Nevertheless, private expertise has proven that to be not too enthralling a prospect after confessing that the worst set of his life occurred after the Monaco Grand Prix a number of years in the past (extra on that later).
So when the chance got here up for him to get entangled in a extra severe method, and be the narrator of a brand new BBC Radio 5 Dwell podcast on F1’s Spygate scandal surrounding the McLaren workforce in 2007, Tong jumped at it.
“I’m recognized very a lot for one factor, nevertheless it’s one thing I’ve at all times been interested in doing,” he advised Autosport in an unique interview speaking in regards to the Spygate collection that’s launched as we speak.
“I am a sports activities fan. I am an enormous soccer fan and a biking fan, and whereas I am not a trainspotter F1 fan, I’m a fan.
“The chance got here up, and I feel they thought it was a little bit of a wildcard to even ask me. I do not know in the event that they anticipated me to say sure. However as soon as I learn the story, I used to be simply intrigued by it. So I sort of dived in.”
The eight half Spygate collection digs deep into the drama surrounding each the rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso all through the 2007 season, in addition to the a lot larger spy case that erupted in the midst of the yr.
Tong speaks to key figures concerned – together with revered F1 journalists Maurice Hamilton and Andrew Benson, former F1 technical director Mike Gascoyne, and former Ferrari press chief Luca Colajanni.
Whereas lots of the early episodes are dominated by scene-setting for the 2007 marketing campaign, and open the door somewhat to elucidate the collection to these maybe not completely conversant in it, there are many attention-grabbing snippets for even these effectively versed in all that occurred in the course of the tumultuous marketing campaign.
There’s the story of the well-known photocopy store workers member turning up for a gathering with Ferrari’s authorized consultant carrying in his rucksack a replica of the 700-page automobile designs file that Mike Coughlan’s spouse had requested to be transferred to CD.
Gascoyne recollects that point in Barcelona when he noticed Coughlan and Nigel Stepney having a secret dinner down by the marina; and Tong additionally makes reference to McLaren, simply as information of the scandal erupted, coincidentally rolling out ‘Spy Valley’ wine at a launch occasion of its new motorhome on the British Grand Prix.
Picture by: Anglo Administration
For Tong, the podcast collection has been a possibility for him to dig deeper in a sport he has adopted for years (having grown up inside ear shot of Model Hatch) however not in nice depth.
He admits, for instance, that whereas conscious of the Alonso/Hamilton battle in 2007, the main points of the spy controversy by no means actually registered with him on the time.
“It is bizarre. It simply handed me by,” he explains. “I do not know what I used to be doing on the time, however I used to be in all probability deep in Ibiza.”
The podcast subsequently turns into as a lot a journey by the affair for Tong as it’s for listeners.
Requested what stood out essentially the most for him from all of the a number of spygate components, he mentioned: “It is all simply brilliantly silly. However I feel the Alonso pulling his sort of blackmail stunt earlier than the [Hungary] race, after which truly realising he had sort of gone too far and making an attempt to retract it.
“Then Ron [Dennis], having already made that cellphone name [to the FIA], so shortly, by the point the race had ended, and Alonso making an attempt to undo what he’d accomplished. I imply, that complete sequence is rather like tragedy performed out. That resonates with me quite a bit.
“I additionally couldn’t perceive why Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan didn’t seem within the [FIA] hearings. It’s the entire method these hearings work that, regardless of having QCs current, they are not truly authorized proceedings. They’re sort of… it is like Camelot. It is F1’s personal guidelines.
“Plus the higher-level stuff about Max Mosley and Bernie [Ecclestone], and Max taking out vengeance probably on Ron Dennis. I discovered that each one fascinating.
“I suppose additionally the start of the story is simply the sheer audacity of doing it on that sort of old fashioned degree, of getting an awesome huge heavy stack of papers going into a photocopy store. And it is only a freak, clearly, simply the man [working there] being a Ferrari fan.
“Then clearly, the tragic ending, I wasn’t conscious that Nigel Stepney died. After which the truth that there may be nonetheless that query of did he soar or was he pushed?”
Picture by: Sutton Pictures
It says a lot in regards to the growth that F1 is going by underneath the Liberty Media period that podcasts on one thing as particular as Spygate are being commissioned – and have mainstream figures like Tong concerned.
Tong himself thinks a mix of two key components – good racing, and the Netflix impact – have been essential in permitting such a reputation shift.
“Clearly aggressive races and the identical individual not successful on a regular basis, or no less than having a battle as we have had just lately with Verstappen and Hamilton, are apparent,” he says.
“However, accidentally or design, the Netflix collection has opened F1 up in a method I do not assume anybody anticipated it. So I feel that is truly introduced in a youthful demographic.
“Additionally now, it’s in all probability not only a male-dominated conventional viewers both. I feel there are many extra females . That is one thing I really feel out is on the market, within the sort of Zeitgeist.
“However that is additionally doing a disservice to the game. F1 has been necessary for a really very long time. I simply assume it is having a second the place it is gone extra into the mainstream.
“The Netflix collection is an enormous a part of that, as is I feel Hamilton’s fame. In the identical method [Michael] Schumacher did it in his period, Hamilton’s accomplished it in his period in a complete totally different method, clearly. There’s by no means been anybody like Lewis Hamilton earlier than. So I feel that period has sort of modified notion as effectively.
“Clearly tv helps, and it is simply managing to reinvigorate it. I feel crucial factor was bringing in new audiences.
“It is the identical as I do with music: you may’t simply keep the identical endlessly and your viewers will get older and older. You have to continuously reinvent the wheel. They’ve clearly been making an attempt to try this endlessly, however they’re on a profitable run in the intervening time.”
Max Mosley, FIA President, and Ron Dennis, Staff Principal, McLaren Mercedes
Picture by: Lorenzo Bellanca / Motorsport Images
In fact preserving the youthful era thinking about F1 long run will take some effort from Liberty. However Tong thinks it simply doable so long as F1 retains providing behind-the-scenes entry of what’s actually happening.
He cites the instance of the best way that Amazon Prime’s fly-on-the-wall soccer documentary All or Nothing: Arsenal as the proper instance of how entry retains individuals engaged.
“I feel it’s about getting behind the scenes, a bit like All or Nothing,” says Tong.
“I am an enormous Arsenal fan. It has been unbelievable, although that collection has been going a very long time. Everybody was questioning why have been Arsenal doing that final yr. It’s like ‘Oh my God, that going to be embarrassing.’
“It is truly in all probability turned out to be among the best issues they’ve ever accomplished.
“Because it occurs, it sort of received all of the neutrals on facet for Arsenal and [manager Mikel] Arteta now. And it sort of gave us a tremendous momentum going into this season, which they’ve sort of stepped up and delivered on.
“I feel it’s about opening F1 up. Getting extra data on the market than simply the racing on the day will clearly assist. After which clearly you need gifted younger drivers coming by.”
George Russell, Mercedes W13, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13, Max Verstappen, Purple Bull Racing RB18, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36, Sergio Perez, Purple Bull Racing RB18, the remainder of the sphere in the beginning
Picture by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
What Tong’s involvement with the Spygate podcast additionally means is he can firmly put to mattress all adverse ideas about working in F1 he has had since that notorious Monaco GP gig – which he makes reference to in an early episode.
Requested about what occurred that evening, he smiles.
“Typically you get these company gigs, and you are probably not employed to do what you usually do. You are simply sort of employed to your title,” he mentioned.
“It was a celebration, however they have been very particular about: : ‘Do not play too cool. It is a very business crowd. That is Monaco: play the hits.’
“I feel I went on with David Guetta, which I’d not usually have performed essentially in a membership, and no disrespect to David, who’s a good friend.
“However actually inside the first music, or actually by the second, they needed me off. They mentioned: ‘That is simply too cool. This crowd aren’t gonna get it.’ So I used to be yanked off.
“I feel the subsequent man went on with Born to be Alive, from Patrick Hernandez and it was whole sort of San Tropez - and not that rather more business than David Guetta.
“Anyway, I used to be kicked off. So I went again all the way down to the tables, and Jenson Button got here as much as me, and mentioned: ‘What are you doing?’
“I had met him in Ibiza just a few occasions. And he knew precisely what I used to be, who I used to be and what I used to be meant to do.
“So I advised him I used to be kicked off. And he received up on the mic after which simply had a rant at the gang: ‘You don’t realise what you’ve got accomplished! That is the best DJ on the planet, and also you disrespected him!’
“Thanks Jenson, however I did not return on!”
The BBC Radio 5 Dwell Spygate podcast is on the market on normal podcast suppliers from as we speak.
Picture by: Anglo Administration