I think the results were pretty clear, and I just knew
wholeheartedly that it was through the meditation that it was happening.

Mick O'Regan: Strong in mind and body, the recently-retired St Kilda AFL champion, Robert Harvey.
His book is called 'Harves - Strength Through Loyalty', and it's published by Pan McMillan.

Thanks to the Sports Factor team of producer Andrew Davies and our technical producer this week,
Peter McMurray. And thanks also to Sabrina Lipovic in ABC Radio Archives.