Those of you who are long-time readers of RichardsF1.com will know that I’m about as obsessed a Formula 1 fan as you might get. You’ve seen collections of my books, memorabilia, driver interviews and ‘paddock insider’ features.
More recently, I took that obsession to a new level in the form of thirty-five tattoos. That’s right: 35.
I’ve watched Formula 1 since I was six years old. The first race I ever watched was in 1989 when my dad set up the TV as we moved into our new house so my three-year-old brother and I wouldn’t get in the way of the removalists. It was the Monaco Grand Prix, which Ayrton Senna won. I was transfixed, and it’s quite evident that my love of the sport has only grown from there.
Passion manifests itself different for everyone. My love for F1 has turned into a near full-time job, kicking off with the launch of a tiny little blog back in 2009 which has today turned into an internationally-accredited website run by a team of outstanding journalists. It’s a venture that is powered by passion.
The very permanency of ‘getting inked’ is precisely the point. It’s personal and it’s going on my body.
For me, I express my passion in writing and interviewing, creating and sharing my work with others and – above all – enjoying what I do.
With Formula 1, I’m passionate about the changing landscape of the sport today as well as its origins and history. Without it, the sport wouldn’t be the crazy success it is today.
There are many races and events which have shaped my love of the sport. While I love many of the drivers and teams present and past, it’s the amphitheatres – the circuits – that perhaps excite me the most.
All are unique – granted, some are more special than others – but they all have a sense of history. They are the stages upon which the stars of the show perform.
After a few years of deliberation, I decided it was time to combine F1 with another passion: tattooing.
I’m not out to convince you of the merits of tattooing and I understand the objections some have to it. It no longer has the social stigma once attached to it. The very permanency of ‘getting inked’ is precisely the point. It’s personal, it’s unique, and it’s going on my body.
I have acquired – and gritted my teeth through – some body art over the years. I marked the end of my teenage years with my first tattoo: a scorpion. Of course it hurt a bit, but like most who have tattoos will tell you, it’s hard to stop at one. So I got two more – much larger ones – in a four-hour sitting a year or so later, and then about five years ago I added another design.
I’d been keen to add more inkwork and I wanted to work towards the next step of getting a sleeve tattoo done – for those not in the know, a ‘sleeve’ is tattooing work that goes all (or part of the way) down an arm.
I also wanted to have a design that was somehow F1-related, and ultimately elected for the idea of getting a number of my favourite circuits inked on me.
To-date, 71 different circuits have played host to Formula 1 World Championship Grands Prix since the inaugural 1950 race at Silverstone, so I plumped for 35 of my favourites.
Some circuits I included are perhaps not what you’d call icons, but they’re important to me for various reasons
A number were not in their last or current configurations, simply because I too can be a bit of a sentimentalist. Among those are older-spec layouts of Silverstone (1991-3), Hockenheim (1990-1), and the Österreichring (because the Red Bull Ring will always be a poor cousin).
Some others are sadly from a bygone era: Adelaide, Le Castellet, Montjuic Park, Anderstorp, Kyalami (the good high-speed layout), Brands Hatch, Estoril, Mexico City and Jarama are included.
Of course, many of the current tracks made the cut: Monaco, Suzuka, Monza and Spa-Francorchamps were never in doubt, and they were joined by the Circuit of the Americas, Albert Park, Interlagos, and India’s Buddh International Circuit.
The very nature of a shortlist means that some didn’t make this cut, while others may never make it on me at all. The design concept left room for me to add the likes of the Nürburgring Nordschleife (I have to figure out where, as it needs to be big to get the detail right), Clermont Ferrand, Bahrain, Singapore, and others should I so chose.
There were certain circuits that – by dint of their design and placement – I knew I would feel through every corner!
I got the ink-work done while on a recent vacation to Phuket in Thailand. The island has innumerable tattoo studios, but I did my research and found the guy I wanted to do it, a gent by the name of Rucky who had owned his own studio, Seed Tattoos, for the last fifteen years.
I showed him the circuit layouts – all black outlines – and where I wanted the design to go: starting from my right elbow, going up my arm and across my shoulder and chest. “I really want to do this work,” he immediately said. What better sales pitch could you get.
On the final day of my holiday, I returned to sign off on his design and get the hard work done. The design he’d put together was an incredible, tightly packed mosaic of all the tracks – I could not have been happier.
It took an hour of fine-tuning to place and stencil the entire design before the painful bit kicked off. Once the tattoo gun gets humming and you feel the needle cut through your skin for the first time, there is no turning back.
The entire process took just shy of four hours. Did it hurt? Of course, some bits were worse than others. There were certain circuits that – by dint of their design and placement – I knew I would feel through every corner!
It was almost midnight by the time the thirty-fifth and final circuit was complete. I was bloody, bruised, utterly buggered but absolutely elated. It looked beautiful and it was exactly what I had envisioned.
They healed quickly and they look fantastic today. I’m proud and happy I took the plunge once again, and put something on me that’s an utterly unique, beautiful and permanent reminder of why I love the sport and why I love what I do.
I’m already planning how I’ll add the other 36 circuits!
Images via Pavelsraj, RichardsF1.com and Seed Tattoos