… 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.
I spent decades herding a bunch of unruly cats into a professional, streamlined, global racing series. And look what happens if you give them a little slack.
First we have the Koreans defeat any way of getting them to comply with inspection deadlines, milestones or anything of the sort. “We’ll be ready right before race time, thank you.”
And now the FIA has to assume who’ll be racing for HRT when announcing drivers for Friday’s Suzuka press conference, since the losers themselves haven’t been able to decide yet.
Time for have a quick word with Colin Kolles, then. “You’re keeping us in suspense again, Colin. Sakomoto hasn’t paid up yet? Can the lot of you make up your minds, please?” No comment, Bernie, he says. But we’re checking our bank statements every day.
See? That’s what I mean. Place is going down the drain.
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.
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?‘”