Most people remember him from The Persuaders, but I of course remember him because of Johnny Dark, one of the few decent racing movies ever made. “Straightaway, Johnny! Take ’em!” How can one forget those historic words?
This makes Tony one of us. Tony, our thoughts are with you today.
Ran into Colin Kolles th’other day. “How’s Sakamoto? Still on the trots?”
No, Colin said, he never had them. And it’s Yamamoto. Sakon Yamamoto. Not Sakamoto. Can’t you get that right for once? And about those trots, tell you the truth, he just hadn’t paid the bill for the Singapore race seat, so I had a perfect excuse for putting a real driver out on the track. You have no idea how quickly I phoned Christian Klien after checking the bank account. The food poisoning was just an excuse to save his face. Which he also screwed up, by the way, by appearing in the paddock to watch the race.
So of course I’m trying to act surprised. “Blimey, so Montezuma’s revenge was really Mastercard’s revenge? I’m shocked. And stunned. Matter of fact, shocked and stunned. What’s the world coming to, these days?”
Stop kidding around, Bernie, he says. You knew this all along. I really wish you’d stop making jokes in public about it, by the way. Doesn’t do our reputation as a serious Formula One team a whole lot of good. And besides, we’ve taken care of the issue, so it won’t happen again. He’ll be back in the car in Japan.
Taken care of it? How?
“Bernie,” he said, “things could get ugly.” How ugly? “Well, I’ve even heard talk about Proton building a second Lotus F1 team, complete with cars and drivers, just to prove the point that they control every aspect of the brand.”
Tony, I say, don’t you worry. We won’t even let them in. After all, you’re the one that got the F1 slot from the FIA, didn’t you?
“I know,” he said. “But try to imagine, a race is about to start and a team arrives in the green and yellow colours, complete with the CABC logo and everything. You would let them in, wouldn’t you? Believe me, I hear rumours that they’re already plotting to hold up my planes so I won’t get to the circuit in time. So they’d just take our place!”
Thought that was a bit far fetched, but he sounded worried. OK Tony, I said, here’s what we do. Make sure your drivers and engineers bring their passports and F1 licences to the race and we’ll do spot checks on the paperwork from Practice 1 onwards. That should take care of any impostors.
Blimey. And I thought I’d seen everything in F1.
Koreans are deadline junkies. The circuit’ll probably be ready just in time, and the grandstands will be empty. But now the lads are getting restless too. Complain that they have to book their tickets while still being uncertain if there will be a race.
That’s your typical team boss: operating on a hundred million annual budget and getting all worked up over a 50 quid cancellation fee.
Of course it doesn’t help that the deadline junkies have managed to stall the final inspection all the way to October 11th. So I’ve told Charlie Whiting, our in-house sleuth, to travel straight from Singapore to Yeongam and have a look-see. Incognito.
Charlie’s not used to cloak and dagger stuff, and he’s quite excited about it. I’ve started calling him Inspector Clouseau, which is French for frog leg, and he’s bought a little hat and a raincoat with a big collar.
Let’s hope he brings good news. I’ll keep you posted.
You could see it coming. Tony’s been complaining a long time about interference from some Malaysian ex-Prime Minister and I don’t think his independent stance went down well in Kuala Lumpur.
Add to this that he’s once again shown the power of the Lotus brand, having built the only decent team among this season’s rookies in barely a year’s time, and you can just wait for the Malaysian vultures to swoop in. Poor chap was operating on a licence from Protus Group so they thought they had him on a string. Is it a failure? Drop it like a brick. Is it a success? Finders keepers, then.
But Tony’s just a little bit cleverer than that. Continue reading
Dear Singaporeans, I was trying to praise you when I said I’d love to see a Grand Prix here for another twenty years.
But what do I get? The cold shoulder. A grumpy “we’ll-see-if we’ll-do-more-than-five-after-we’ve-done-all-the-calculations.”
This is not how it’s supposed to go. Race organisers are supposed to grovel and prostrate themselves, after which I extract extraordinary sums from them in return for the honour to host the ultimate event for a number of years determined by me. If they behave.
Is this a prelude to using the very negotiating tactics on me that I’ve come to know and love? That I’ve honed to perfection in the course of more than half a century? Next thing you know the Singaporean Government’ll be at my door, saying all right Mr E, we’ve thought about it and you can tentatively have a Singapore Grand Prix for another precious five years and here’re our conditions, now be a good boy?
Not a shadow of a chance, Singapore Inc. There’s no way on Earth that’s ever going to happen, or my name would not be Bernie Ecclestone. I have to think of my reputation as the indisputable Supremo of Formula One.
Note to self: sound out my old friend Donald Tsang. Plant the idea that Hong Kong would benefit from a harbourside Grand Prix in, let’s see, two years time. Hmm, let me think – a night race. Yes, that’d be great. Can you imagine the backdrop, with the greatest skyline in the world?
That’ll teach ’em.
Quick thinking by Heikki Kovalainen, parking his burning Lotus on the final straight instead of blocking the entry to the pit lane. Kept a cool head, too, playing the one-man fire brigade with an extinguisher borrowed from the Williams crew.
I even felt a little pang of jealousy, being a bit of a fire fighter meself.
Good lad, salt o’the Earth. Never enough of those around.