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
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
Tony Fernandes just called. Wants my advice. He’s a likeable fellow, I met him a couple of times at the KL Grand Prix. Runs a budget airline out of Malaysia, sort of an Asian version of Richard Swinging Dick Branson but with a lot less bullshit. The airline’s his daytime job; in the moonlight he runs the Lotus F1 team.
Turns out, he’s being pestered by a fellow called Mahathir. Continue reading