Monthly Archives: July 2010

HRT’s solution for Yamamoto

A customised steering wheel. Here’s a sneak preview Colin gave me. Says it’ll solve all of Sakamoto’s problems because he didn’t use those buttons anyway. Looks a bit improvised, what with all those bits of carbon fibre to cover up the holes, but Sakomoto’s only paid for one more race Colin isn’t sure when’s the next time he’ll need it.

But how about optimising settings during the race? And how’s he going to limit his pit lane speed?

Optimising is only important if you’re anywhere near optimum, Colin says. And what do you mean, limiting pit lane speed? Have you seen his lap times?

YAM’s problem

“How can Sakomoto go on about his racing abilities?” I asked Colin Kolles. “If it’s true what you told me, he should be very quiet and just go out and drive the bloody car, for Pete’s sake.”

“It’s Sakon. Sakon Yamamoto,” he says, “And the way he sees it is his racing is impeccable. It’s just the bit around it he finds hard to get used to.”

The bit around it? “Yes,” Colin says, “all the little things he has to pay attention to. All those pesky settings, wing, engine, clutch, pit lane limiter and so forth. It confuses him. He does have a point, you know. I mean, do you know how many buttons these steering wheels have nowadays? Not to mention that all the labels and indicators are not in Japanese. Other than that, he claims he does know how to drive a car.”

I see. So what are you going to do about it? “Well Bernie, we’re working on a solution. The customer is King, after all.”

Customer? “I mean, driver,” he says hastily. “Tell you the truth, a happy driver is a faster driver, I always say.”

A happy driver is a faster driver. First time I heard that in more than half a century’s F1 experience. Someone should tell Massa and Alonso.

Birthday present

Today is Alonso’s birthday. If you were wondering what Massa gave him, he just told me: it’s one of these fake road workers with a slowdown arm signal. He intends to put it out on the track, just before Alonso goes out in first practice.

Great sense of humour, Felipe has. My guess is Fernando doesn’t completely share it.

HRT has team orders too

Poor Karun Chandhok. Fine lad, salt o’the Earth. Always had a soft spot for him. So when I heard he didn’t only miss Hockenheim but has to sit out the Hungarian GP as well, I decided to give Colin Kolles a call.

What’s the problem, Colin? I ask. Lad not up to scratch? “Nothing of the kind,” he says, “In fact he’s doing quite OK for a rookie. Out-raced his teammate the last couple of times, what can I say?”

So why push him aside for yet another race, then? Thought you were going to alternate him with Sakomoto? “It’s Sakon,” he says. “Not Sakamoto. Sakon Yamamoto. Bloody disaster if you ask me. Not sure if you noticed but he started in Hockenheim with his pit lane limiter still on. And he dropped out of the race by stalling the engine. Accidentally pulled the fire switch, he says.”

Well then. So why’s Sakomoto still driving?

“You know we’re a poor team, Bernie. Especially now, have to save every penny for the deal with Toyota or else we’ll be driving second hand Dallaras next season. Probably won’t even qualify with those. So we really need the money. And then I get this voicemail.

“It goes, ‘Colin-san! It’s me, Sakon. I have here in my hand a cheque for another two and a half million dollars. Can you confirm you understand that message?‘”

Young Man Go West

Enough with all this navel gazing. Here it is: the first purpose-built US F1 circuit. Behold the site of the future Austin, Texas Grand Prix.

It’s becoming a little tradition on this blog to give you the scoop on future circuit plans. I will admit to you, my dear readers, it’s my favourite pastime: planning and negotiating new and exciting races.

I get a lot of satisfaction out of charting the course of F1’s future. Finding new places to plan F1 races, developing the plans, finding a sucker to guarantee the money up front negotiating the deal that will make it all possible. Unlike other parts of my job it’s very grateful work.

This is what the plot looks like right now. It’s called Wandering Creek, in a Godforsaken backwater called Elroy. Try to picture Continue reading

You’re the boss

I’ve been reading all these blog comments on the Ferrari team order brouhaha, and it’s amazing how quickly people seem to end up with blaming me.

Just to avoid any misunderstanding: I’m the Formula One Supremo. I’m not the boss of everything in F1. There’s a difference. Let me explain.

To begin with, I don’t call the shots in the teams. That’s the job of the team bosses. So if Ferrari issues team orders, it’s types like Luca di Montezemelemololo or Stefano Domenicali who are responsible for that. Not me. I may have an opinion about it (more about that later), but that’s another matter.

If you are now wondering who’s the real boss in Formula One if it isn’t me, just look at my simple F1 organisation chart. It’s you.

You, my beloved legion of fans, my loyal audience, are the real boss. So everything that happens in F1 is ultimately your responsibility. I’m merely the humble Supremo who does your bidding and makes sure, one way or another, that the rest falls in line.

But Bernie, I hear you ask, you have never had a real education. How did you arrive at this bold conclusion? What kind of management theory underpins your statement? Well, my friends, I have a simple answer for that too. For I am above all a practical person. It is strict adherence to management practice that has brought me to where I am now. And management practice can be described in two words: Continue reading

Luca di Montezemelemololo called

“Bernie,” he says. “Ferrari is innocent. Can you confirm you understand that message?

Perhaps, I say, but do you understand that there are about 25 others on the World Motor Sport Council?

“Many of them have already been taken care of, Bernie,” he says. “It’s not been cheap, but they understand. Ferrari is acting in a long tradition that started in the old days, with Il Commendatore sending drivers to their deaths from his command post in Maranello. Theirs is not to reason why, theirs is but to do and die. Nowadays we don’t send them to die anymore, but they’re still supposed to do as we say. For sure everybody understands.”

Suddenly things start to fall into place. The sunglasses, the fact that he hardly attends races any more, the oath of undying loyalty he’s had everybody in the scuderia, from the lowliest garage floor sweeper to Stefano Domenicali, swear on an autographed portrait of the old man.

We have a new Enzo in our midst.

Korea Empty Valley

Had a word with Charlie Whiting yesterday, about Korea. He’s just been there for a site visit. So how’s it going in the Korea Auto Valley, Charlie?

“Great, Bernie.” He says. These Koreans know how to build. They’re not ready yet but they’ll get there in time. Beautiful site, in the middle of nowhere so nothing to stop them from finishing in time. No worries.”

That’s Charlie alright. Send him in to do the job, he’ll do the job. Inspect construction progress? Done. But will he see the big picture? No he won’t. That’s what Supremos are for, of course.

So do I worry? Of course I do. Do you see the artist impression Charlie got from the Koreans? Do you see what’s wrong with it?

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it: Continue reading

Fire in the hole!

F1 people are an unruly bunch. Especially FOTA. Believe me, I know. I used to be one of them, before I became a Supremo. So far I think I’ve done a decent job of keeping them under my thumb, but it hasn’t been easy.

With all the minor skirmishes going on in the paddock lately, you might think life in F1 on the whole’s been quite peaceful.

You could not be more mistaken. Give these rascals a finger and they take your whole hand. Take for instance advertising. Everybody knows I have Allsport has the sole rights to that. Thing is, the teams’ve always parked their big trailer trucks in the paddock, with those giant logos on them. Since no one complained, they now started bringing advertising materials to stick on the garage walls.

Believe me, those posters and stickers are like viruses. You have to contain them. I think that’s why they call marketing viral nowadays. If you don’t nip it in the bud, before long the whole paddock will be plastered over with bloody sponsor’s logos and billboards. Theirs, mind, not mine Allsport’s.

There’s only one way to deal with infractions with that. Zero tolerance. So not only do we Allsport get them to take their sponsor porn from the garage walls – we also order the trucks out of the paddock. “But we’ve always parked them there!” Don’t care. Out with them.

Williams yuppy Adam Parr hit the nail on the head: “I think Bernie sometimes wakes up on a Wednesday morning and says to himself ‘I’m going to yank a few chains’. 99 per cent of the time, we resolve these things without any blood being spilled.”

Well said, Adam. Consider me a firefighter. A proactive one. I see something smoldering, I start a fire. 99 per cent of the time, someone runs out and extinguishes it. If not, it’s time for me to use my axe. Be warned.

Monaco at risk?

You bet they are.

Look, I know that F1 would not be the same without a Monaco Grand Prix. Which is relevant if you’re sentimental. I ask you, my dear friends: do I look like a sentimental person?

Think about my position for a moment. I’m sitting on a franchise worth a couple of billion dollars. That sounds great (and believe me it is) but a money mountain like that attracts a lot of greedy people. In increasing order of greed we’re talking about the likes of the FIA (bunch of paupers), the F1 teams, a swarm of locusts private equity capitalists and, last but not least, my beloved ex-wife, who needs to pay the upkeep for the most expensive private jet on the market.

And they all want more. The only reason I can survive this mayhem is by asking more money from race organisers. Is that so unreasonable?

Not if you consider that developing countries like Russia, India and Texas are prepared to shell out tens of millions of dollars for the privilege to host a Grand Prix. So why would I give a giant discount to a bunch of rich people occupying the hottest real estate on France’s Mediterranean coast?

In the end it all comes down to negotiation skills. Which is why I always mention one race in public when I really want to put pressure on another.

Dear burghers of Monaco, I’ve said it before and it goes for your lot too: if you think you’ve got me by the balls, your hands aren’t big enough.