Archive for the ‘ Sporting ’ Category

Is Flavio lobbying for a pardon?

I never spent much time chasing Flavio Briatore around the paddock; not because I found him odious, but because I couldn’t understand a word he said. I’m not the only one – an F1 high-up once told me that for similar reasons, whenever Flavio telephoned him he’d just say yes to everything.

Still, he was a fascinating character, and one of F1’s chief power brokers by dint of his friendship with Bernie Ecclestone and his network of F1 driver management contracts (not to mention his lucrative involvement in GP2 and related businesses). Besides keeping him plugged in to an inordinate number of revenue streams, this made him a far more influential figure in F1 than many people give him credit for.

It is for this reason that he has embarked on what appears to be the fools’ errand of launching a civil action in the French courts against the FIA. His lifetime ban from motorsport was calculated not only to deny him income but chiefly to exclude him from that which he held most dear: his seat at the top table of international motorsport; and his status as second only to Ecclestone among F1’s movers and shakers. Acquisition of money and dispensation of power; shorn of these facilities, he is just one of the little people.

The court will reach a judgement early next month and it is tricky to predict the outcome. He was caught bang to rights in the race-fixing scandal and failed to turn up at the World Motor Sport Council meeting that determined his fate; and yet it is possible that his claims about the punishment being excessive – and motivated by Max Mosley’s personal desire for ‘revenge’ – may find a sympathetic ear (not on this blog, since you ask).

It says much about the arrogance of power that Briatore thinks he can erase the stain of his loathsome conduct. He doesn’t trouble himself with what the man on the street thinks. What matters to him is to regain some grip on the reins of power: the who-goes-where of the driver market and the what-goes-where of engine, chassis and tyre contracts.

So I was interested to hear in Monaco last week that the French court may not be Flavio’s final port of call. Some say that he and his people are already lobbying the new FIA president for an official pardon.

Stranger things have happened. Remember Richard Nixon?

Dean Smith wins the McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award; stand by for ‘Venison-gate’

Formula Renault UK champion Dean Smith is the 21st winner of the McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award, bagging a test in a McLaren F1 car, free Puma racewear, a cheque for £50,000 and a watch that’s big enough to see from space. Smith made the shortlist in 2007 but lost out to Stefan Wilson.

The judging was reportedly very tight. The standard of driving during the Silverstone test days was very impressive, as was the aptitude of the candidates during interviews. The decision finally came down to a choice between Smith and his FRenault rival James Calado, and Smith came out on top by dint of being fastest during the test.

Smith is hoping to land a seat in GP3 next year and the prize purse will give him a tremendous boost. The junior formulae aren’t cheap nowadays (a season in Formula BMW will cost you around £120,000) and his career nearly stalled last year when he failed to land the necessary finance for a Formula 3 campaign.

Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis was at the next table along from us, and she made the draw for the annual charity lottery. The prize of a Peugeot 207 S16 went to Mike Conway, prompting one wag to comment, “Only thing he’s won all year…”

Also during the evening Formula 1′s new hanger-on of choice, James Corden, delivered an uproarious comic turn that will have come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen Lesbian Vampire Killers. Then he committed a rather crass diplomatic blunder, following in the footsteps of Martin Brundle last year: while presenting Jenson Button with the British Competition Driver Of The Year gong, Corden made it quite clear that his venison steak had been on the griddle for longer than he considered necessary.

When did it become acceptable etiquette to come to a party and scorn the hospitality of your hosts, even if you’re a demi-inebriated sitcom co-writer? Answers on a postcard, please…