Time and again I’ve told the Chinese to keep their bloody circuit in order. Let me tell you, it was touch and go earlier this year when we negotiated the deal for the next seven years. Yes, it’s important to have a race in China, but holding an event in an underpromoted, unreachable, half-empty pigsty is in nobody’s interest.
Sold out - to the blokes who put up the Chinese characters
The morons here in Shanghai (Juss Event – spelling is not their forte either) now seem to understand that.
At least, they say they do. I keep constantly running into people here who ask me “Are you that bloke from the Singapore Grand Prix? Because that’s the only F1 race that’s ever been advertised in Shanghai.” And did I mention the train? The one that connects the circuit to the city and doesn’t run when the race is on?
China is China, they keep telling me. Well, let me tell you: China won’t be Shanghai if this mess won’t be sorted out.
Meanwhile, the least they can do is show me a little respect, of course.
They’ve come up with a creative solution: roller races.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. They’re lining up all these rollers on the starting grid, the five lights come on and off and there they go, for a race around the circuit. The idea is that having all these rollers go round forces excess oils out of the tarmac so it won’t come out during the Grand Prix.
It’s fun to see for about half a minute. They say there’s a lot of overtaking but I haven’t waited around to see it happen. One overtaking manoeuver takes nearly half an hour. Lap time is about six hours. Should be fun if someone made a video so you can play it at high speed.
I’ve just spend a day in the bleedin’ country and believe me, it’s about time somebody started to spread the automotive message around here.
It isn’t for lack of enthousiasm. They just don’t have a clue. Or decent repair shops. Or spare parts, for that matter.
So what do the Russians have? A fixation on exhaust pipes, for one thing.
I know, wood consists of carbon-based fibres. But it’s not the same thing. Really.
And I don’t even know where to start on this one. Continue reading
… and delivered, we hope, by 2014. I couldn’t blog this earlier because I had to promise Putin the scoop. He’s planning to
grab the Presidency run for re-election in 2012 and apparently he thinks it helps if the public sees him as the founder of the Russian Grand Prix. Which is quite an honour, if you think of it. F1 is so important it can influence the outcome of the Presidential elections of one of the world’s superpowers. We’ve come far in those 60 years, haven’t we?
Charlie Whiting’s back in the office. What he saw was a finished circuit. So please stop bothering me, make your travel arrangements, buy your tickets and I’ll see you all in a week’s time.
Oh and one other thing: I said the circuit‘s finished. Paddock too, by the way. And some grandstands. Great stuff, job well done. But don’t expect anything else.
Charlie tells me the Koreans tried to pretend the only thing that still needs to be done is ‘some landscaping’. Forget it. There is no landscape. The place is sitting in the middle of a giant construction site. The lunatics’re building a bloody city in the middle of the circuit, and all around it.
So don’t stare yourself blind on the scene from the F1 2010 video game in the top picture. A computer monitor is the only place where you’ll see the circuit in its proper shape for some time to come. The real deal’s a building pit, and it will remain that for the next two years at least. Bring your boots.
There. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Say the word, and you’ll have your Grand Prix in 2014.
Believe me, it wasn’t easy. When the Sochi blokes (shown above) kept dragging their feet I had to do what I always do in such cases: develop an alternative and kick their indecisive arses with it.
Tell you the truth, I’d even started to prefer the alternative. This Dutchman of all people came up with a street circuit around the Kremlin that was nothing short of spectacular. He and his Moscow City Hall pal Makarov came up with the idea, had some fur clad beauties wave it in front of the world press, and Vlad’s your uncle. Except, he wasn’t.
You see, all of this could only happen with the blessing of comrade Luzhkov, the all-powerful Mayor of Moscow. Makarov was Lushkov’s man, and the Dutchman had handed out handsome fees to all takers to smooth the way.
And guess what? The Russian Powers That Be (who else but Uncle Vlad himself, of course) saw the signs on the wall. So they fired bullet head Luzhkov and told the goons in Sochi to get their act together. Lo and behold.
What a country. Anyway, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. Let’s wait and see what happens next.
I’d sent him off to Kimchi or whatever it’s called, incognito, ahead of the official inspection. He went there straight after Singapore. Took him a day and a half to find his way back home.
How did it go, I asked him. Did the Inspector Frogleg outfit work? “Like a charm,” he said. “Nobody recognised me. One person asked me if I was Mr Bean. They all seem to love Mr Bean over there.” Well, that would explain the construction delays, then. So you could find out how they’re doing without being noticed?
“Oh no,” he says. “I said they didn’t recognise me. But they did notice me. Of course they did. How could they not? I stuck out like a sore thumb. Literally. This is some backwater deep in South Korea, you know. I was the only Westerner for hundreds of miles around.”
“But I did find out how they’re doing. Continue reading
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.
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.