Tag Archives: Vladimir Putin

Obama: looking for soft power

My phone rings, and a voice says: is this Bernard Charles Ecclestone, Supremo of Formula One? Please aahdentifaah yerself. Yes, I say, I am he. Who wants to know? But the voice says: hold on for the Prezdint of the Yoownaahded States of ‘Merica. Then nothing. All I hear is a vague buzzing noise, like you hear on board of an aeroplane.

“Hello Mr Ecclestone,” he says “Greetings from Air Force One. Can I call you Bernie?” Well, I say, if you must. Most people call me Mr E, but I guess from one Supremo to the other it should be all right. “Great! And I’m Barry, by the way.”

Pleased to meet you, Barry. How can I help you?

“How difficult is it to drive an F1 car?” he asks. “You see, I ‘ve recently started working on my foreign policy, what with healthcare and the mid term elections out of the way, and I couldn’t help but notice that driving an F1 car is becoming an accepted pastime. How difficult is it?”

Well, I say, people spend years working their way up from kart racing, all the way through the feeder series. Some never make it at all, it’s only for a selected few. May I ask, have you ever driven stick shift?

“No,” he says. ““D” for forward, “R” for backward, is what I always say. What’s a stick shift?”

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Putin is having some fun

'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.

Putin called. Expects me to praise Russia’s automotive prowess

Apparently I have a responsibility now to serve and protect Mother Russia’s interests. He says my portrait is hanging in the Kremlin as the founder of modern automotive technology in twenty-first century Russia.

More specifically he takes issue with my showing some examples of car horrors earlier on. Says I do have a point and Russia has a long way to go, but it’s not all sadness and misery and I should show the other side of things too.

Oh dear. So now I’m Russia’s Automotive Propaganda Czar.

Putin really seems to think I’m the saviour of Russia

He sent me this picture. Apparently I’m the uncrowned King of Russian motor racing now. It’s a good thing that I’m not easily flattered, otherwise I’d be, well, flattered.

Dear Russians, I’m ready to sign


Say the word, and you’ll have your Grand Prix in 2014.

Believe me, it wasn’t easy. When the Sochi blokes (shown above) kept dragging their feet I had to do what I always do in such cases: develop an alternative and kick their indecisive arses with it.

Tell you the truth, I’d even started to prefer the alternative. This Dutchman of all people came up with a street circuit around the Kremlin that was nothing short of spectacular. He and his Moscow City Hall pal Makarov came up with the idea, had some fur clad beauties wave it in front of the world press, and Vlad’s your uncle. Except, he wasn’t.

You see, all of this could only happen with the blessing of comrade Luzhkov, the all-powerful Mayor of Moscow. Makarov was Lushkov’s man, and the Dutchman had handed out handsome fees to all takers to smooth the way.

And guess what? The Russian Powers That Be (who else but Uncle Vlad himself, of course) saw the signs on the wall. So they fired bullet head Luzhkov and told the goons in Sochi to get their act together. Lo and behold.

What a country. Anyway, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. Let’s wait and see what happens next.