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?
Colin Kolles told me later he’d asked his mechanic to adjust his sunroof. Turns out he only found out about the poor chap at the border, when a douanier wanted to see two passports instead of one.
Just five mores races, said Colin. And then I hope they’ll sell off the team to someone who does have the money to run it. He looked tired.
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?‘”