… a bunch of bleedin’ amateurs who can’t get their act together. Need I say more?
Sakamoto’s still in Japan, Klien’s in Abu Dhabi without even knowing whether he’ll race or not. Sir Big Swinging Dick is too busy talking to a bunch of Russians to do anything constructive for next year.
And Lotus Racing is now not only fighting Group Lotus over who can call themselves Team Lotus but also the former Team Lotus about possibly selling themselves out to Group Lotus instead of just continuing as Lotus Racing. If you get my drift.
Did I sign up for this bloody mess when I promised to subsidise rookie teams with 15 million quid each? I did not. This has to stop. I’ve had enough.
I just phoned all three of them and no, I won’t mention names for a change, but you know you are: put in more money or sell to someone who will. And settle the mess. Or else.
He wanted a quick word about Tony Fernandes. Mahathir used to be Prime Minister of Malaysia but in retirement he’s apparently become a sort of Automotive Industry Czar for the country.
“Mr Ecclestone, it has been brought to my attention that you’ve spoken harsh words about Dato Sri Fernandes and his team in the press, lately. Mr Fernandes and 1Malaysia Racing are going through some tough times at the moment. However, Dato Sri has done good work to advance the cause of Lotus and Malaysia. His results will be put to good use in the future and he certainly doesn’t deserve to be called a cripple.”
Ah, so you mean he’s rebuilt the Lotus name for you and now it seems to work out you’re going to take it away?
“The Lotus name was never his, Mr Ecclestone. It was ours all along. We just gave Mr Fernandes some play room while we were building our strategy. And do not worry, we’re not going to take anything away. He will be amply rewarded for his efforts, maybe some extra landing slots for his little airline or some real estate in Kuala Lumpur, we may even make him a Datuk or Tan Sri. I still have to decide about that. But he will be taken care of.”
Airline slots? Real estate? Dalek titles? And here’s me thinking the good Doctor isn’t Malaysia’s Prime Minister any more. Anyway, my number one rule is never to go into discussion with politicians. Except for one thing, of course.
Thank you, Dr Mahathir. I’ll await the outcome. But whatever you do, whether it’s called Renault, or Lotus, or Protus, please make sure it’s well-funded.
Cripples are people who don’t invest enough. I hate cripples.
He doesn’t take kindly to me calling him a cripple. It didn’t take long. Hardly did my Financial Times interview hit the news stands or my phone starts to make orgasm sounds: Branson’s ringtone. I’ll have to ask my beautiful assistant to put him back under my generic ringtone again, Once upon a Time in the West, or else one of these days he’ll call on the wrong moment and I’ll have some explaining to do.
Anyway, he was livid. “Bernie,” he rages, “Did you actually call me a cripple? By name? In the FT, of all places? What have I done to you? It’s uncool!”
Well, I say, I called your team a cripple. That’s not the same thing. And I did mention you by name as someone who should have a couple million quid to spare. Which in my book is positive. And I did compare your with Dieter Mateschitz, what’s wrong with that?
“I don’t bloody care if you’ve compared me to bloody Mateshit or anybody else for that matter. What matters is, you’ve ridiculed my racing team and put me on the spot as some kind of pauper! People’ve already started to ask me if it’s true that I just pay them enough to stay alive and nothing else. The bloke I bought the FT from actually forced me to take the change!”
In typical Lotus style, our boys in green were the rookies that adapted fastest to the experienced teams’ habits. Although I’m certain SS Sauber beat this contraption down the
pitdrain pitlane hands down.
Don’t worry, Tony. Next year your boat will undoubtedly be faster. By the way, is there any significance to it having twin hulls?
I spent decades herding a bunch of unruly cats into a professional, streamlined, global racing series. And look what happens if you give them a little slack.
First we have the Koreans defeat any way of getting them to comply with inspection deadlines, milestones or anything of the sort. “We’ll be ready right before race time, thank you.”
And now the FIA has to assume who’ll be racing for HRT when announcing drivers for Friday’s Suzuka press conference, since the losers themselves haven’t been able to decide yet.
Time for have a quick word with Colin Kolles, then. “You’re keeping us in suspense again, Colin. Sakomoto hasn’t paid up yet? Can the lot of you make up your minds, please?” No comment, Bernie, he says. But we’re checking our bank statements every day.
See? That’s what I mean. Place is going down the drain.
With a few days to go before the circus descends on Bahrain, the dice have rolled and the musical chairs are over. US F1 are out (were they ever in?), Campos is now Hispania, and
Serbia Racing Stefan GP will have to hold their horses.
Going down the list, it does strike me that there’s a trend going on here, replacing brand names with country names. Out with Spyker, Honda, BMW and Toyota, in with Force India and Hispania. What’s next, a Korean team? Or worse, so-called national champions like Tata, Lada and Kia? Tony Fernandes tells me we were that close to having Proton Malaysia on the grid. And now there’s Putin trying to rebrand Renault as Lada, the pride of automotive Russia, with his countryman Petrov behind the wheel.
And suddenly the nightmare scenario strikes me. Continue reading
At least one of the new teams is a shining light of hope in this sorry pre-season mess. To be honest I’d gotten a little bit worried because I heard nothing from Tony Fernandes for a while, so I gave him a call. One never knows, better to be safe than sorry.
Turns out, Tony’s been busy playing host to officialdom. Apparently they’ve renamed their Norfolk facility as the new Lotus Racing factory and that’s as good an opportunity it gets to do some old-fashioned wanking.
Here’s the notorious Dr Mahathir on the cutting edge in Norfolk. Tony was particularly pleased with his appearance, because apparently the good Doctor, who still wields quite a bit of influence in the ex-colonies, had cast some doubt on his achievements. ‘Almost got into some serious trouble there,’ he told me. Continue reading
Sometimes I think I’m just too nice for people. Max goes on his big budget cutting drive and wants new teams in, and I help out with a bit of co-investment and sorting out bits and bobs. So we end up with four new teams, which is good. Apart from a bit of a kerfuffle with Stefan GP who had the nerve to hire the traitor Coughlan and then sue Max for not admitting them (I told Stefan not to, but would he listen? No he wouldn’t), everything went smoothly and we had a perfect grid for 2010.
Except of course for the fact that the idjuts at Campos F1 never got their act together, not to mention the US F1 bunglers who never even had an act. Meanwhile there’s still Stefan, rearing at the leash, buying up everything Toyota left behind, setting up camp in Bahrain, and being a general nuisance to just about everybody in F1, thinking that would bully FIA putting them on the grid.
And where does everybody look for someone to clean up the barney? Continue reading
Bahrain is weeks away now, and rumours around the new teams and their chances of making the grid are reaching fever pitch. So let me clarify a couple of things now, before speculations get out of hand.
First of all, no it’s still a question if the whiny Spaniards at Campos are going to make it, although their wooden model looks good, especially with young Senna in it. And no, I haven’t sabotaged their deal with my old friend Gian Paolo Dallara although I must say it was tempting and it certainly wasn’t easy for Goran to keep Stefan’s Vlad the Impaler from going out there on his own. I believe he finally convinced Vlad to just send them a dead fish. These blokes love old mafia movies, for some reason. Boys will be boys, I guess.
As to all the speculations about who’s going to save their thin Spanish skins, Continue reading