The FIA carefully avoids being drawn into taking sides politically, as is their obligation according to their statutes. But inevitably, as we make our way around the world, the leaders nations and regions like to make an appearance and take full advantage of the 400 million pairs of eyeballs F1 will offer anyone able to afford the sanctioning fee. One of the interesting perks of the job is that we drivers are introduced to these intriguing characters and so build an impression of what kind of people move and shake the world we live in. Everyone from Kings, to Presidents, to Governors to Prime Ministers. I don't recall meeting an Emperor but who needs one of those when you have Bernie? By and by, along the way, we have some tales to tell...
When I had only recently been crowned World Champion, I was racing at Barcelona and wanted to get some passes for a few friends. 'No', I was told. 'Why bloody not? I'm the World Champ and I can't get a few measly passes?' 'Sorry. The King is coming and we don't have any spare'. 'Why does the King need a flippin pass? He's not much of a King, is he.' No dice. Nothing I could say would move the F1 pass kommandant.
Sunday came and a few hours before the race one of Bernie's men came to the motorhome to 'invite' us to be in the garage to meet the King and his entourage. Sure enough, here they came being escorted by the man himself, Bernard E. 'Oi!' I discretely growled in Bernie's ear pointing at the King, 'He's got my passes!' Without missing a beat, Bernie walked up to the Prime Minister, removed his pass and handed it to me. 'Bit bloody late now!' I thought but didn't say. But you had to admire his wit. Notice he didn't take from the only one - apart from himself - who surely didn't need one; the King of Spain. He's not daft.
Then there was this time (you have to use that phrase apparently) when a certain politician who shall remain John Prescott, was on the grid for the British Grand Prix and was asked by a peripatetic Martin Brundle who he'd like to see win the race. 'Oh. Let me think...? Damian. Yeah, I'd like to see that Damian win, would I'. Can't remember if I won, or 'That Damian'.
Then there was another time ... in Austin, Texas, for the first ever F1 race there. We were given the full Texan welcome and there were the inevitable functions and speeches and attempts to curry favour. I was invited by the then UK Ambassador to the US, Sir Peter Westmacott and his wife to accompany them to a UK trade promotion before moving on to the Texas Governor's reception at his official residence, a beautiful town house in the Greek Revival style (looks Georgian but it is technically Victorian) in the centre of Austin. We swanned up to the wedding cake house in our splendid Rolls Royce and I felt very much like I had arrived in as much style as could be considered within the bounds of good taste.
Eventually I was introduced to the Governor, Rick Perry, but as fate would have it, Sir Jackie Stewart appeared at the exactly the same time. 'Excuse me, sir' I explained to the Governor, winking, 'I just have to bow to Sir Jackie' to which he replied (thinking, no doubt, he was joining in with the gag) 'And kiss his ring!' 'Don't you think that would be going a little too far?' I suggested respectfully, blushing slightly. Two peoples could not have been separated further by such common language.
Ex-Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is now Donald Trump's appointed Energy Secretary. I see how it's done now. Amazing what you learn as a racing driver.