There is always the same man, svelte, mysterious, impeccably dressed, and never interviewed by the media, on the Grand Prix podiums, handing out the caps, watches, bottles and trophies to the drivers. Not many people know who he is. It turns out he is a Frenchman, Alexandre Molina, holder of a snappy-sounding title: “Master of Ceremonies”. We interview him over champagne.
Q: How does one end up as “Master of Ceremonies”?
AM: It wasn’t something I wanted or prepared for. I got into F1 in 1995, when I was 21. I was still a student, studying math and physics. F1 was a weekend adventure where I would lend a hand. Then I did a second Grand Prix as a stand-in. Then another. At the end of the season, I was offered a full year. So I dropped out of math and physics and enrolled in STAPS “Sciences et Techniques des Activités Physiques et Sportives” (“Science and Technology of Physical Activity and Sport”, Ed.) Then it dawned on me that more than a sport, it was a trade show. So I made another 90 degree turn and took a part-time two-year course in Sales. By then I was practically married to F1. In 2000, Gerald Bar (the former Master of Ceremonies, Ed.) resigned and Paddy McNally (his successor, Ed.) called me and suggested I come and work full-time.
Q: Have you become friends with some of the drivers?
AM: I try to keep my distance, it would bother me. Sometimes there are circumstances where you get on well with one or not so well with another. I’ve had drivers tell me they didn’t like to see too much of me on the track. I had a hard time with Michael Schumacher for example. He is someone very much a part, super professional, but he never made life simple. He would always be twice as demanding as the others. It’s understandable; he was certainly much more in demand than the rest. Today, the one who reminds me most of Michael is Alonso. I feel more or less the same pressure. It’s not easy to define. Some days, it all goes smoothly, other days less so. It’s all down to him. And then there is also the odd moment of bonding. I remember once I was playing tennis before the Grand Prix. On the next court, there was Räikkönen with a friend. They offered us a double. And that day, he won the race. As soon as I saw him, even before I could say a word, he said: “Tennis?” and laughed. Nobody had any idea of what was going on.
Q: What do you think of F1 as a show?
AM: I think we have been spoilt in the past five years, with exciting championships that really go all out. The last races are often the most dramatic in terms of tension: when Räikkönen triumphed despite being nine points behind, when Massa won the race and thought he had won the championship but Hamilton overtook Glock on the last bend of the last lap, last year in Valencia, when Alonso won and cried on the podium or in Abu Dhabi, a few years ago where five drivers were still able to be world champion. If you made a film of it, it would seem unreal. Even I have hairs that stand on end.
(Read the full interview at henry-thepodiumist.com)