Formula 1 - F1 is a superego trip for Wurz's wife

Truth can be stranger than fiction in Formula One so perhaps it was inevitable that even some regulars were fooled when the launch of a new grand prix team was announced on April 1.

Reuters

Despite a polished website (www.dupontf1.com) and team details, there was no such thing as Dupont F1 - on the racetrack, at least.

Julia Wurz, the former Benetton and Renault team public relations executive and wife of Austrian racer Alex, devised the stunt to publicise her debut novel set in the F1 paddock.

'Superego' focuses on multi-millionaire Vincent Dupont - a playboy with a business empire spanning sport and fashion who demands 100 percent commitment and no mistakes from his team.

"Dupont F1: My name, my team, my way," is his creed. Opinionated and impeccably dressed, he is king of the soundbite.

Sitting in a paddock motorhome, with F1 cars about to roar along the Monaco harbourside and past some of the most expensive real estate in the world, is as good a place as any to discuss the book and often bizarre bubble that is Formula One.

Grand prix week in the Mediterranean principality, described decades ago by British writer Somerset Maugham as a 'sunny place for shady people', is one where appearances are deceptive.

For all the billionaires and bling, there are also the blaggers rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous on boat parties before returning on the train to cheap rooms in Nice - and team staff enjoying a taste of the good life at someone else's expense.

The novel - a sort of F1 working of 'The Devil Wears Prada' - chronicles the progress of a hard-working PR who enters a world of "colossal egos, Machiavellian politics and a well-informed and omnipresent media".

Some of the incidents and characters will be all-too familiar to those in possession of the coveted paddock pass.

NOT BRIATORE

"It is fiction, it is a novel but I did want it to be realistic and for people in the industry to say this could happen," Wurz, whose husband raced for Benetton, McLaren and Williams, told Reuters.

"It's a fun approach. and you never talk about this side of it. You talk about the drivers or the on-track performance and it was just a little look at the teams and what goes on in the paddock."

The central character, she is at pains to point out, is most definitely not modelled on her former Benetton and Renault team boss Flavio Briatore.

"I wanted to make a character and to pull in a mix of personality traits, some of them more extreme, into one person. I wanted to make Vincent Dupont a character that anyone in Formula One could believe would exist," she said.

"Flavio knows about it. I talked to him about it. We go to the same gym. But it's not Flavio."

The heroine Kate's job is as often as not to cover up the truth, present fiction as fact and smother bad news with bland press releases.

It is a world of crazy hours, intolerable demands, constant travel and a gradual distancing from the 'real world' of family and friends.

For a hi-tech sport with a sexy image, there is surprisingly little sex on the page and not much of a nod either to the sort of 'petrolhead' who might think 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is a manual about McLaren.

The book has been read avidly by some insiders, including drivers and team personnel. Wurz reported the website had received more than a million hits by April 3.

"Scarily accurate account of what working life in F1 is really like," declared Indian driver Karun Chandhok on his Twitter feed after staying up until 3.30 a.m. to finish it.

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