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
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.
Call me a Luddite. Or maybe I’m just too old to adopt all these new technologies. Fortunately I have Fabiana, and she’s shown me how it all works. It’s amazing, actually. Apparently all kinds of people just ‘tweet’ (what a word) their innermost thoughts so that the rest of the world can share them.
What’s most amazing is what it does to people. Take Mike Gascoyne, for instance. Born and bred into the world of secrecy that is F1. Believe, they don’t call him the Rottweiler for nothing. If you’d asked him any intrusive question during his days at Benetton, Toyota or Force India, he’d set the dogs on you.
And now? I’ve followed his Twitter thing during the training session earlier today. Bloke doesn’t stop talking. Sorry, tweeting. He’s become a paragon of transparency. This is now the man that announced on Twitter that he was going to call in Jarno Trulli a lap earlier, during the race in Bahrain. In the good old days there were people in Ferrari that would’ve given their left hand to get that kind of information about their competitors during races. What’s next? Red Bull publishing details about their secret ride height system?
F1 drivers are pampered little brats. Don’t blame ’em, everyone is keen on keeping them in clover because God forbid something might spoil their mood and they forget to perfom in the one hour and three quarters in their lives that really matter.
One of the big perks is a company car, of course. Which is really nice if you drive for one of the big manufacturers, like Mercedes or Ferrari. Michael likes to tool around tunnel ceilings in an SLR Gullwing and lads like Alonso get their own customised latest model Ferrari. (Although not everyone in the Ferrari team seems to get equal treatment.)
So it was a bit painful to meet Jarno Trulli in the carpark here at Sepang yesterday with his new company car. In Lotus colours, of course. But since this is Malaysia, with a Proton Badge. I was with Tony Fernandez, always unflappable. That chap has a great future ahead of him, as I said before. Tony immediately wanted to take a picture of Jarno posing proudly with his Protus, and Tony’s the team boss so the poor lad had no choice. These must be the moments when a car enthousiast wonders what’s gone wrong in life.
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
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