… 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 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!”
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?
“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.
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?‘”
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
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