Tony Fernandes just called. Wants my advice. He’s a likeable fellow, I met him a couple of times at the KL Grand Prix. Runs a budget airline out of Malaysia, sort of an Asian version of Richard Swinging Dick Branson but with a lot less bullshit. The airline’s his daytime job; in the moonlight he runs the Lotus F1 team.
Turns out, he’s being pestered by a fellow called Mahathir. He’s the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Or he isn’t but he thinks he still is – I always find it difficult to keep track in those ex-colonies. Anyway, Mahathir’s hobby horse is the local car industry, who happen to be the owners of Lotus. He’s also a bit of a pitbull. I remember him knocking our doors down back in the days, eager to put Malaysia on the F1 map with a brand new circuit. Did a pretty good job too, I must give it to him. Bit awkward on the follow-through, though. Let the place go to seed, and when I brought that to their attention back in 2004 during the contract renewal negotiations, they pointedly gave Jean Todt a Knighthood and not me. Not that I mind, though. I mean, who wants to be called Dalek Sri? Want people to think you’re a character out of Dr Who or something? So no, I’m glad they passed me over. Really, I don’t care for that kind of thing. (We get it, we get it – ed.)
But I digress. Thing is, Mahathir insists on Tony renaming the team Proton, because that’s Malaysia’s national pride. Tony’s not so sure whether that’s a good idea.
I say, Tony old chap, not sure if it’s a good idea? Do birds have wings? Have you driven one of these things? Or better, have you ever seen Top Gear? Especially the one where Jeremy Clarkson takes a sledgehammer to one of these miscreations. And then draws and quarters it. Lets it meet with a horrible end. For a reason. Let me put it this way, IF and I say IF you decide to give in to Mahathir’s delusions, can you please make sure I’m there when someone tells Heikki? Because I want to see his face when he hears he’s going to drive a Proton instead of a Lotus.
Poor Heikki (shown here testing the new Proton aerodynamics package). He probably has no idea what’s going on. Just told the BBC how happy he is to be part of ‘the most competitive of the new teams.’
I just hope Tony fixes this before another young life will be destroyed.