There’s a variety of ways you might know Will Arnett. Perhaps you’re an Arrested Development fan. Perhaps you’ve heard his legendary gravelly vocal talents on BoJack Horseman or The Lego Batman Movie – or, continuing the bricky theme, as the presenter of Lego Masters. Perhaps you’ve seen his hilarious Murderville improv comedy cop show.
What you might not associate with Will Arnett is a love of Formula 1. But with the Toronto-born actor now the star of Amp radio show Fast & Loose, in which he – along with co-hosts Michelle Beadle, Katie Osborne, The Kid Mero and two-time F1 champion Mika Hakkinen – take an irreverent look at each F1 weekend’s action, Arnett has outed himself as an Formula 1 super-fan for the ages.
Speaking ahead of the 2022 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Arnett opened up about the show, his love of F1, how his unique style of questioning has been received in the paddock – and why he’s happy for him and his team to be thought of as “the clowns” of F1.
So Will, I remember listening to the episode of your podcast Smartless with Daniel Ricciardo – was that episode the moment where you outed yourself publicly as an F1 fan?
Yeah, in a lot of ways that was my F1 coming out. Like a lot of people, Formula 1 was something that kind of existed out there and that I would sort of not really pay attention to. I didn’t know anything about it, and as an American, it was tough to… it wasn’t covered as much.
And then over time, my Smartless co-host Jason Bateman started talking about [Netflix show] Drive To Survive. Once I started watching it, I was hooked. They did such a great job of really explaining, certainly to an American audience, what makes Formula 1 so great. It was so immediate that I found myself looking at, not just the races, but I’ve got to watch qualis, I’ve got to see all of it, because you get into the drama of it all.
So then how did the conversations about making Fast & Loose come about with Amp?
So they heard Danny Ricciardo on Smartless, then subsequent to that, when Amp decided that they wanted to get into this space in F1, obviously they got Mika Hakkinen, who’s a two-time champ and a legend, then they got other sports people like Katie Osborne and Michelle Beadle, who can speak to sports and know how to drive sports commentary, and The Kid Mero. The idea was that the way we could make F1 accessible to American audiences is bring in somebody who’s a new fan and who’s going to have a lot of questions that the casual fan, or the new fan, will have, which is great.
On our show on Amp, there’s a lot of me asking Mika: why did they change tyres at that point, why is Mercedes having a tough time, why is their car bumpier this year, why is Lewis’s back hurting him, why did they make that move, why did they stay out an extra lap. All that kind of stuff that a lot of veteran F1 fans and professionals know and just kind of take for granted, I don’t know! And I’m learning on the job and hopefully people listening are kind of learning with me.
How key is Mika’s presence in the team – he strikes me as like the Mr Miyagi of the group, and he brings such credibility…
You tell Mika he’s a world champion and he says “two-time world champion”! But it’s true, of course he’s got the credibility. And so often, when we’re talking after the race and discussing what happened, Mika can speak to it from experience. When he starts talking, we all sort of hush. He’ll be like, ‘I was in Monaco in 1999 and this happened’, and having that experience of a guy knowing how hard it was and doing it at the highest level and succeeding, it’s really, really cool.
He’s kind of the final word – because we can all have opinions, but when it comes down to asking what actually happened, he’s like, no, no, no, this is what happened.
What’s the reaction been like in the paddock to your style of show – because it’s different to how F1 is usually covered…
It’s funny – it is a very closed, tightknit group, the people that move from race to race in Formula 1. When I’m in the media pen asking questions to Christian [Horner] or some of the drivers, and I’m like, look, I’m new to this, and they don’t know anything about me, who I am, what I do. And they’re like, why is this guy asking questions, he’s not the normal person from the BBC or whatever European outlet – who is this idiotic American. And so I’m constantly saying “forgive me” and I’m also cracking jokes and trying to keep it light, and I don’t think that they’re used to that.
But it’s been really great, everybody’s been very welcoming. It’s kind of a new approach to sports reporting. But everybody at Amp and Amazon has done a very good job of assembling a team that’s really loose and fun. We’re not grizzled vets and we’re not super-cynical about what we do. We’re here and we’re really enjoying it, and we want people to be able to enjoy it. There’s so much fun to be had in Formula 1, it’s such a great thing, so I think we’re trying to bring that kind of energy. We’re the clowns, if you will. Which is fun.
Do you get starstruck?
Yeah, totally. Every time I see Toto Wolff walk by, he’s very handsome and he’s got an aura about him. A few of those guys: Charles Leclerc has an aura about him. I know Danny [Ricciardo] a little bit and I love him but I still have so much respect for him and what he does. He was so cool in Singapore, taking me into the garage and taking his steering wheel out and letting me look at it, letting me see what he does. It was so cool. Even Lando [Norris] I get a little starstruck by.
All these guys are like 20 or 30 years younger than me and I’m like, it’s just amazing what they do. I guess it’s more out of respect.
As a North American, how do you perceive the growth of F1 here?
Just sort of anecdotally, I felt there’s been a shift. I have more and more friends who say, “Don’t tell me what happened because I’m recording the race and I want to watch it later.” It feels like there’s just much more interest in the sport than I ever remembered. ESPN’s taking a greater interest in it as well, and now I think that Amazon getting involved, I think it’s going to change the game. We’re just dipping our toe right now, and hopefully be next year, we’ll have an even bigger presence going forward, which will be exciting.
Finally, I want to ask you to put your reputation on the line, and pick who you think will be 2023 World Champion…
You know, I love an underdog or comeback story, and I think that given everything that’s happened in the last year, it would be really cool to see Lewis [Hamilton] come back one more time and kind of take the reins back – it would be an amazing story. Max [Verstappen] looks really unbeatable, we all see it week to week, he just finds a way to drive faster, drive smarter, just make all the right moves.
But I think there are a lot of dark horses out there, and if Ferrari get their stuff together, I think Charles Leclerc will win. But even as I say it, I’m like, Carlos Sainz has been driving so strong, he’s amazing, Lando is starting to peak at the right time, so it’s hard to say. But for 2023, my prediction is it’s going to be Charles Leclerc.