'Whatever you do, Mr Prime Minister, do NOT push the red button'
It seems he likes manly pursuits, as he calls them. So I told my old friend Gerard Lopez he might score some brownie points by having Mr Prime Minister drive on of his race cars. Gerard didn’t hesitate a second. He expects most of his sponsor money to come from Russia, so this was a no-brainer.
It was for Vladimir Putin too. Except for one thing: if he goes out for a drive he insists on having a spare car right behind him, in case the first one breaks down. Something to do with the state of automotive Russia. Don’t ask.
So Gerard brought two cars to St Petersburg, and Putin had his bit of fun on a stretch of road that just happened to be deserted. Coincidence, no doubt. Or maybe it was empty because it was early in the morning, before the rush hour.
Or maybe it was because there were a couple of hundred traffic policemen armed with tanks and automatic weapons. This might be a good solution for the M25 on Monday mornings.
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.
Hugh Laurie thinks he’s parodying a Frenchman here, but anyone who’s seen Kimi Raikkonen in a post-race conference will think Finnish. “We had a goowd race. We were not so happy with the car but eventually we won so I guess in the end we had a goowd race. And to have a goowd race is goowd because we won the race. Mubadala mubadala mubadala”
What we see on podium these days are good pupils who paid attention in media training class. I’m certain that’s one thing Kimi couldn’t care less about.
Makes it an even greater pity that his job interview with Renault ended in such a disaster.
My friend Gerard Lopez tells me Renault are not completely sure about hiring Kimi Raikkonen. “On the plus side, Kimi’s got a lot going for him. He’s talented, no doubt. He’s a former Champion. He’s only been out of F1 for less than a year so there’s not so much of a Schumi-risk.”
So what’s bugging you, Gerard?
“Motivation, mostly,” he says. “Kimi’s got a bit of a reputation as a party animal. Can’t be bothered to do anything besides driving, which he loves. He’s known to hate the more boring parts of the job. Stuff like going through telemetry data, spending time on the simulator and giving feedback to the engineers. Communicating with engineers and mechanics in general. That sort of thing.”
I can see that. Commyoonicating is not Kimi’s strongest point. So it’s a bit of a judgment call, then. How’re you going solve that, Gerard?
“We’ve arranged a job interview. Eric Bouiller is going to look him in the eye and ask him a few specific questions. See if he means it.”
On past performance, that should be fun. Kimi’s a regular champion in coming up with non-answers to any question. If you want examples, look here, here or here. Yes, I’d love to be a fly on the wall in this one. I imagine it’d go something like this: