Posts Tagged ‘ Ferrari

Why not just make it legal?

Alonso and Massa: Let the sulking begin! Photo by Darren Heath

"Yeah, whatever…" Photo by Darren Heath

In the immediate aftermath of last weekend’s brouhaha over team orders I started writing a blog post entitled The dreary face of orchestration in which I fully intended to lambast the hideousness of it all. I never got around to finishing it; not because I’m a lazy git, but because I got caught up in a whole load of other work*, which gave me pause for sober reflection.

That Formula 1 is a business as well as a sport is a truism we all have to accept, since without the presence of global brands and their cash injections F1 simply wouldn’t be sustainable in its current form. That said, Sunday’s events perfectly illustrate the philosophical chasm that separates the insiders from the fans. Simply put, not one of the business people and team figures I’ve spoken to since Sunday saw anything wrong with what Ferrari did. Conversely, the fans – if you exclude the zealot types who’d have approved of it even if Fernando had run over half the queue for the school bus en route to the chequered flag – were outraged by the sheer cynicism of the manoeuvre.

Alonso passes Massa, and the controversy begins… Photo by Darren Heath

Alonso passes Massa, and the controversy begins… Photo by Darren Heath

From a purely pragmatic point of view, instructing Felipe Massa to let Fernando Alonso past had its merits. Alonso was 31 points ahead of Massa in the drivers’ championship and 47 behind Lewis Hamilton. Now put your calculators away and close down your spreadsheets. On an F1 pitwall, what matters is what works – now, not next week or next month. It doesn’t matter that Alonso may get run over by a bus (or, heaven forfend, actually be on a private plane that clips a building), thereby eliminating him from the rest of the season and causing Ferrari to rue the day they orchestrated the swap. In the heat of a grand prix, the future is another country. Possible championship permutations that may come about if three hens lay addled eggs? They may as well be in the horoscopes column.

So Ferrari made the choice. We all saw it coming, telegraphed well in advance like a ham-fisted soap opera twist. The FOM TV director knew it, bringing his camera to bear on the moist eyes and thoughtful mien of Rob Smedley as he prepared to push the button and deliver the instruction. This in itself was an act of pure opportunism in a dull grand prix that needed an injection of drama; they must have been whooping and high-fiving in the TV compound as the gift arrived…

The print media greeted it with a curious mix of outrage and glee: fury because most of them are, at heart, fans; joy because it brought something interesting to write about other than tyre degradation. The hunt for quotes began; as usual, Saint Martin of Whitmarsh delivered himself promptly to a microphone, but only to demur rather than condemn. He would, he said, speak privately to Ferrari about the matter, but make no public comment about it.

Joy on the podium – before the British media clamp their teeth round his ankles… Photo by Darren Heath

Joy on the podium – before the British media clamp their teeth round his ankles… Photo by Darren Heath

After all the posturing – including the absurd charade in which everyone from Ferrari continued to pretend that nothing untoward had happened – a number of insiders (Martin Brundle, Ross Brawn, David Coulthard, etc) have come out in support of team orders. Are they mad? Are they stupid? Are they corrupt? No, just so far ‘in’ that they’ve grown out of touch. They fail to appreciate that for the fans – the demographic these people deride for being naïve – Formula 1 is an emotional investment. You don’t choose a favourite team or driver as passionlessly as you might select a new fridge.

By the by, though, I wonder if they have a point. Perhaps teams should be allowed some leeway – not to use one or other of their drivers to block a rival, but at least to give one precedence over another when vital championship points are at stake. If they wish to do this – and if they don’t care what the fans think – then so be it. As my old English teacher, Mrs Lucock, was wont to say about essays handed in late: “It’s your funeral…”

For if teams don’t value your support – why should you give it to them? Invest your emotional capital elsewhere. Let ennui and ambivalence achieve what angry protest cannot.

*checking the facts and dates of a load of 1960s sportscar and non-championship F1 races in the LAT Archive for a future book project, although I had a brief diversion via a 1965 John Bolster article in AUTOSPORT entitled THINGS I HATE! Judging by the contents he hated rather a lot, since you ask..

More Valentino Rossi twaddle

Rumours are circulating the interweb again that Valentino Rossi has his eyes on a seat at Ferrari. It comes from a fragment of an interview in Gazzetta dello Sport which, as usual, has been beaten into shape and blown up out of all proportion by z-grade ‘news’ providers:

For Ferrari make a team as strong as the Yamaha team, it should hire Sebastian Vettel alongside Alonso… And, if [Luca di Montezemolo] is currently looking for the opportunity third car, he should give it to me.

The whiff of Google Translate hangs heavily over this piece of guff. Since the business of teams being able to run third cars is utterly dead in the water – and has been for yonks – the whole premise of this rumour is utter balls.

It’s utter balls on another front, too: Rossi is currently struggling with a career-threatening shoulder injury he sustained when he fell off his motocross bike. He’s finding it hard enough to perform in MotoGP, let alone consider a swap to Formula 1. Do none of these idiots check their facts before clicking “Publish” and charging their gullible clients a few cents?

Silly question, I suppose…

Quick! Change Luca’s password

We’ve all been amused by the intermittent Twitterings of F1Scoop, an F1 journalist whose scurrilous alter ago has four times as many followers as his real self. But for genuine sauce one has to turn to ‘The Horse Whisperer’, an unnamed writer (believed by some to be Luca Cordero di Montezemolo himself) who appears on the Ferrari homepage. This morning he brought his scathing but elegant turn of phrase to bear once again on F1’s new teams in a piece entitled For whom the bell tolls.

I loved this bit:

As for the twelfth team, Campos Meta, its shareholder and management structure has been transformed, according to rumours which have reached the Horse Whisperer through the paddock telegraph, with a sudden cash injection from a munificent white knight, well used to this sort of last minute rescue deal.

It’s no secret that Bernie Ecclestone is the man behind the cash injection in question, although how much was injected and into which vessel remains a mystery. What is interesting, though, is that Colin Kolles comes as part of the package. When Bernie puts money into an enterprise he likes to have eyes and ears on the factory floor. It looks like Colin has taken on the mantle of John Macdonald.

Next, we have the Serbian vultures. Firstly, they launched themselves into a quixotic legal battle with the FIA, then they picked the bones of Toyota on its death bed. Having got some people on board, around whom there was still a whiff of past scandals, they are now hovering around waiting to replace whoever is first to drop out of the game, possibly with backing from that very same knight in shining armour whom we mentioned earlier.

Could he mean Mike Coughlan?

This is the legacy of the holy war waged by the former FIA president. The cause in question was to allow smaller teams to get into Formula 1. This is the outcome: two teams will limp into the start of the championship, a third is being pushed into the ring by an invisible hand – you can be sure it is not the hand of Adam Smith – and, as for the fourth, well, you would do better to call on Missing Persons to locate it.

All very amusing stuff, and executed beautifully. Still, this is the sort of thing that would cause an employee to get into a lot of trouble, residing as it does in a prominent spot on the website of the oldest team in F1. If I were working in the comms department, I’d be asking IT if there was a way of blocking Mr Montezemolo’s access to the content management system, at least until the first espresso of the day had kicked in.

In any case, given the fragile state of F1’s economic health at the moment, perhaps the Horse Whisperer ought to pay closer attention to the sentiments of the John Donne poem he alludes to in the title of his piece:

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manner of thine own

Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls.

It tolls for thee.